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Practice squad players who could interest the Jets, Part 2: Emmanuel Butler

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Emmanuel Butler WR practice squad NO Saints

Miami Dolphins v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Emmanuel Butler 6’4 220 lbs WR Northern Arizona

During this series I am trying to bring you players who might be of interest to the Jets and will not cost them any Draft capital. These are players I found during the Draft process who intrigued me. They have talent, but it might need to be nurtured.

The main focus of this is for the Jets to become more talented by finding some hidden gems to replace assets the Jets may trade away for picks. A player who could draw he interest of a contending team is Robby Anderson. I have no idea how Joe Douglas feels about Robby. He is a deep threat and could be lethal in the right offense. Yet the Jets would need to re-sign Robby to bring him back next year. Hence the possible need to trade him for picks. If Joe Douglas doesn’t want to re-sign Robby or any other veteran player he should trade them soon to get more Draft ammunition. The Jets are not going to the Playoffs this year anyway, but they could set the table for a revival in 2020.

If you could replace Robby with a player of equal talent, with as much upside, and younger then the gain of pick picks would be beneficial to the Jets. A younger player could grow alongside a Sam Darnold and create a beneficial tandem for years to come.

We are not talking a mirror image of Robby today, but we are talking about a deep threat with skills.

The best way to attain players is for free. The ability to take players off the practice squad of another team is a way to do just that. This way the Jets can keep their Draft picks and gain an asset at the same time.

Joe Douglas did just that with the claiming of Vyncint Smith (6’ 3 202 lbs) off the Texans practice squad. Smith is from tiny Limestone College, but he has been in the NFL (of sorts) since last year. I was intrigued by him coming out. He ran a 4.36 forty with a 39.5-inch vertical leap at his pro day.

Emmanuel Butler is similar to Smith. He is 6 ’4” 220 lbs WR Northern Arizona and on the practice squad of the New Orleans Saints. He is just waiting to be placed on an NFL roster. He is bigger and stronger than Smith, just not as fast.

I espoused the virtues of this receiver from Northern Arizona during the pre-Draft process. Emmanuel Butler is a good kid with great size and a leader on his team. The first thing you notice about him is his long, well-proportioned frame. Although he is a big kid, he has a gracefulness about him. He never looks like he is hurried or frenetic. He has a calm, relaxed appearance, like he is just going about his business. He is a big play receiver who averaged over 17 yards a reception during his time with the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. He was a team leader in the locker room, and his coaches all rave about this kid who owns all the receiving records of his team.

Butler played in the FCS (the Football Championship Subdivision) in the Big Sky Conference against teams like Weber State, Montana and Southern Utah. Butler was so much better than the people he played against. Here he has two TD receptions that he just muscled away from the defender.

On both plays he does a nice job of catching the ball away from his body and shows good balance for a big man. He can find the ball in the air and make adjustments with his body to make the catch. Making adjustments to a ball while running near full speed is an art form and a talent many WRs don’t have. He keeps his feet and sprints away from the defender. Balance is the key here and a common tread in many of his catches.

Two crucial abilities that Butler is blessed with:

One thing outstanding about a receiver like Butler is his ability to go up and get the ball. You see it time and again, his ability with the ball in the air to make the play. It doesn’t matter what division of football you play in. The ability to “go up and get it” is a paramount skill. Butler possesses it. Most do not.

The second thing Butler has are strong hands to make contested catches over and over again. The ability to catch the ball without drops is crucial to a big receiver. Michael Thomas (also of the Saints) has a phenomenal catch rate; his 82.9% catch rate in 2018 on 170 targets. That is off the charts great.

I believe Butler has similar ability to make big game changing catches at an impressive rate. The key is to be able to catch and control the ball with vise grip like hands, catching the ball away from your body. When you have a body size advantage over a DB with long arms, you just increase that advantage when you catch the ball away from your body. The vise like grip is needed because you don’t want dropped balls. Also DBs will try and rake the ball from your hands; it’s their only option against size.

I cannot understate the importance of those two abilities for a receiver like Butler. A big receiver usually doesn’t run away from a defender. His “separation” is most of the time very small. Yet he still is considered open because he uses a combination of size, strong hands and that “go up and get it” ability to make the catch.

