The Washington Commanders used the No. 113 overall pick to take Louisiana safety Percy Butler. Here are five things you need to know about the newest member of the Commanders' secondary, presented by Grubhub.
1. He's been called the best pure safety in the draft.
Not long after it was officially announced that the Commanders started Day 3 by taking Butler, NBC Sports’ Chris Simms took to Twitter to give a bold statement about the former Ragin' Cajun.
"The [Commanders] got the best pure free safety in the NFL draft in Percy Butler," Simms wrote. "Dude has tremendous range in center field. He is very good in all areas of coverage."
That's a big statement to make, but there is precedent to back up the claim. Pro Football Focus noted that he's recorded an overall grade of at least 77 since 2019. Quarterbacks had a passer rating of 56.1 when targeting him, and he had a cover grade of 83.5.
It's also a moniker that Butler agrees with, because he's able to do everything required of modern safeties.
"The game is changing," Butler said. "Like it's evolving to a passing game. Every team wants running backs, even running backs, to be able to catch the ball now. So, I feel as a safety now, the safety is evolving from like a run stopper."
2. Offenses have trouble scoring against him.
Butler also pointed out that he's more than just a run-stopper. He's also an exceptional player in the passing game, and the numbers show that he gave quarterbacks fits in the Sun Belt Conference.
Over the course of 866 career cover snaps with the Ragin' Cajuns, Butler only allowed one touchdown and a 52.75 allowed completion percentage. Last year, he had eight coverage stops to go with four forced incompletions.
PFF notes that Butler has the kind of athleticism "to make staying in receivers' hip pockets effortless." And to drive that point home even further: Butler has never allowed more than 200 yards in a season, two of which were less than 100.
"He's a guy that has a specific skillset that we really feel is very intriguing," said Ron Rivera.
3. He's enthusiastic about being a special teams contributor.
Part of being a rookie is contributing wherever the coaches need him. Not only does that involve contributing on their respective sides of the ball, but it also means chipping in on special teams.
You won't catch Butler complaining about that.
"I feel like I can play every special team, all four of them," Butler said.
Butler was a special teams star for the Ragin' Cajuns. According to PFF, he earned a collective 90.3 special teams grade during his college career. Of all the special teams groups, though, his favorite he's to work with the punter to put the ball exactly where he needs it to be.
"I feel like I just understand how to get releases on like guys who try to hold me up," Butler said. So, I'll take what the defender gives me. And then I'll take control after that basically."
So, Butler already has the right attitude for how to get the most out of his rookie season.
4. He has the speed to keep up with receivers.
Butler loves the physicality of the game, but being a safety in the modern NFL requires defensive backs to use their speed as well. Butler doesn't have any issues in that area, either.
"Nobody matches my speed, '' Butler toldThe Athletic's Ben Standig. "I run fast and I play fast."
In an NFL Scouting Combine that featured multiple receivers running a sub-4.4 40-yard dash, Butler was able to match that speed with a 4.36, which was tied for the eighth-fastest time regardless of position and the second-fastest for a safety.
"He has got tremendous speed and quickness," Rivera said.
There are plenty of quality wideouts on the Commanders' schedule, and whenever Butler is matched up against one of them, he at least has the speed to keep up with them.
5. Rivera expects him to contribute early.
The Buffalo Nickel position on the Commanders' defense is one that has received plenty of attention since the offseason began, and with the release of Landon Collins, there has been some speculation over who will fill that role in 2022.
To Rivera, it seems like Butler will have a strong chance to make it his own.
"Percy just adds to help add to the mix and, and we can do some things I think with the right personnel on the field."
When Washington's defense was at its best last season, it was using a healthy dose of three safety looks to confuse quarterbacks and get as much talent on the field as possible. Butler will be part of that equation as well as other spots on the field.
"I think the biggest thing as far as his role is here's a guy that's gonna get an opportunity to compete," Rivera said. "Nickel will be one of them and safety will be the other one because of his skillset and the things that he does."
Assuming Butler can fill one of those spots, it would answer at least one big question about the defense ahead of the season.