Defensive tackle Vernon Butler will enter the NFL as a member of the Carolina Panthers, who took the Louisiana Tech alum with the No. 30 overall pick in the draft. The 6'4, 323-pound tackle has incredible athleticism for a guy his size, and despite being a little top heavy, still moves really well and can get low.
As a two-year starter, Butler proved he's able to close gaps, and earned first-team All-C-USA after his senior year -- when he recorded 50 tackles, 10 for loss, and three sacks. Ahead of the draft, Butler was seen as a player who could start right away at nose tackle, and was considered one of the best inside guys available.
Relatively underappreciated before he embarked on the pre-draft process, Butler was nearly unblockable during the Senior Bowl. That performance bolstered his draft stock, all the way through the combine and pro day. His arm length and refined techniques were lauded in the lead-up to the draft.
His position drills and workouts showed that despite his immense stature, he's got nimble feet and a quickness rarely seen in players his size. At his pro day workout, he recorded a 5.19-second 40-yard dash, a 33.5-inch vertical jump and a 9'3 broad jump.
Now it's time for position drills. Vernon Butler and the DL up first pic.twitter.com/uYqCg0vjQK— Sean Isabella (@ST_IsabellaTNS) March 22, 2016
One area that could be improved at the next level is his ability to get low -- he often plays tall -- and how he recognizes routes. He might have missed a few tackles in college due to problems with misdirection, but add in a double team and his power cannot be matched.
Butler's versatility should be a benefit to his new team. As someone who is sure to see playing time in his rookie season, his transition to the NFL will have to include improved pass rushing to find long-term success.