Being born in and raised in Connecticut through my 20 years of existence, I've undoubtedly always been a Husky fan through and through. The year we claimed the NCAA Men's and Women's Basketball D-1A Tournament Championships was perhaps the proudest moment of my collegiate fandom, and now with the opportunity for them to repeat that honor this season, I can't help but swell with U-C-o-n-n pride. Hasheem Thabeet, A.J. Price, Jeff Adrien, Kemba Walker, Craig Austrie, Stanley Robinson..even without Jerome Dyson, this team is loaded and poised to make a deep run (assuming they don't run into the Pittsburgh Panthers and DeJuan Blair).
But this site isn't about basketball. So why the UConn connection? I've recently done some digging and have found some tidbits that may lead us to inquire a bit more about the 5'10", 183 lb. cornerback out of the University of Connecticut: there's a chance he may be starting opposite Will Allen this coming season.
Connecticut's Darius Butler said Miami and Baltimore ''are showing a lot of interest'' in him, and NFL Network's Mike Mayock said Butler could be the best corner available to Miami at No. 25.
This is pure speculation, but at this point in the season, most analysis that comes our way is. This, at the very least, is promising speculation. Butler has seen his stock rise after a solid combine, and his size isn't out of Bill Parcells' range. As GatorPhan noted in his well-written post on the BP prototype CB, the Tuna likes to take corners between 5'10" and 6'0", no lighter than 180 lbs., no heavier than 200. On the flip side, GatorPhan also noted Parcells' history of taking only two corners in the first round of the draft, and the fact that BP may not have exerted complete control over personnel selection with those regimes.
Butler ... said he saw general manager Jeff Ireland at some of his games; met with Ireland and Tony Sparano at the Senior Bowl and NFL combine; and got good feedback from Bill Parcells in January.
Trends and statistics have anomalies and outliers. It's not far-fetched to think that the Trifecta would go with Darius Butler, a CB, in the first round with pick 25. Why? well, among other things (such as I will explain following the next quote), this draft seems overflowing with 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB hybrid-type players who can rush the pass. As it stands, people don't seem to think Cameron Wake is the answer. Granted, I do understand he hasn't proven a thing in the NFL, so I won't argue that. I also understand you can never have too many pass-rushing linebackers. However, even with an NFL-untested Wake and an aging Joey Porter, Parcells knows he can find his guys in the second round. Look at last year's draft; we took franchise LT Jake Long in the first, allowing us to snatch up should-have-been-first-rounder Phillip Merling early in the second and Kendall Langford in the third. That's two defensive ends whom Parcells trusts enough to be the future of this team's line (as signified by Vonnie Holliday's departure). And neither came in the first round. It's evident to me that with such talent in the linebacking corps in this draft, and the relative lack of impact talent in the secondary, that Parcells could very easily buck the trend and go cornerback at pick 25.
Butler, a cousin of Willis McGahee, ''has the best feet and change of direction in the draft,'' Mayock said. ''He would be hard to turn down [at No. 25] because of his feet and speed.'' Butler, just over 5-10, can battle taller receivers because of a 43-inch vertical jump. Mayock's only concern is "he's 183 pounds and somewhat selective in how physical he is.''
Willis McGahee is one hell of an athlete. Let's just hope Butler didn't inherit the injury genes. While he did miss the final two games of his senior season with a knee sprain, he came back strong at the Senior Bowl and impressed many. Mayock's analysis of Butler's feet and speed are promising, and make a nice compliment to the physicality of half-new safety tandem Bell and Wilson. The physicality concern on Butler can be fixed; it seems Butler's got a bit more room for muscle, and Parcells/Sparano aren't the type to allow a player to get complacent with his style of play if it doesn't fit their plan. It's corny to say, but those two will make sure Butler plays physical when need be. The 43-inch vertical is also impressive, and considering the taller players the Dolphins will need to cover, will be a necessary asset come September.
Butler is likely to be the first UConn player drafted in 2009, despite the fact that he missed the team's final two regular-season games with a knee injury. The four-year starter and two-year captain is athletic enough to project to a man or zone scheme and answered scouts' concerns about his recovery with a strong week of practice at the Senior Bowl. Butler wasn't often challenged in 2008 and he finished without an interception. Conference coaches elected the versatile playmaker a first-team all-conference selection and Butler has proven his takeaway ability in the past, recording 10 interceptions over his first three seasons.
Another tidbit that impressed me. Though I would never compare Butler to Nnamdi Asomugha (Awesome-Wah is a few inches and 25 or so lbs. heavier), and am aware of the limited receiving talent in the Big East, I do like the line about Butler's not often being challenged his senior year. Sure, it means he finished without a pick and might therefore seem like a limited play-maker, but ten picks in his first three seasons is a solid number. Nnamdi had eight in his collegiate career and was drafted 31st overall, but that's enough with the comparison.
His notable "positives" listed by NFLDraftScout.com are:
Versatile athlete capable of playing in various defensive schemes. … Instinctive … 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 his 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. … Proved his health with a strong week of practice at the Senior Bowl.
On the flip side, his most notable "negatives" are:
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.
The bit about being pushed off easily by bigger, stronger receivers is by far the most worrisome of those listed. He seems to be able to make up for it to some degree with his fluid hips, instincts, vertical and positioning, and playmaking ability.
While this may seem like a homer pick, the pieces of the proverbial puzzle seem to fit. With names like Clint Sintim or Larry English available to the Dolphins at 25, it's surely going to be a tough decision. It might just be me, but cornerback is a more glaring weakness on this team than is linebacker, and as I stated earlier, there's just so much depth at the outside linebacker position. The only thing I can see as a definite stick in the spokes of this speculation is if Clay Mathews lasts until pick 25, and the Trifecta view him as versatile enough to man the inside alongside Channing Crowder. Or, somehow, Rey Maualuga for that matter.
One thing's for sure; you can bump up Darius Butler's probability of landing in Miami with the first round selection, and be much more excited about the prospect. Not only that, but as we've examined, there is plenty of talent surrounding that 25-spot, and whichever player we land will be a good one. Until it all happens, my money (for now at least) is on Darius Butler as the Miami Dolphins' new starting cornerback.
Note: my apologies if he's been extensively reviewed prior to this posting. Just giving the Miami faithful something to contemplate through the rough one-and-a-half months we have to wait until this all actually goes down.