Some prospects start the process leading up to the NFL Draft with a high profile and plenty of momentum. But others have to take advantage of the opportunities presented throughout the process to raise their profile.
Tennessee defensive tackle Matthew Butler has the opportunity to do just that over the course of the 2022 NFL Draft. Butler was a largely unknown red-shirt senior on the Volunteers’ defensive line prior to the draft process. He flashes on tape, and he had decent production his final year, but he has been overshadowed by more dynamic DTs in the SEC.
Butler has the chance to use the Draft Process’ spotlight to show that he’s more than just flashes and he has the skill set to be a contributor for an NFL defense.
The New York Giants have invested heavily in their defensive line, but many of they could find themselves in need of depth this year. Could Butler catch the Giants’ eye as a potential interior disruptor?
Prospect: Matthew Butler (94)
Games Watched: vs. South Alabama (2021), vs. Pittsburgh (2021), vs. Ole Miss (2021), vs. Missouri (2021)
Games Played: 44
Tackles For a loss: 16.0
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 3
Games Played (starts): 13
Tackles For a loss: 8.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 0
Best: Snap timing, first step, upfield burst, hand usage, versatility
Worst: Long speed, change of direction
Projection: Rotational interior defensive lineman in an attacking one-gap defense
(Butler is defensive tackle number 94)
Tennessee defensive tackle Matthew Butler is an experienced defender who flashes the ability to be disruptive at the NFL level.
Butler is a fifth-year senior who has seen playing time in each of his five years at Tennessee. He has also seen increased production every year in college, presenting as evidence of improvement over his college career.
Butler times opponents’ snaps very well, and is usually the first player moving on the defensive side of the ball. He has a very good initial burst off the ball and is able to overwhelm blockers when attacking gaps. Butler shows good lower-body flexibility and is able to sit low in his stance and play with good initial leverage.
He shows a variety of strategies to win with his hand usage, showing both swim and rip moves, as well as a good bullrush. Butler understands how to rush with a plan and is quick to resort to counter-moves if his initial rush fails, and he shows great competitive toughness in fighting through blocks.
Butler is a capable run defender when used as a one-gap defender. He does a good job of extending his arms, bench pressing blockers to create separation, then putting his hips in the gap he is responsible for. He has the play strength to make plays in the running game off of blockers in one-on-one situations. Butler also shows a good motor in pursuit of the ball carrier.
But while Butler has a very good first step and initial rush, he hits top gear very quickly. He lacks long speed and is slow over any kind of a distance. That can make it difficult for him to pursue plays from the back side and ball carriers who evade his initial rush can usually out-run him without trouble. While he has good overall length at (nearly) 6-foot-4, his arms are on the shorter side, which can give an advantage to athletic or longer-limbed offensive linemen.
Likewise, Butler can struggle to win extended reps if he isn’t able to win with his initial pass rush. And while he can physically stalemate double-teams, he doesn’t show the ability to split or otherwise beat them.
Overall Grade: 7.0
Matthew Butler projects best as a rotational defensive tackle in an attacking one-gap defense. He has enough versatility to be relatively scheme diverse and should be able to find a home in a 3-man or 4-man front, or a modern “multiple” or “hybrid” front.
Butler shouldn’t be asked to consistently take on double-teams or two-gap, but he can play just about any alignment that only asks him to defend (or attack) a single gap. He is at his best in obvious passing situations when he can use his snap timing and explosive first step to attack into the backfield. Between his burst and surprisingly good hand usage, Butler can be a legitimate handful for most blockers to deal with in one-on-one situations. He is often the first person moving on the defense and frequently the first person (besides the center) to be moving on either team after the snap.
Butler hasn’t racked up eye-popping stats at Tennessee, but he has the traits to be a player teams can rotate onto the field in place of a starter and not see a significant downgrade. He could even prove to be a good value pick and a disruptive player if allowed to maximize his skills as a pass rush specialist early in his career.