While the Las Vegas Raiders restocked at defensive tackle during free agency, they could afford to add some youth at the position in the upcoming NFL Draft. Tennessee’s Matthew Butler should be available in the later rounds and could be a quality depth piece for the Raiders.
DT | Tennessee | 6’3 7/8” and 297 lbs | Garner, NC | June 10th, 1999 (22.8)
Matthew Butler came to Tennessee as a three-star recruit and the 35th-ranked defensive tackle in the country for the 2017 class, per 247 Sports. He played sparingly as a true freshman and sophomore before mixing into the starting lineup as a junior and locking down the starting spot for his last two seasons in Knoxville. In five years, he accumulated 152 tackles, 16 for loss, 9.5 sacks and 53 pressures, primarily lining up as a three or 4i-technique.
- Impressive get-off overall with a quick reaction to the snap and he gains ground with his first three steps to put pressure on the offensive line
- When he does use his hands and gets 2 or 3 points of contact on the blocker, he has the strength and leg drive to collapse the pocket with a bull rush
- Has a nice swim move with a tight arm over and solid hip fluidity to clear his lower half to get a clean win
- He can develop and start winning with his rip move in pass rush if he can get the timing down with his initial chop to help beat the offensive lineman’s hands. He has good violence on the rip and finishes thumb to trap, he just misses frequently with his chop.
- As the looper in line games, his agility allows him to gain ground vertically while moving horizontally and he has solid bend to take an efficient path to the quarterback
- As the penetrator in line games, he does a good job attacking and occupying the guard to help the EDGE get a free rush as the looper
- With his get-off, he can play in the offense’s backfield against run plays as a one-gapper
- Takes on blocks with good pad level/leverage, is physical at the point of attack and has a nice wide base to hold ground versus one-on-one blocks from guards
- When slanting, he gains ground with his L-step and is quick to throw off offensive linemen’s angles and finishes with a strong thumb to trap rip to wreak havoc on zone runs
- Uses that rip move to help defeat tackles inside on scoop blocks if the guard doesn't do a good enough job turning his shoulders
- Good gap discipline overall, he’s not going to leave his responsibility early or until the running back commits
- If he lands or uses his hands, he has the strength and violence to shed guard’s blocks fairly easily
- Also showed the strength to use a hump-by move to get off blocks when offensive linemen start to lean
- He has the agility to shed and make tackles in the adjacent gap, with no issues bringing RBs down with no one hanging on him
Areas of improvement:
- Wasn’t a productive pass rusher until year five in college, over half of his career sacks (5) and pressures (31) came last season
- He does get winded fairly easily, especially against tempo, and his effort and explosion off the ball drops
- On passing downs, he does have a habit of standing up by his third step and ruining his pad level. This combined with not consistently getting three points of contact limits the effectiveness of his bull rush.
- Seems to lack a pass rush plan, he rarely throws counter moves if his initial doesn’t work and doesn’t set up moves throughout the game
- Tries to work inside stick moves but he doesn’t sell the vertical/outside enough to get the tackle’s hips turned, he starts working inside a step or two too early
- Needs to improve his accuracy with chops and hands when working finesse moves to beat the offensive lineman’s hands. He either hits the bicep and sometimes shoulders instead of the hands or a joint (elbow/wrist), or kind of just flails his arms around.
- Not a high motor rusher who’s going to get a lot of clean up or coverage sacks
- His block recognition against the run is poor, he’ll get caught off-guard by reach blocks or down blocks when the offensive lineman in front of him pulls, and he gets too far up the field when unblocked
- He likes to take on blocks with his shoulder or wide and late hands which makes it more difficult for him to get extension and shed
- Against scoop blocks, he will get sealed when the first blocker is aggressive and get his shoulders turned
- Versus double teams, he tries to take on both blockers, stops his feet and gets stood up, making it difficult to hold his ground
- Struggles to make tackles with offensive linemen hanging on him
- Isn’t a high-effort guy who is going to help make a lot of gang tackles down the field
NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 141st, 4th round
Butler is far from a marquee player who is going to come in right away and make a huge impact on an NFL defense. He’s a Day 3 pick who can be a quality depth piece and work into a defensive line rotation with the potential to develop into a solid starter down the road. Personally, I think the fifth round would be the best value for the former Volunteer which isn’t too far off from his current NMDD projection.
As far as the scheme he’d be best in, Butler needs to play in a one-gap system that can take advantage of his get-off and allow him to penetrate. He’d also be best lining up from a three- to a four-technique in a lot of even fronts.
What do we need to know?
Can his use of hands dramatically improve at the next level? This will be Butler’s undoing in the NFL if he doesn’t fix the issue. He’s a good athlete and has deceptive strength but that can all go for not if he doesn’t get more consistent with his hands. There are times on film when his hands are right and he puts it all together, but those are few and far between, and it’s a little concerning that he’s a fifth-year senior and still has this technical flaw.
Fit with the Raiders:
I hinted at this above, Las Vegas could use some young blood at defensive tackle, and the Tennessee product should be available with one of their two fifth-round picks. He could mix into the rotation and offers some upside as a pass rusher that the position group could really use.
My biggest hesitation with Butler joining the Silver and Black is the scheme. New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham typically likes to have a couple of large-bodied two-gap defensive tackles, and that’s not Butler’s game. He’d be more of a backup option to Bilal Nichols, which could pigeonhole the soon-to-be rookie into one spot and this could be a bit of a square peg in a round hole scenario.
Then again, Graham likes to use several fronts so maybe he could work in a package or two to fit Butler’s skillset.
Perfect slant to split a combo block & make a TFL by Matthew Butler (DRT) pic.twitter.com/IWG6bPMlu5— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 15, 2022
At 297lbs, Matthew Butler (DLT) is deceptively strong and he has no problem getting this OL off balance and clubbing by here pic.twitter.com/rW648iBJT9— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 15, 2022
Matthew Butler (DRT) with a violent shed to make a tackle for short gain pic.twitter.com/cJzciGTuQk— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 15, 2022
Matthew Butler (DRT) takes the fight to this OG & shows some impressive strength & agility to get off the bclok and make the play in another gap pic.twitter.com/Hj6qrEfJ5q— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 15, 2022
I think Matthew Butler (NT) can add a rip move to his pass rush arsenal down the road & he has solid bend for a DT pic.twitter.com/5zwlBtmaJl— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 15, 2022
Frees up the EDGE to loop inside & make the TFLhttps://t.co/EWv9K5hQbs— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 15, 2022