Butler has sudden and urgent hands with good pop behind them. With that said, he doesn’t have the type of power behind his strikes that will consistently overwhelm and stun blockers but he has enough. I love the urgency and intent behind the way he activates his hands.
Butler’s quickness, leverage, urgency, and active hands lead to effective run defense. With that said, his modest length and compact build presents some concerns when forecasting him to the next level. His best moments come as a single-gap penetrator, although he holds his own when tasked with resetting the line of scrimmage, stacking blocks, and allowing the second level to get downhill. I don’t envision Butler being a standout run defender in the NFL but there are ways he can be effective and not present a liability.
Butler is an experienced player and it shows when watching him play. His play recognition and processing skills are terrific. In addition, there is a commitment to playing with good leverage, technique, and fundamentals that is apparent in his game.
Matthew Butler took advantage of the extra year of eligibility due to the COVID pandemic and returned to Tennessee for his “super senior” season and delivered the best season of his career. Butler is an academic standout that is viewed as a leader within the Tennessee program. Butler is a quick, flexible, and technically-refined defensive lineman that plays with terrific fundamentals. His pads are low, his hands are always busy, and he is urgent in everything he does on the field while also playing with good control. His best moments come when he gets the opportunity to shoot gaps or run a two-man game, taking advantage of his quickness, motor, and hand technique. The Volunteers played him at every spot along the defensive line and he has appeal at three- and five-technique in the NFL. When it comes to limitations, Butler’s modest length and mass standout. While he plays with good technique, Butler doesn’t have much margin for error given his lack of length and he has to work overtime to clear his pads. And while he wasn’t easily rooted out of his run fit in college, holding up against NFL offensive linemen presents a new set of challenges to remain stout against the run. Butler has the makings of a quality rotational defensive lineman at the next level in a defense that is multiple up front to take advantage of his versatility and enable him to shoot gaps.
Ideal Role: Rotational three- and five-technique
Scheme Fit: Multi-front
Written by Joe Marino
Games watched: Pittsburgh (2021), Georgia (2021), Ole Miss (2021), Alabama (2021)
Best Game Studied: Alabama (2021)
Worst Game Studied: Georgia (2021)
First Step Explosiveness: Butler has above average first-step quickness and it’s a big reason why he has found success shooting gaps and working to the edges of blockers. He anticipates the snap well and fires out with low pads, quickly eating up ground. He is controlled and coordinated throughout his initial steps.
Flexibility: Butler features good flexibility and it shows up with his ability to slip through gaps and around the edges of blocks. The Vols get him going on twists and stunts and he has an impressive ability to corner while carrying speed through tight turns. Some of his reps in the Ole Miss (2021) and Alabama (2021) games really showcased that ability to work inside-out and turn the corner.
Hand Counters: Butler’s hands are busy throughout every rep and are never tardy to activate. In my exposures, I saw effective usage of a cross/chop, club/rip, and push/pull moves with regularity. He only has modest length, which creates some challenges with getting off blocks and clearing his hands, but he battles and keeps his hands battling with urgency through the whistle.
Hand Power: See Above.
Run Defending: See Above.
Effort (Motor): While there are certainly times that Butler finds some extra juice on money downs, his effort on a snap-to-snap basis is consistently outstanding. He competes throughout every rep to beat blocks and he is aggressive in pursuit. His competitive toughness shines on tape.
Football IQ: See Above.
Lateral Mobility: Butler has easy movement skills in all directions. He has no issues working up and down the line of scrimmage in pursuit and stringing out run plays. He flows with urgency and without restriction in pursuit. I also love his ability to redirect and work back across blocks and cross the face of his opponent.
Core/Functional Strength: Butler plays with outstanding leverage and his build is fairly compact which combines together to showcase sufficient core strength. He isn’t easily rooted out of his gap but there is a notable amount of effort required for Butler to stay committed to his technique and fundamentals to hold up at the point of attack. He has an awareness of his skill set and understands how to execute accordingly.
Versatility: Butler is a balanced defender, capable of making plays against the run and pass. Tennessee plays him anywhere from the nose to a five-technique with single-gap and two-gap responsibilities. At the next level, he has appeal as a three-technique to a five-technique, although his modest length isn’t ideal for a majority of his snaps being played at the five.
TDN Consensus: 73.50/100 (Fourth Round Value)
Crabbs Grade: 72.50/100
Marino Grade: 73.50/100
Sanchez Grade: 74.50/100