On March 22, Louisiana Tech will have it’s pro day. You can be certain that someone from the Green Bay Packers will be there to witness it. It might even be general manager Ted Thompson.
La Tech has three players who I have to believe the Packers would be very interested in. Those three players are defensive tackle Vernon Butler, running back Kenneth Dixon and quarterback Jeff Driskel.
I had the Packers taking Driskel in the seventh round of my first mock draft, as a matter of fact.
Butler, Dixon and Driskel would all fill a need for the Packers.
Butler would certainly help the Packers on the defensive line, especially since B.J. Raji announced he was taking a one-year hiatus from football earlier this week.
Dixon could be a great addition to the Packers as well, as he has the attributes to be a three-down back in the NFL. The Packers will probably be re-signing unrestricted free agent James Starks, but No. 44 is now 30 years old, while Eddie Lacy will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017.
With Scott Tolzien moving on to the Indianapolis Colts via free agency, that means that the Packers will be looking to add a third quarterback to their roster to learn from Aaron Rodgers and Brett Hundley.
La Tech had a nice season in Conference USA in 2015, as the Bulldogs finished 9-4 overall, plus were 6-2 in the conference, which was good for second place in the West division. The Bulldogs also won the New Orleans Bowl, as they beat Arkansas State.
Butler, Dixon and Driskel all played very well for La Tech in 2015.
The 6’4″, 323-pound Butler had 50 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, three sacks and eight quarterback hurries this past season. For that performance, Butler was named first-team All-Conference USA.
The 5’10”, 215-pound Dixon was another Bulldog who was named to first-team All-Conference USA, as he rushed 1,070 yards and 19 touchdowns, plus caught 34 passes for 467 more yards and seven scores. Dixon did it all for the Bulldogs, as he also was very effective picking up the blitz on passing downs.
Dixon had just a marvelous career at La Tech. He finished with 4,480 yards rushing and 72 touchdowns, plus had 88 receptions for 972 yards and 15 more scores.
The 6’4″, 234-pound Driskel transferred from Florida to La Tech and had the best season of his collegiate career in 2015. Driskel threw 27 touchdown passes versus eight picks for 4,033 yards. He also ran for 323 more yards and five touchdowns.
NFL scout Chris Landry got to see Butler, Dixon and Driskel up close and personal at the Senior Bowl. All were outstanding that week.
Butler was very effective in one-on-one drills, as he used his short area quickness and powerful upper body to force his way to the pocket. Butler has long arms which allow him to rag doll blockers once he gets them off-balance.
Landry saw Dixon as having the best week of all the running backs at the Senior Bowl.
Driskel completed 8 of 9 passes for a game-high 108 yards and one touchdown.
I had another opportunity to talk with Landry yesterday on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.
I wanted to get Landry’s take on the three La Tech players.
“Well, Jeff [Driskel] to me is a late-round guy,” Landry said. “He really did a good job. They did a good job with him. Coach [Skip] Holtz did a good job with him. A lot of Florida connections there with Skip and Jeff being from the Gators. Jeff really did settle down and I think the stability of that offense helped him.”
Driskel did play much better at La Tech than he did at Florida, where the offense always seemed to be in a state of flux. In three years with the Gators, he threw 23 touchdown passes versus 18 interceptions for 3,263 yards.
Like he did at La Tech, Driskel was a threat running the ball for the Gators, as he ran for 63 1 yards and nine touchdowns. By the way, Driskel ran a 4.56 40 at the combine.
Landry also had plenty of praise for Dixon.
“I do like Kenneth Dixon a lot,” Landry said. “He’s got really good wiggle, change of pace, balance and run under his pads. I think he’s a mid-to-late second round guy. He might slip into the third.
“Ezekiel Elliott we talked about. Derrick Henry. I like Devontae Booker. The guy that I really like the more and more I look at him, and I’m going to raise him on my board as I do more and more work, is Alex Collins of Arkansas. Outside of that, I think Kenneth Dixon is the next best back.”
Landry also had some very nice things to say about Butler.
“Vernon Butler to me, is a really good penetrator,” Landry said. “Really quick off the ball. Good use of hands. I think he’s to me an early second-round value, who could slip into the first round.
“Again, it’s an unusually deep year (for defensive linemen). I expect in the first round that A’Shawn Robinson will go, Jarran Reed to go, both are from Alabama. Robert Nkemdiche is going to go somewhere. You are talking about a guy who is a top five pick, but will slip some. And how far, I don’t know. I just sit there and think that I could see a guy like Rex Ryan saying, ‘I’ll take that guy. I’m not afraid.’
“Sheldon Rankins of Louisville. Andrew Billings of Baylor. Vernon Butler is right in that group. And there was another yesterday with Kenny Clark of UCLA (pro day). Jonathan Bullard from Florida. I think Butler would have real good value at the top of the second round and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s late first round.”
So from the Packers standpoint at pick No. 27, Butler may be a viable option late in the first round, depending on how the board looks at that time. Dixon would be an option for the Packers with their pick in the second round, while Driskel could be an option for the Packers in the sixth or seventh round.
The Packers do have a history of having La Tech players on their roster, including a couple of pretty good cornerbacks who had nice careers in Green Bay. Doug Evans went there, as did Tramon Williams. Both players ended up with Super Bowl rings.
Wide receiver Myles White, who spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons in Green Bay, also hails from La Tech.
The most famous football alumnus of La Tech is quarterback Terry Bradshaw. Defensive lineman Fred Dean and offensive tackle Willie Roaf also played their college ball with the Bulldogs.
Bottom line, I believe the Packers would be quite pleased if they were able to land either Butler or Dixon in the draft. Driskel wouldn’t be bad either, as he has a strong arm and great mobility, but his role would be that of third-string quarterback.
There is no doubt that Butler and Dixon are the cream of the crop for the Bulldogs in this draft and would most likely see plenty of playing time for the Packers as rookies.