Seahawks Draft Grade: Deon Butler

Deon Butler

Upside:

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Today I write in broad strokes. In the coming weeks we will cover each prospect in much greater detail. Because my scouting of Butler is limited to the Rose Bowl, and not in the intense, scrutinous way one must to make much sense out of one game, this is grade is constructed of scouting reports, agility drills and some first-hand scouting.

Butler has very good speed and is a good route runner. That's an A+ combination for a pro. He played on a Penn State program that couldn't assemble a passing offense if it was made of Duplos. That's in part why his statistics are only good. Those statistics have a mitigating and compounding* factor. Penn State only threw for 3,160 yards Butler's senior year, meaning Butler received for more than a quarter of his team's total passing yards. Compare that to Michael Crabtree's 21.7%.

Butler's a mixed bag with good skills and talent, but disputable production. He could develop into a top twenty wide receiver, maybe better.

Downside:

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He could develop into a top twenty receiver and could not develop at all. It's tough interpreting a scouting report and trying to determine if Butler is "destined to play the slot" because he (was) 168 pounds, or because he has trouble separating. I worry it's the latter. Good to great wide receivers are scarce, and though a third round pick is a lot of draft capital, most third round wide receivers do not develop. When that third round pick is acquired by trading a third round pick, a high fourth round pick and a high sixth round pick, it's suddenly a substantial investment.

*The compounding factor is Butler was mostly shutdown by top competition and recorded nearly half of his production against benighted former titans Michigan, Michigan State and Syracuse. All three finished outside the top fifty in pass defense.

Seattle's offense needs Butler to play more than slot, and since his downside is a mediocre slot receiver, Butler's downside is of no use to Seattle. Too bad it's at least probable.

Fit:

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Seattle sees Butler as a split end and thinks he will give the team much needed speed. The team needs speed, but not until it has a quarterback that can exploit it. Perhaps the short-term goal is only to keep the safety off the slot. Part of slotting Butler at split end instead of slot is Greg Knapp doesn't use many three wide receiver sets. In Oakland in 2007, Knapp ran three+ wide receiver sets just 45%1 of all snaps (22nd) and four+ wide receiver sets just 4% of all snaps (29th). That's also part of why Seattle selected Butler over a slower, more slot-oriented receiver like Juaquin Iglesias. Butler is a hardy blocker, but, you guessed it, his former slightness convinced scouts his blocking skills will not translate to the pros. Butler fits if he hits his upside and doesn't fit at all if he nears his downside.

1 Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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