With a big receiver, if you throw the ball just high enough the defender cannot make a play, but the receiver can. This why you need those strong hands. Balls that are not caught when thrown up high are usually popped up in the air and intercepted. It is a huge advantage if you can “go up and get it” but you have to make the catch every time. Bad things happen when you don’t.

Here he is on just a streak route. It is nothing fancy. Just run by your defender. UTEP even has a safety over the top, but he gets mesmerized by the bouncing ball and lets Butler glide right by him for an uncontested TD.

Butler appears to have soft hands, and he shows great concentration on a double tipped ball while running full speed and between two defenders.There is a lot going on, but he makes the play calmly and ends up with a long TD. To routinely make contested catches requires exceptional concentration. There is a player assaulting you. Your vision could be obscured plus you are usually jumping as high as you can. It is an unappreciated skill.

Butler was an ascending talent until a shoulder injury in 2017 halted his progression. He came back in 2018, but he didn’t have the same chemistry with his new QB which limited his production and lowered his Draft status. His QB found it difficult to throw the ball when he felt the coverage was too close. Teams were also sending coverage help his way. It wasn’t anything Butler did but rather his QB not trusting his ability to fit the ball in.

Butler still made superior plays against defenses that were orchestrated to stop him. His size and playmaking ability overwhelmed some teams. On this play Butler is running a “9” route down the sideline and runs right by his guy leaving him in the dust. The ball is thrown just ahead of him, and he again shows great concentration to reach out and snag the ball. Being 6’ 4 has its advantages. Long arms help too.

Again you see Butler didn’t leave his feet and caught the ball with his hands. Many receivers would rather dive in the air to catch the ball. When you are in the air the ball is still just as if you were standing there waiting for it to come to you. When you run, because of your feet hitting the ground, the ball is kind of dancing in the sky. This just shows that Butler is very at ease with catching a ball while he is in full stride.

When you are a tall receiver, it takes you a little more time to get up to top speed than a shorter receiver. Unless all your pass patterns are 30 yards or longer you are going to have to make contested catches. There is no way around it.

Fortunately Butler excels at contested catches. On the first play he takes the underthrown pass off the back of the defender then just abuses him, throwing to the ground like an old tissue. The second play is another nice catch with the defender in his hip pocket and reaching for the ball. Again it is nice to have Butler’s length, and he uses it well.

Having a large frame is useful not in just length as you can also use your body to shield the defender from the pass with the correct positioning.

This is a smart play as the Lumberjacks see that there is no deep safety so the middle of the field is wide open. This 35 yard TD could not be simpler once the CB allows Butler to cross his face. Now all he needs to do is keep the defender on is back and “box him out” from the ball. The defender is helpless to stop the throw unless he interferes with Butler.

Butler is fairly agile for a big man and is able to get yards after the catch. He had 187 career receptions in college, and many were of the shorter variety. He had 3,222 yards and 33 TDs and gained many of those yards in YAC. Here he is weaving through traffic on a simple little 5 yard hitch route.

It seems weird to see such a long strider picking his way through the defense. This is not a staple of his repertoire, but he has the ability to make people miss and gain extra yards.

These next two throws are more like what you will see Butler doing in the NFL. With his size and ability to high point the ball Butler should be a demon in the red zone.

You can see he is being grabbed, pushed, and held in an effort to keep him close. It is not a great strategy because with Butler’s severe height advantage all the QB needs to do is get the ball thrown just over his head and let him do the rest. Teams foolishly try a fade pass or lob to the back of the end zone when all you need when you have a tall receiver is to throw the ball high and let him go get it. End of story. Fade patterns need to be very precise by the QB, and the receiver is usually being mauled by the defender. There is a lot going on. It looks simple and effective when it works, but is statistically a low percentage play. When you have the size advantage a fake fade, where the receiver feigns a move to the corner but then cuts back inside across the defender’s face, is a tough play to stop.

In football you have to make plays when you have the chance. Here again are two plays where Butler does just that. Butler shows off his soft hands and in the case of the first video soft hand (singular).

If you notice on these plays and all the sideline catches before, Butler always gives his QB plenty of space to fit the ball in. You will even see NFL receivers get pushed to the sideline, but Butler is smart enough and strong enough not to let that happen. This also keeps him from accidentally stepping out of bounds on the catch.

