Saturday, 16 May 2009

Returning to the Deon Butler debate

Thank you to everyone that read and responded to the recent article on Deon Butler and the impact he might have as a rookie. There were a few contributions in particular that caught my eye.

Ethan kicked things off, "I'm not expecting him (Butler) to be an Eddie Royal or anything, but I'm hopeful that we'll see hints of his upside this next season and then see even further development in the future."

I would have to agree with this assessment. The sheer learning curve associated with young wide receivers makes an instant impact unlikely. It's not impossible, as both Royal and DeSean Jackson proved in 2008. However I think it would be unfair on the former Nittany Lion to expect anything like that in his first year in Seattle. I do expect Butler to have some kind of influence, even if it's just as a decoy on deep routes or a potential kick returner.

JRuss chipped in, "I was almost as excited to hear about Butler's great hands and crisp routes as I was about his speed and quickness. I've read that he plays bigger than he is and that certainly would be a great thing if it proved true."

The suggestion that Butler plays above his size and physical presence is one I would agree with. He's not the biggest (a generous 5'10" in height and slight frame) but he doesn't shirk from blocks and plays with a toughness you want to see from a young guy.

Seth H wondered if Butler could be used in some niche moves, "Greg Knapp isn't afraid of trick plays. Imagine something like an I formation with Seneca Wallace and Deon Butler as the receivers, Seneca Wallace gets the hand off on an end around, but it's really a pass play and Deon Butler hauls it in for a long TD pass."

No doubt the NFL became a home for trick plays in 2008, with the whole Dolphins wild cat craze. That shows no obvious signs of disappearing so maybe we will see some original ideas from Knapp in his play calling?

Steve S offered a different angle and is keeping his expectations in check, "I think we should be honest with ourselves and admit that, assuming normal luck with injuries, Butler's contribution will be approximately zero in 2009. I'd be perfectly content to see Butler inactive in '09 and making a contribution in '10. In fact, if we were to look into the future and see Butler playing many meaningful snaps in '09 it would more likely mean that the $100+ million vets are injured than that Butler is tearing it up."

This is a fair analysis. Realistically you would expect Houshamdzadeh, Branch and Burleson to get most attention in the passing game with John Carlson having a big say at tight end. Unless we see an injury crisis reminiscent of 2008, Butler might have to wait his turn. I do think his pure speed could see him find a way to get involved as a rookie though and he may still have some special teams value.

I'll leave the final comment to Melham, a Penn State grad, "As an alum who has watched every PSU game since 1996, let me say that Seattle is going to LOVE Deon Butler. Everyone knows about Derrick Williams but IMO Butler was the best receiver on the team and the best since Bobby Engram. He will exceed all expectations, guaranteed."

I like the sound of that.


akki said...

Glad to see you're keeping the blog going, Rob.

I'm with Steve on Butler. Here are the reception totals of last year's 2nd and 3rd round receivers:
Eddie Royal - 91
DeSean Jackson - 63
Donnie Avery - 54
Jordy Nelson - 33
Harry Douglas - 23
Devin Thomas - 15
Andre Caldwell - 11
Limas Sweed - 6
Mario Manningham - 4
Malcolm Kelly - 3
Jerome Simpson - 1
Earl Bennett - 0
Dexter Jackson - 0

Median is 11 catches. Even the more productive rookies had playing time circumstances in their favor, with injuries to guys like Kevin Curtis, Reggie Brown, and Drew Bennett, and Brandon Marshall's key 1st game suspension. Nelson and Douglas walked into situations with weak backup receivers, and didn't have to compete for playing time with someone as established as whichever of Burleson or Branch will be Seattle's #3 next year. Even Darrell Jackson's big rookie year resulted from Derrick Mayes being hurt.

If Butler catches more than 15 balls next year, something bad probably happened to the team to give him extra playing time. We'll look for more from him in years 2 and 3.

akki said...

One more thing I forgot. Unless you're emptying the backfield, adding the 4th WR to the formation means taking the TE off the field. This wasn't hard in the past when there wasn't a pass-catching threat at TE, but I can't see Carlson sitting as much. You're not going to see the #4 WR play all that many snaps next year.

Rob Staton said...

Akki - great analysis there, thankyou. It's really interesting to see that broken down. If last year is anything to go by, it'll be optomisitc to expect too many catches from Butler. I still think he can impact on games, as a deep option or on special teams. He comes accross as an intelligent individual too, which can only help.

With regards the blog, I will strive to keep it going in these quiet days. I have some ideas for articles which I will publish at various times, all I can ask is please keep visiting and reading. It's been a real pleasure covering the 2009 draft, and I hope we can have as much fun discussing and reporting on 2010.

As soon as the college football season begins, normal service resumes with daily updates.