Photo of Ezra Butler
Grade
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  • 6'2" Height
  • 248LBS. Weight

Overview

Butler is a wide body athlete with rare timed speed for his position. He hasn't really been used as a classic outside linebacker, as the "Bandit" position he played is more like a 5-tech rush end. He is a solid blitzer coming off the edge with his hand on the ground and can be used on the front wall, having begun his collegiate career as a 285-pound defensive tackle before trimming his frame to compete playing outside the box.

Butler is a bit of a world traveler, as he was born in South Africa and lived in England before coming to the United States at age 14. Known for his big-play ability, he registered 17 sacks with 51 tackles behind the line of scrimmage during his career. He was also involved 15 turnovers, including eight during his final campaign.

At Calabasas High School, Butler earned first-team All-Frontier League honors as a junior and senior. He was named first-team All-Miramonte League honors in 2002 and selected as the team's Defensive Most Valuable Player in his last two seasons. Named to the Los Angeles Daily News' first-team, he was his team's Big Hitter Award winner in 2002 while playing on the defensive line.

Butler enrolled at Nevada in 2003, spending the season on the scout team as a defensive tackle. The 285-pounder appeared in eight games in 2004, playing behind Chris Barry at left defensive tackle. He finished his first varsity year by collecting 19 tackles (7 solos) with an assisted sack, four stops for losses and a pass deflection.

Butler lost weight during the 2005 offseason and became the team's new 255-pound "Bandit," a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker as a sophomore. He ranked second on the team with 75 tackles (44 solos) in 12 starts. He added 5.5 sacks and paced the team with 15.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He batted away three passes, caused two fumbles and recovered another.

As a junior, Butler was named to the All-Western Athletic Conference first-team. He led the league's second-ranked defense with 71 tackles and was 18th nationally with 18 stops for losses. He finished second on the Wolf Pack with 7.5 sacks, as he recovered two fumbles and caused another. He also deflected one pass and intercepted another.

Expected to vie for national honors in 2007, Butler's season began on a sour note, as he was bothered by a sore shoulder in fall camp and was then suspended for the season opener vs. Nebraska for a violation of team policy. Upon his return, he suffered a bruised quadriceps muscle that would force him to sit out the Nicholls State game.

Butler would go on to start 10 of the 1 games he played in during his final campaign. He was chosen to the All-Western Athletic Conference second-team, as he again led the team with a career-high 93 tackles (49 solos). He was credited with 3.5 sacks and 13.5 stops for losses. He returned one of his three interceptions for a touchdown and batted away two other throws. He also caused three fumbles and recovered two others.

