Tennessee football: Matthew Butler is ESPN analyst’s favorite DT in NFL Draft

Nobody is mistaking Matthew Butler for a first-round pick in the NFL Draft. However, dating back to the Senior Bowl, the Tennessee football defensive tackle has done everything right to increase his stock and make him an attractive candidate.

Analysts have noticed, and Mel Kiper of ESPN has Butler listed as his favorite defensive tackle. Kiper’s list of favorites at each position are based on how much higher he rates players than other analysts and how much he likes the way they play the game. It’s not about projections.

In Butler’s case, Kiper acknowledges he’s a Day 3 pick, but he’s got the guy going in the fourth round. Even with that projection, he said he still feels like he’s undervaluing Butler. Here’s a bit of what he said about the Tennessee football lineman.

I love his tape, and he rarely left the field for the Volunteers the past two seasons. At 6-foot-4, 297 pounds, he can split double-teams (or blow them up) and is incredibly disruptive (seven sacks from the interior since 2020). Turn on the film from the Alabama game to see him wreak havoc on the Crimson Tide, even in a blowout loss.

What Kiper sees in Butler is sheer ability, and that comes from how Butler arrived on Rocky Top. He was initially a defensive end who committed to Butch Jones and played in Bob Shoop’s nickel-based 4-3 defense. Then he stayed on the line with a more physical role in Jeremy Pruitt’s 3-4.

This past year, Josh Heupel brought on Tim Banks, who restored the nickel-based 4-3 defense, but Butler moved over to defensive tackle. It worked, as he finished with eight and a half tackles for a loss, five sacks, a forced fumble and 47 tackles, 19 of which were solo.

When you factor in production, it’s easy to see why Butler is an NFL prospect. Add in the physical gifts he was able to showcase this often, and he’s always seemed like a guy with the best pro potential coming out. It appears Vol fans weren’t the only ones to see it.

Ja’Quain Blakely and Caleb Tremblay are other versatile defensive linemen from Tennessee football who are gone from last year’s team but Butler is the star of the three. Unless he gets hurt, he’ll likely become a regular contributor in the pros.