Tennessee has a few intriguing prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft, but ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has identified one as a real standout. Former Vols defensive lineman Matthew Butler is asserting himself in the pre-draft process. On the latest edition of 'First Draft,' Kiper spoke highly of Butler and noted that his decision to come back for the 2021 season was key. Because he doesn't have the name recognition as of some other defensive linemen in this draft class, Butler could provide some nice value in the middle rounds.
” Matthew Butler , Tennessee — when you watch the tape on this kid, really underrated,” Kiper said. “He came back to Tennessee. He surpassed what he had done over the previous four years in one season, in terms of sacks and tackles for loss. He was disruptive. Go to the Alabama game. I mean, you put game after game. Matthew Butler , boy, he gets lost in the shuffle a little bit. You can get a steal there.”
Butler has already been impressing NFL scouts since he began preparing for the draft. He got rave reviews for his performance at the Shrine Bowl, and ESPN analyst Jordan Reid said Butler looked like the best player at the entire event .
"After a strong opening performance during the first day of practice, Butler remained steady throughout the week," Reid wrote. "Coming in at 6-3, 299 pounds, his physical traits, power and energy immediately caught the eye of many scouts in attendance. Most noticeable in the one-on-ones portion of practice, Butler was easily penetrating his way to the quarterback, and he carried that over into the 11-on-11 sessions.
"Overall, I thought Butler was the best player at the event, and he proved his worth during each period of practice. Playing in 53 career games for the Volunteers, he hit his stride during his final season as he had 47 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks."
Butler used his extra year of eligibility to stick around for Josh Heupel's first season as the head coach in Knoxville. That paid major dividends for Butler, who posted career highs in tackles (47), tackles for loss (8.5), and sacks (5.0).
Butler was a three-star recruit and the No. 35 player at his position in the 2017 signing class, according to the industry-generated 247Sports Composite rankings.
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