Analysis

Strengths

Positives: Has a well-developed frame with long arms, large hands, good overall muscle tone, wide hips and thick lower body that can carry another 10 pounds of bulk...Has rare timed speed for his position and runs well to plays in front of him, showing good quickness, agility and balance...Has better instincts vs. plays in front of him or inside the box than when on the move or in zone coverage...Highly emotional type who can fire up his teammates, but sometimes gets reckless and out of control (must play at a more even keel, as he can be taken out of his game)...Hard worker in practices and in the training room...Shows better discipline working through trash and plugging rush lanes rather than giving chase on the perimeter...Will usually play on that perimeter, but shows the ability to engage, shed and make tackles in the hole better...Flashes the ability to redirect and has a strong closing burst on the blitz...Willing tackler with strong, explosive hits and when he keeps the action in front of him, he generates good pop on contact...Sees the plays develop better when closer to the line of scrimmage and might be a better fit as an inside guy in a 3-4 alignment, as he is a tough inside force who might not shed well but can occupy multiple blockers...Not a smash-mouth type of hitter, but does show good force behind his hits...Could be more explosive shooting his hands at the point of attack, but his size and strength let him win most of his battles vs. smaller blockers (full-backs, slot receivers, tight ends)...Must be quicker bouncing back up when knocked down, but has natural pop on contact when he uses his hands forcefully...Although he doesn't play well in deep coverage, he has the speed to run with any back or tight end as well as many wide receivers (needs to learn how to stay on the hip of the route runner and not eye the quarterback as much as he does)...Shows athleticism while dropping into zone coverage and can get depth in his drops, but needs to do this quicker and show better awareness to handle switch-off activity in zone coverage...Gives a nice effort in pursuit, when he avoids blocks on the move...Has improved his ability to bring his arms and feet to fit and secure when tackling in the box...Comes off the edge well and fights through traffic to get to the quarterback...When he sinks his weight and keeps his hands inside the frame, he can keep better leverage on the ball...More active on the move while blitzing, with a strong, explosive arm swipes that lets him get to the passer when unimpeded...Is just an average pass rusher from the classic linebacker stance, but is a more effective rusher with his hand on the ground (good 5-tech rush end)...When he uses his hands to prevent from getting hung up in traffic, he can generate the short-area burst to close and pressure the pocket...Although he hasn't played on special teams lately, he possesses good coverage skills and collision-tackling ability. Negatives: Has a well-built frame, but played at 285 pounds in 2004, and while he can add another 10 pounds of bulk to his frame it could affect one of his better assets - his foot speed...Needs to mature off the field, as his violation of team policies resulted in a one-game suspension in 2007...Gets frustrated when his initial move fails and when he doesn't keep his emotions in check, it usually leads to costly mistakes...Has good hand strength, but needs to be more active with them, as he can be reached and is slow to shed blocks...Tries to over-power blockers rather than slip past or avoid, causing him to be tied up in the battle longer than he should (late to come off blocks, redirect and make the play)...Has rare speed for a player his size, but fails to keep his feet on the move at times and lacks that sudden burst needed to get to the perimeter to take on outside run plays...Must take better angles shooting the gaps and be more conscious of cut blocks and double teams (can be washed out when he fails to recognize blocking schemes)...For a player with his decent change of direction agility, he looks too awkward moving in space and gets out of control at times, taking arm swipes rather than getting into position to wrap and secure (lots of missed tackles)...Used mostly as a wide 5-tech defensive end, but will struggle vs. the bigger blockers playing that role at the next level...Gets reckless in his pursuit, out-running the play and then struggles to get back into the action...Adequate covering the pass in the short area, but has a choppy backpedal and fails to generate the hip snap needed to come out of his breaks cleanly to mirror the receiver throughout the route...Liability playing in the deep zone, as he does not have a good feel for the ball in flight (struggles to look the ball in over his shoulder)...Needs to get a quicker read on the quarterback in pass coverage, as he will eye the backfield too long and lacks ideal recognition skills (will bite on pump fakes/play-action)...Good blitzer, but needs to show more explosion coming off the edge and execute better angles when he has a clear lane (takes a wide loop)...Will disappear for long stretches and needs to be more aggressive initiating contact at the X's. Compares To: DAVID BOWENS-New York Jets...While field fast, Butler is a bit of a liability in the passing game. He is really not a classic linebacker, as he lined up as a 5-tech rush end most of his career and lacks great ball anticipation skills in pass coverage. He has the speed to be an efficient blitzer, but needs to keep his emotions in check and play with better consistency, as he tends to disappear for long stretches. Like Bowens, he has the burst to slip past lethargic blockers on the line, but his outside pursuit skills are lacking for someone who might be used as a weak-side linebacker. He might be more suited to play a hybrid OLB/DE role, for despite his timed speed he will struggle to mirror receivers on long routes and is not the most instinctive getting a read on the quarterback. If some team decides to shift him inside in a 3-4 alignment, they will get a quicker version of Jeremiah Trotter.
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Grade Title
9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-8.99 Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.50-6.99 Chance to become Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.00-6.49 Should become instant starter
5.50-5.99 Chance to become NFL starter
5.20-5.49 NFL backup or special teams potential
5.01-5.19 Better-than-average chance to make NFL roster
5.00 50-50 Chance to make NFL roster
4.75-4.99 Should be in an NFL training camp
4.50-4.74 Chance to be in an NFL training camp
No Grade Likely needs time in developmental league.