Prospects

Prospects
Photo of Darius Butler
Darius Butler (CB)
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 183
College: Connecticut
Conference: AAC
Hometown: Tamarac, FL
High School: Coral Springs Charter
Featured Prospects
Selected by: New England Patriots
Round: 2
Pick (Overall): 9 (41)
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Pick Analysis: The Patriots add another talented defender to their secondary with the selection of Butler. The former Husky has outstanding movement and displays a tremendous burst closing to the ball. With the Patriots' secondary featuring a cast of aging veterans, Butler can serve as an apprentice for a year before stepping into the lineup as a starter.
  1. Overview
  2. Analysis
Overview

Regarded as the premier cornerback in the Big East Conference, Butler added a new wrinkle to his game that would make New England Patriots fans clamoring for him to be their next Troy Brown. Always willing to help the team in any way he can, Butler was highly productive wearing two hats last season, seeing action as a receiver in addition to taking over kickoff return duties full-time.


A late-season knee injury prevented Butler from playing in the team's final three regular-season games, but he made a remarkable recovery to get back on the field for the Music City Bowl. During his absence lost two of those three contests, proving just how valuable his leadership and versatility were to the Huskies.


In 45 games at Connecticut, he finished eighth on the school's career record list with 10 interceptions, but he made the most out of those pass thefts, returning them for a total of 213 yards, the third-highest yardage in Connecticut annals. Two of those interceptions went for touchdowns, tying another school all-time mark.


Even though he was the team's full-time kickoff returner for just 2008, Butler filled in at that position from time to time his first three years, finishing with 895 return yards, the 10th-best total in school annals. He is also the first player in Big East Conference history to produce a touchdown on a kickoff return, interception, reception and rushing attempt in a career. In his last two seasons as a starting left cornerback, no opposing receiver was able to catch a touchdown pass or record more than two first downs in any game vs. him.


Butler also comes from a family with solid National Football League pedigree. His uncle, Gene Atkins, was a standout defensive back who played in the NFL from 1987-96 with the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins. His cousin, Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee, was a first-round draft choice by the Buffalo Bills after earning All-American status at the University of Miami in 2002.


At little known Coral Springs Charter High School, Butler was the big man on campus, as he would become their first student-athlete to ever sign a national letter of intent to attend a major college. He was listed amongst the top 20 recruits in talent-rich Broward County by the Miami Herald, despite not playing football until his junior year.


Butler received All-County honors from both the Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and was an honorable mention All-State selection. Playing quarterback in an option offense, he both rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards in 2003 while also starting at safety on defense. He totaled 2,491 total yards as a senior and was responsible for 25 touchdowns.


Butler finished third in Broward County in rushing yards in 2003 and was second in completions, attempts and passing yards. The team captain was also selected for the Dade-Broward All-Star Game. He also excelled in basketball, adding All-County honors as he scored more than 1,000 career points.


Butler spent the 2004 season as the premier player on Connecticut's scout team. In 2006, he was the only defensive player to start every game, earning Freshman All-American honors from The NFL Draft Report after gaining 140 yards with a touchdown on four pass thefts, as he also deflected eight other throws. He recorded 36 tackles (24 solos) and averaged 33.8 yards on 10 kickoff returns, becoming the first player in school history to return a kickoff and interception for a touchdown in the same season.


In 2006, Butler started 10 games, missing the Syracuse clash with a sore hamstring. He added another four interceptions to go with seven pass break-ups. He also delivered 50 tackles (36 solos), ranking sixth on the team, and produced two stops for loss.


Butler was named team captain as a junior in 2007. The All-Big East Conference choice collected 54 tackles (37 solos) with 2.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He broke up seven passes and intercepted two others, returning one for a touchdown. He caught the attention of pro scouts, who were in attendance at the Louisville game to review the Cardinals' Harry Douglas. Assigned to cover the receiver, Butler held him to a career-low 19 yards receiving, as he knocked two passes out of Douglas' hands and picked off another.


A member of The NFL Draft Report's All-American Dream Team, Butler picked up All-Big East Conference first-team honors in 2008. In 10 games, the two-time team captain posted 40 tackles (28 solos), including three stops for loss. He did not have any interceptions for the first time in his career, but broke up four throws and averaged 23.5 yards on 20 kickoff returns. On offense, he caught nine passes for 123 yards (13.7 avg) with a touchdown and scored again on a pair of rushing attempts.


High School

Attended Coral Springs (Fla.) Charter High School...Listed amongst the top 20 recruits in talent-rich Broward County by the Miami Herald, despite not playing football until his junior year...Received All-County honors from both the Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and was an honorable mention All-State selection...Playing quarterback in an option offense, he both rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards in 2003 while also starting at safety on defense...Totaled 2,491 total yards as a senior and was responsible for 25 touchdowns...Finished third in Broward County in rushing yards in 2003 and was second in completions, attempts and passing yards...The team captain was also selected for the Dade-Broward All-Star Game...Excelled in basketball, adding All-County honors as he scored over 1,000 career points.


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Analysis

Positives: Adequate height for the position. ... Versatile athlete capable of playing in various defensive schemes. ... Instinctive. ... Good recognition in zone. ... Legitimate cover corner athleticism. ... Very good straight-line speed. ... Loose hips to turn and run with receivers. ... Shows a late burst to close. ... Excellent vertical, can get into position for jump balls and make a play on the ball. ... When playing off, he can shadow his man on slants and over the middle. ... Good hands for the interception. ... Played receiver at times as a senior to take advantage of his playmaking ability. ... Get hiss shoulder on the ball to force fumbles. ... Closes quickly and wraps up to prevent gains after catch. ... Gets into the pile to assist in tackles. ... Holds up blocks to force quick screens inside. ... Has the straight-line speed and hands to be an effective kick returner. ... Proved his health with a strong week of practice at the Senior Bowl.


Negatives: Very lanky with thin hips. ... Not particularly strong on the line or able to get off blocks. ... Bit of a duck-and-swipe tackler. ... Does not always play to timed speed, as quicker receivers can get separation downfield. ... Can get pushed off easily by bigger, stronger receivers. ... Allows too much cushion in off man coverage. ... Missed the final two regular-season games in 2008 with a knee sprain.


Compares To: ROY GREEN, ex. St. Louis Cardinals -- Long before there was a Troy Brown (New England), there was Green, a speedy defensive back who also excelled as a receiver and return specialist. Butler is more Roy Green than Brown, as he not only has outstanding speed, but polished zone coverage ability. He is an instinctive player with the footwork, agility and field smarts to quickly close on the ball. In a perfect world, he ends up in New England playing for a team on which versatile players are encouraged to show off their athletic talent.


Injury Report

2006: Sat out the Syracuse game (11/18) with a sore hamstring.


2007: Left the Pittsburgh game after he was flipped and landed on his head during an onside kick (9/22).


2008: Missed the second half vs. West Virginia (11/01) and the Syracuse (11/15), South Florida (11/23) and Pittsburgh (12/06) games with a knee sprain.


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