Next in our series of possible Houston Texans picks, we take a look at a very talented defensive tackle in Vernon Butler from Louisiana Tech.
While the Texans are expected to go offensive for the No. 22 pick, it won’t be too much of a surprise if general manager Rick Smith may decide to bolster the defensive line. Beside the great J.J. Watt and the possibly good Jadeveon Clowney at the ends, there’s uncertainty in the middle with aging Vince Wilfork.
Houston needs a young defensive tackle to anchor the 3-4 defense, and one of the top players at that position in the draft is Vernon Butler.
At La Tech, Butler anchored a Bulldog defense that was in the top 20 in run defense. In 2015, he had 48 tackles, with 10 of them for loss and a career-high four sacks, good to be first-team All-Conference USA. As a junior in 2014, he had a breakout season with 56 tackles and 13.5 tackles for loss.
How good is he? He even did his own highlight video, seen below.
Weight: 323 pounds
40-dash time: 5.15 seconds
Arm length: 35 1/8 inches
Strengths and weaknesses
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Butler is a big boy, but he can move well and has big and quick hands. He impressed a lot of scouts and the Senior Bowl by being almost unblockable. His weight could be an issue if he lets it get out of control (in other words, no more Mickey D’s runs, Vernon), but he’s a defensive tackle, so that bulk is needed.
Some scouts also say he tends to use his weight against offensive linemen instead of his legs, which is important since there’s a lot more skilled linemen at the pro level. Also, he can get boxed in on double-team blocking. That may not be a problem in Houston if he’s selected, because the one player that will get the double-treatment in No. 99, and that may allow Butler to get free.
Butler’s skill and speed could be more suited for the defensive end position than at nose guard, where your job is to stuff the run and clog up running gaps. But would it be nice to have a versatile lineman that can play tackle and end?
How he fits with the Texans?
With Wilfork nearing the end of his time with the Texans (if not his career), it will be almost necessary for the Texans to get a defensive lineman in the draft. The question is whether they will get one in the first round.
Butler would get good training from Wilfork, who was one of the best nose guards in the NFL when he was with the Patriots earlier in his career. And with Jared Crick not returning, Butler would have a great chance of getting into the rotation. If you add him with Watt and Clowney, the line would be a very quick line, but can Butler be that anchor and make plays while Watt is double-and triple-teamed?
Butler is projected to be a late first-round pick, and with a deep class of defensive linemen, it’s somewhat possible that if Houston went for a wide receiver in the first round, Butler could drop to them at No. 52. If that happens, he would be a great steal and a good fit with the Texans.
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