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NAME: Matthew Butler
POSITION: Defensive Tackle
WEIGHT: 297 pounds
A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, Matthew Butler attended Garner Senior High School. His senior season of high school football was heavily impactful. Butler finished with 96 tackles, 44 tackles for loss and 26 sacks. Moreover, he and Garner Senior finished with a 12-2 record that season and appeared in the regional semifinals. After his senior season, Butler was named to the 2016 North Carolina Associated Press All-State Class 4A team. He was rated as a four-star recruit coming out of high school.
Butler would open his college career at Tennessee as a rotational piece on the Volunteers’ defensive line. As a true freshman in 2017, he had four tackles in eight games played. He would then play in nine contests in 2018, tallying 13 tackles and one tackle for loss.
In 2019, Butler largely received secondary usage once again. He appeared in 13 games and made four starts for the Tennessee defense. His 45 tackles led all Tennessee defensive linemen for 2019. Furthermore, Butler finished with three tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and two pass breakups.
2020 was a slightly shorter schedule, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Butler was still able to become a starter in all 10 games. He led all Tennessee defensive linemen in tackles once again (43). In addition, Butler registered four quarterback hurries, three tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble and one pass breakup.
With an extra year of eligibility available, Butler opted to return to Tennessee as a fifth-year senior in 2021. He played in 13 contests total, while starting in 12 games. Butler logged 726 snaps on the season, which was the most among SEC players. He led all Tennessee defensive linemen in tackles for the third straight year (47). Finally, the defensive tackle had 8.5 tackles for loss, seven quarterback hurries, five sacks and one forced fumble.
Instead of listing positives and negatives for traits, this year we will be listing the best trait of each prospect and work our way down to the biggest area of improvement/absent trait(s), from top to bottom.
Butler institutes immense power at the point of attack. On top of that, he is not afraid to attack opponents in a violent way. Teams would certainly rather have that from an interior defensive lineman, instead of him needing to turn it up a notch. Butler is also able to create extra space and separation at the point of attack with his hand power. For instance, he can throw blockers off balance. Butler seemingly displaces them both to his side, or when he is moving vertically.
Butler uses a wide array of tracks to attack blockers with. Essentially, he understands which shoulder to go after, based off of what he reads from the opponents’ shoulders and eyes. Butler will vary his path toward the quarterback or ball carrier as well. Depending on the blocking scheme, he is able to muddy up the line of scrimmage effectively. Butler reads blocks and play direction very urgently. Elsewhere, he is a high effort player that rallies to make second effort stops or plays on backside pursuit, despite not routinely filling up the stat sheet with wow plays at his position.
Butler’s ability to change directions and make plays in space are quite impressive for a player of his size. At the same time, he has the speed to stick will ball carriers in the open field. That is especially true, if a reset or an adjustment needs to be made. Butler does well to stay low and compact to the ground in those moments. On the other hand, he can certainly explode and cut off angles that appear to be open for opponents.
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First Step Explosiveness
Overall, Butler is more quick than he is explosive, as things currently stand. He can come out of his stance higher from time to time too. When he is able to sustain a lower center of gravity, Butler can quickly get deep into the frame of blockers and into the backfield. A sneaky part of his quickness comes after the initial first step. That is not to say that Butler cannot fire hard off of the snap. Yet, it is almost more impressive how he can redirect and find a different gear. That is exemplified when Butler is originally stopped by opposing offensive linemen.
This defender possesses splendid ankle flexion at the interior of the defensive line. In the meantime, he has appeared to be extremely comfortable with rushing the passer via stunts or twists upfront. Butler does not always have the most stable balance, as he can get his weight out and on top of his toes. The Tennessee product can slightly make up for that with his adequate footwork.
Butler enters the NFL as an above average run defender. In addition to his aforementioned hand power and speed, he is gifted with elite length and uses that to his advantage. Butler is able to stun blockers with how early he can gain leverage during the rep. Do not discount this defender’s ability to control gaps, stack blocks and reset the line of scrimmage either. He simply clogs up lanes and makes it extremely challenging for opposing offensive linemen to get up the field.
Butler’s ability to be violent and powerful at the point of attack will be a nice starting point as he enters the NFL. There are certainly areas to improve upon within his pass rush hand counters, however. Butler is just not that refined or consistent with his hand technique, as of now. He wants to win one-on-one battles with his strength and mass. Though, Butler is often unable to string moves together against opponents. He does have the ability to rip through a blocker’s hands with a swift swipe or rip. But, Butler is late in getting his hands extended at the point of attack. There are definitely times where he is not as aggressive as one would hope. Meanwhile, Butler also has a tendency to leave his hands too wide against blockers.
His potential to provide resistance against both the run and the pass will allow him to possibly be a three-down defender. At Tennessee, Butler played both at 3-tech and 5-tech, while occasionally lining up at nose tackle over the top of the center. He may not receive those same opportunities at the NFL, especially early on. Butler does not have the mass or density to constantly play closer to the center at the next level. Mainly, sticking at 3-tech or 5-tech could be more beneficial for Butler, given his flexibility and lateral quickness.
The Kansas City Chiefs are due to add more depth around Chris Jones at defensive tackle. Tennessee’s Matthew Butler may have the exact play style that this defense needs as they continue to reload. For one, his capability to produce against both the run and the pass is a tremendous starting point. Butler is also not limited to one technique or method upfront. He can crash hard across the opponent’s face, rush the passer with multiple tracks to the quarterback, or handle gap control responsibilities against the run. Lastly, Butler has the power, explosiveness and speed combination that Steve Spagnuolo gravitates towards.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs draft prospect profiles throughout this spring. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.
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