These two plays again are just Butler making plays in the end zone to haul in a TD. The first play I couldn’t get the video to work for some reason, and all you get is the catch. It’s pretty self-evident that he boxes out the defender then just jumps up to secure the catch.

The second play is more definitive in that you can see Butler holding off the defender, but when the ball is thrown too short he closes that gap, reaches over the defender, and makes the catch. I was not going to include these catches in this article, but I wanted you to see that Butler made a lot of plays pretty much by himself. Many times I see video of small school WR’s, and they catch the ball with no one around them or dash 60 yards for a TD untouched. That is not the way it will happen in the NFL, and Butler has the skillset to be a force if he makes it on a team.

This next play is not a sideline route or against a FCS team. It is a post route against the University of Arizona who was ranked 20th in the nation at the time.

You see he is able to shield the defender just enough so that he is not able to break up the pass, and Butler is strong enough to keep his feet, break a tackle and gallop into the end zone. This 62 yard TD against in state rival Arizona is one of Butler’s favorite highlights. He is not a speedster by any means but is able to outrace the DB on the way to the end zone.

Emmanuel Butler is an impressive athlete, he played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl where he competed against other Draft eligible prospects. He caught three passes for 46 yards with including the game’s longest completion of 32 yards. He turned heads during the week of practices and put himself on the Draft radar.

Butler has played in 45 college games. He injured his shoulder in the 2nd game of his senior season and had surgery to repair that injury. He requested and received a medical redshirt in 2017 so he could play the 2018 season for the Lumberjacks. He also had a rib injury that kept him out of 1 12 games, but both injuries have long healed and are not a concern going forward. He has no lingering injuries that could reappear later in his career.

I picture a team with two big receivers (Vycinth Smith and Emmanuel Butler), one who could run by you or snap off an in-cut and be wide open. The other is a big physical receiver who can “go get it” and make big plays down the field and/or in the red zone. Add to that a shifty slot guy like Crowder who has quickness and speed to take a short pass to the house open underneath because of two prolific big receivers.

Then you also have a big back with elite vision with great hands as a receiver. He has effective complementary RBs behind him (Montgomery & Powell) who can be reliable players if needed as runners or receivers.

That sounds like the makings of an excellent offensive skill position group with whcih to start a rebuild.Add to that a couple of sound offensive line Draft picks and a free agent or two. Now you have an explosive team as long as Sam Darnold continues to improve.

This, of course, is a vision of the future (two or three years). It will take time for a team to come together and rookie linemen to become above average players. Also you can’t go into a year with two UDFA receivers as your primary targets. Other assets will need to be added until these two big receivers become potent offensive forces (if ever).

Adding Smith and Butler is a no lose proposition, however, as they cost zero draft capital and are minimum salary players. If for whatever reason they don’t work out you can kick them to the curb without costing the team anything. Yet the opportunity these players provide is above the normal free agent acquisition. These two could develop (if they work hard) into outstanding players who will provide the Jets deep threats and big play potential.

Remember, this will be Joe Douglas’s first Draft so we will see what he has to offer. The Seattle Seahawks entered the 2019 Draft with a meager 4 picks and ended up selecting 11 players. They actually had more but traded up for players they coveted. They only used 1 pick thy originally began with. The other ten picks came via trade.

I have faith in Joe Douglas to get the Job done. He needs to be spot on in his trades and adept in his scouting acumen to increase the Jets talents. He has been through many a rodeo with the Draft, but this will be the first one he controls. Let’s see what he learned and what he can do. He will obviously look to improve the offensive line and secondary. He can do so by numerous means.

Other GMs will see Joe as a rookie GM and try to take advantage of his inexperience so he will need a plan before going forward.

Joe can help himself before the Draft by using the tools he has now to improve the Jets. Bringing in practice squad players now allow him to evaluate their usefulness to the Jets before the next Draft. If you can fill a few holes with young talented players, it leaves less needs to pick for.

There is hope for the Jets if our GM can execute a diversified game plan. The ball is in his court so let us see what he does with it. The means to resurrect the Jets are right in front of him. He can’t flinch and, he needs to be smart with his decisions. I just hope he reads my posts. He will be just fine if he does so.

What do you think?