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2016 Draft Preview: Former Bulldogs prepare to make the jump to the pros

April 28, 2016

MATTHEW VALCHO

Sports Editor | mvv002@latech.edu

 

 

 

The 2016 National Football League player selection meeting, more commonly known as the NFL draft, begins tonight  and will run through Saturday. Players from across college football will be hoping to hear their name called at the podium in Chicago, including a number of former Bulldogs.

 

 

A number of former Tech players will be among those looking to have their NFL dreams realized. Three in particular, Vernon Butler, Kenneth Dixon and Jeff Driskel, are projected to go in the first five rounds with a few others expected to go in the later rounds or sign with teams after the draft.

 

 

Defensive tackle Vernon Butler was invited to attend the draft in Chicago, an honor reserved for those expected to go be drafted in the first round or very soon after.

 

 

Butler has been up and down draft boards since his Senior Bowl performance raised his stock. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. was quoted calling him a “beast” and fellow ESPN draft insider Todd McShay called him “an absolute monster of a man.” NFL.com’s Senior Media Analyst Gil Brandt labeled him as “one of the most underrated defensive prospects” in a draft loaded with defensive players.

 

 

“He’s an athletic interior lineman with long arms and outstanding athleticism that allows him to work on offensive linemen with a combination of power and quickness,” said Lance Zierlein of NFL.com. Zierlein wrote evaluations of all three Tech players. “Butler has a raw but diverse skillset as a pass rusher that should excite NFL evaluators who see the potential of what he can be with more coaching and experience.”

 

 

Running back Kenneth Dixon has been labeled a sleeper by many and is projected to go in the second or third rounds and is ranked by ESPN as the third best running back in the draft. Dixon is also featured on the ESPN show “Hey Rookie! Welcome to the NFL,” a series following the pre and post draft lives of college players looking to make it in the pros.

 

 

“He is a highly-determined runner with a strong desire to compete through the whistle on every snap,” Zierlein said in his profile. “Dixon possesses outstanding feet with exciting suddenness in his change of direction, but he’s very willing to finish his runs with authority and has a knack for finding the endzone.”

 

 

Quarterback Jeff Driskel looks to continue his successful career turnaround after coming to Tech as a graduate transfer last season from the University of Florida. After a lackluster first four years with the Gators and a revolving door of offensive coordinators, Driskel put himself on the radar of NFL teams when he threw for more than 4,000 yards with 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions in his one season in Ruston.

 

 

At the NFL combine, Driskel finished with the best time in the 40 yard dash and the longest broad jump among QBs.

 

 

In Driskel’s draft profile, Zierlein said he has the potential and upside to be a good quarterback with some work.

 

 

“Driskel still has the size, arm strength and athleticism that made him the top–rated quarterback coming out of high school, but he hasn’t experienced enough growth at the position due to his rocky path to the draft,” Zierlein said.

 

 

“He’s not where he needs to be yet, but with his upside and traits, Driskel is worthy of a day three selection and could yield dividends with patience and coaching.”

 

 

He is projected to be taken late in the draft between rounds five and seven.

 

 

In a draft labeled by many as one of the deepest in recent memory, it will be interesting to see where the three former Bulldogs call home next.

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