Was Vernon Butler Drafted to Play Nose Tackle?

I was simply thinking about Kawann Short and his contract situation and the leverage Dave Gettleman drafted in Vernon Butler as well as wondering why he wouldn't have gone with Derrick Henry there perhaps instead. Perhaps it came to me.

Butler may be slated to see time at NT alongside Kawann Short in a Carolina version of the "NASCAR" package.

The NASCAR package became sort of a "thing" for all of about three months a few years ago when the New York Giants would put DE types inside on 3rd and long, the idea being more one-on-one pass rushers but giving up the middle to the run. Since it's 3rd and long, a run would be a (gutsy) call to begin with.

With that personnel group in mind, it's not that much of a stretch to see Carolina's defense in a similar all pass-rush mode on the line simply by replacing Star Lotulelei with Vernon Butler.

Butler is going to be hard to block, period. He is "long and strong" but considered raw coming out of yet another Division II or III or whatever school they are now in Louisiana Tech. At 6'4" and 323 pounds, he doesn't have the thick waist that 1-techniques Star and Paul Soliai sport. He's built like a larger version of an athletic man. No, he's not so much of an athletic freak that he busts the numbers up (although they are good for position) as he is the big, quick, more rangy guy than a tree stump like Soliai resembles. Star's hard to move off his spot. Butler is hard to keep put on his.

They have different jobs. To get to basics, the "Nose Tackle" plays where the name suggests, over the ball and the closest defender to it upon the snap in most formations. The prototype NT (the 1-technique or lining up on an outside shoulder of the Center) is primarily concerned with claiming that piece of prime real estate against the run, period. Pass rushing is nice but not a necessity or really even expected from the position...unlike the other DT position (3-technique or lining up on an outside shoulder of the weak-side guard). Those are simply the base defense positions, subject to shifts or other changes depending upon personnel and play call.

This is where Butler comes in -- literally. On third and long, when it's not even pass/run but pass/pass, and you have the NFL's top MLB to boot, you want to harry that quarterback as much as you possibly can. In Ron Rivera's defensive scheme, it's done from the line or at least is hoped to get pressure on the QB from the line. That's where Kawann's job comes in.

In consideration of using a top draft pick in any draft, one has to think all else aside that he's going to be asked to play on Day One. Usually, to start and to start sooner rather than later.

That logic defies the choice, however.

It's quite possible that Butler was at the top of Gettleman's draft board to begin with. That would not be far-fetched in my mind, and it just worked out that way. First round-picks are rare gems that you spend a lot of capital on to put on the field and contribute. I don't care how good a team is, they don't have 22 guys that are all better than any given first-round talent. 

Also consider the fact that DG has set a precedence for drafting behind guys with contracts up as he did in drafting Ealy in the second round during the Greg Hardy adventure but Hardy didn't start acting up until after the draft...At least not that the public is aware of. 

I don't have the answers as to the layering beneath the decision to draft Butler but am simply speaking from historical data. Teams draft in the first round to get starters and really expect them to be starters with very few exceptions. Most of those exceptions are also expected impact players whether it's a late-first QB that needs to cook a bit or a great prospect who is injured like Bears' WR Kevin White. 

Mostly, they aren't expected to be second-string for their entire rookie contracts, which is exactly what Butler would become if Kawann Short does sign. Looked at from that point of view, it looks bad for Kawann.

However, the fact of the matter is that both will be on the squad in 2016 since they're both under opposite ends of their rookie contracts. If Butler's that good, as he really passes the eyeball test for the position, why not get him out there WITH Kawann?

Imagine our D-line's impact with both KK and Jeeves the Rookie there along with Ealy and a healthy CJ on long third downs. 

With Butler's talents and draft position helping push him along, I have to think DG and Rivera have tossed the idea around of using both young disruptive guys in the middle on those long-yardage downs. If 5-on-4, you could double-team one but not the other. That's going to be a nightmare scenario for a guard to pull off alone.

Perhaps I'm a bit out on a limb, or maybe even out in left field, but I think putting our own bigger, stronger, yet quick interior and using both assets to attack at the same time could be overwhelming and demoralizing to an offense, and it only takes once for a big defensive tackle to be in a quarterback's jersey almost before he gets the snap to give him the jitters.

I say let Vern & KK off the leashes at the same time and see which cat pounces first.

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