For this draft pick by the Carolina Panthers, and all selections from this point forward, we will be breaking the move down into four categories. Each category is worth up to 25 points and a final grade will be handed out based on the total score. These are the definitions of each category:
Player- How has the player produced to this point in his career? Where does he rank among other players at his position?
Team Fit- How does he fit within the offensive or defensive scheme?
Team Need- Is this position a weak spot on the roster? Does this move strengthen the position?
Draft Value- Where did the player get drafted? Where was he projected to go?
Grade: 22 out of 25
Vernon Butler proved in his last two seasons as a starter for Louisiana Tech that he could be a force along the interior of the defensive line as he racked up 106 tackles, 23.5 for loss and three sacks in his final two years of college.
Butler is a versatile, powerful player in the middle of the defensive front. He has incredibly long arms (35”) and size (6’4”/325lbs) and has the power and athleticism to not only take on double teams but also provide an agile pass rushing force up the middle.
To go along with his pure natural abilities, Butler also possesses terrific technical skill in terms of pad level, knee bend and lean, making him an ideal prospect on any defensive line.
Grade: 25 out of 25
As far as fitting into the Carolina defense goes, Butler should prove to be an enormous help. The Panthers love to utilize unique and diverse defensive fronts and move players to different spots on the line. Butler’s versatility should directly translate to this scheme and provide yet another young interior playmaker.
Butler’s mix of both run stuffing and pass rushing will also fit Carolina, as it would any team. With the duo of Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei, the Panthers have two talented defensive tackles that are somewhat limited as solely as pass rusher or run stopper, respectively. With Butler, they’ll get a player that can do both equally well and produce immediately as a depth option.
Grade: 17 out of 25
The Panthers did need to find at least one more option to add to their defensive tackle rotation which Butler will slide into. But as far as overall team need goes, defensive tackle wasn’t at the top of the list.
As mentioned, Short and Lotulelei provide Carolina with a dynamic, young duo just three years young in the league. They added veteran run stuffer Paul Soliai in free agency and re-signed backup option Kyle Love as well. The addition of Butler is certainly a welcomed one and will only help the defense get even better but it wasn’t the top priority for the Panthers who had plenty of other talented options to choose from in round one.
Grade: 25 out of 25
Selecting Butler with the 30th pick in round one was seen by many as being an absolute steal. Multiple draft experts like NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein gave him a first round grade and saw him as one of the draft’s top defensive tackles; in a class that is loaded with talent at the position.
Panthers GM Dave Gettleman spoke after the pick and according to the Charlotte Observer’s Joe Person, said:
Grade: 89 out of 100
In a draft class loaded with Gettleman’s beloved “hog mollies” and the need for more interior line depth it was a foregone conclusion that the Panthers would select at least one defensive tackle in this draft and few could argue with the Butler pick in round one.
His skill set is a perfect fit for the Carolina defensive front and he possesses the kind of versatility and all-around talent that assuredly had the Panthers’ front office salivating.
The need may not have been urgent but the Panthers lack of major holes meant that they could select the best available players and they certainly got a good one in Butler as a late first round steal.