From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
Jake Butt/TE/Michigan — 6’5”, 246 Lbs
-Excellent route runner that is very balanced and controlled at the top of his stem
-Very consistent, reliable catcher for position with exceptionally strong hands
-Tough in traffic
-Appears most comfortable operating in high-traffic areas
-Adjusts routes well to what defense is trying to do
-Tracks football naturally in the air
-Physical runner after the catch
-Below average burst in movements
-Really lacks vertical speed to threaten defenses
-Won’t separate from defenders in routes
-Relies heavily on rubs and screens to create separation
-Takes bad angles to second level as a blocker and can get grabby out of position
-Struggles to engage and sustain in space as a blocker
-Four-year starter at Michigan
-2016 John Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end
-Program record-holder for most receptions (138) and yards (1,646) by a tight end
-Has appeared in 49 games at tight end, making 37 starts
-Two-time Sports Illustrated All-America first team (2015,2016)
-Only one of six tight ends in school history to reach 1,000 career yards
-Suffered a torn ACL in Orange Bowl loss to Florida State
Coming into the 2016 season, Michigan tight end Jake Butt was considered one of the best all-around tight ends in the 2017 NFL draft class.
The Wolverine didn’t disappoint in his senior season in the maize and blue, 46 receptions for 456 yards and four touchdowns in Jim Harbaugh’s pro-style offense in Ann Arbor.
Labeled as a complete tight end and coming from an offensive system that transfers favorably to the next level, Butt was expected to be one of the top tight ends off the board at the end of April, but the torn ACL in the Orange Bowl against Florida State all but ended that.
However, when you take a deeper look at Butt’s film, there’s plenty of reason to believe he wasn’t — and shouldn’t — going to be one of the top tight ends off the board in this class.
For starters, Butt has an old-school style to his game. He’s not explosive at all, but he’s a chain-mover who isn’t afraid to go into the dirty areas of the field to make plays.
But despite being labeled as a complete tight end, I came away from Butt wanting much, much more out of him as a blocker. He’s more of a move tight end than an in-line tight end at this point because he’s not very physical as a blocker and really struggles to get to the second level and lay blocks in the run game.
Late in overtime against Ohio State, Butt really struggled to get to the second level on blocks. You can see how hesitant he is here as a run blocker, rarely firing out with a purpose and lacking punch at the point of attack, allowing defenders to slip off blocks with ease.
More often than not I’ve heard how Butt is a great blocker. Put simply: I really don’t see it.
On the flip side, Butt is everything I was expecting and more as a pass catcher in a pro style offense.
Butt has really good footwork at the top of his stem and really shifts his weight well, creating just enough room to allow the quarterback to hit him with the pass across the middle.
Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan is pretty solid in pass coverage, but Butt does a great job of using a subtle move at the top of his stem to get McMillan off balance, giving the Michigan tight end a sliver of space.
Sometimes that’s all he needs.
Against Utah to start the 2015 season, Butt was a favorite target of current Detroit Lions quarterback Jake Rudock, largely because he was able to come up with plays like this.
It’s just a simple post route by Butt, but it’s the tremendous catch in between two Utah defenders in the middle of the field that gets me excited.
His hands are like vice grips; once he gets his paws on it, he’s very rarely letting go.
Lined up as a move tight end here in 2015 against Indiana, Butt pulls off the stop-and-go, allowing himself to get just behind the defender before adjusting well to make the back shoulder catch on the move.
This play right here is largely why I can see him succeeding as a move tight end at the next level without being the explosive athlete that most new-age tight ends are in today’s game.
He’s such a savvy route runner that he’ll need just a small portion of space on his routes to make plays in the passing game.
However, for him to stick in the NFL long term, he has to improve as a blocker. From my view, he’s just not ready for it on a consistent basis in the NFL. Improvement as a blocker will likely come with experience at the next level, but for now it’s a major issue for me.
I’d still take a shot on him in the third round even if his rookie season is a redshirt year. His talents as a pass catcher are undeniable.
Projection: Mid Day Two (third round)
Games Watched: at Utah (’15), vs. Northwestern (’15), at Indiana (’15), at Ohio State (’16)