2014 NFL Draft Capsules: Karl Butler, LB/S

Karl says no, Ace. - Frederick Breedon

Karl Butler was a hybrid linebacker/safety at the "star" position for Vanderbilt in 2012 and 2013. Can he find a spot in the NFL Draft in 2014?

Karl Butler

Position: Linebacker, safety

Size: 6'1", 216 lbs.

Recruit Ranking: A three-star recruit at defensive back.

2013 Statistics: 43 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, one sack, five passes broken up, five passes defensed (11 games)

Relevant AwardsFace of Vanderbilt's 2012 Schedule poster.

Strengths: Butler was a hybrid linebacker who manned the "star" position for Vandy over the past two seasons and brought important depth to a rebuilding unit. The former safety paired with Chase Garnham to give the 'Dores a pair of veteran leaders up the middle, and his ability to blanket tight ends, roam from sideline to sideline, and get to the backfield to make stops provided a versatile presence on defense for Bob Shoop. He's got solid speed at linebacker and he adjusted well after transitioning from defensive back halfway through his Vanderbilt career. His position in the pros would be at safety, and his play in Nashville suggests that he could be a valuable run stopper from the secondary at the next level.

The senior is a strong tackler despite being undersized at his position. His experience as a safety helped him read plays from the secondary, and though his stats don't show it, he was a deterrent in opponents' passing games last fall. Most importantly, he was a leader at a position that desperately needed guidance over the past two seasons. He and Garnham were the faces of a unit that was packed with young talent and little else. Their work has set the path for players like Darreon Herring, Jake Sealand, and Zach Cunningham to follow in the future.

Weaknesses: Butler doesn't have the size to be an NFL linebacker or the quickness to be a full-time NFL safety. Though he's worked hard to add muscle during his time in college, he doesn't seem to have much more room to grow while maintaining his flexibility. He's stuck between two positions, and while he has value as a heads-up tackler, he lacks the athleticism to make up for his inexperience as a traditional safety. Though he kept up with SEC tight ends, he lacks the top-end speed to chase down the NFL's faster receivers.

Butler can struggle to shed blocks when linemen engage him in the trenches or downfield on running plays. While he has proven to be an adaptable player, NFL teams may not be willing to give him the time and support he needs to transition back to safety as an effective player. Despite his veteran status, he was overshadowed by Herring and Garnham on the field throughout the 2013 season. Without a cache of standout performances, he's flown under the radar of many scouts this spring.

ProjectionUndrafted. Butler was a big part of the Vandy defense as a hybrid player, but his role at the next level is unclear. His move to linebacker was a necessity for an understaffed position. It gave him a chance to contribute in a big way, but it also put a roadblock between Butler and a defined position in the NFL. While his ability to play multiple spots on the field may serve him well for defense-needy teams, his current label as a "tweener" and his inability to stand out for the Commodores will cost him a shot at getting drafting next month.

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