Many NFL scouts and fantasy players alike are regarding this 2017 TE class as one of the most intriguing classes in recent history. With names like O.J. Howard, David Njoku, and Evan Engram headlining the class, it’s easy to forget about the Michigan product, Jake Butt, the 2016 Mackey award winner as the nation’s top TE and two-time defending Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award winner as the Big Ten’s best TE.
Entering the 2016 season, scouts regarded Butt as a top two player at the TE position, just behind Alabama’s O.J. Howard. As the season unfolded, Butt’s draft potential garnered first round conversation. However, with the 2017 NFL draft just a couple of weeks away, no one is talking about Butt, and this could make dynasty owners very happy with a late round steal.
This past December, Butt left the Wolverine’s defeat to Florida State in the Orange Bowl with a torn ACL in his right knee. It is injuries like this that caused Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and LSU’s Leonard Fournette to skip their team’s bowl games in anticipation of the NFL draft. Had Butt taken the same approach, he would likely be a late first or early second round pick in the draft. What most people don’t actually realize is that Butt first tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee during winter conditioning in early February 2014. Just eight months later, Butt returned to the field in October and was able to complete the rest of the season without limitations. While having two ACL injuries is certainly not ideal, Butt proved the first time that he can come back from this injury, and come back very quickly. In my personal experience, a player returning to the field at full capacity in eight months from an ACL injury is outstanding.
At 6’5” and 246 lbs., Butt has the physical build to be a productive TE in the NFL. However, due to his injury, Butt was not able to participate in the combine or Michigan’s pro day. However, Butt has the college production to prove the talent is there. In 2015, Butt put up 51 receptions, 654 yards, and 3 TD’s, and in 2016, Butt logged 46 catches for 546 yards and 4 TDs. While these numbers may not be eye-popping, Michigan did not utilize the TE to the degree that today’s NFL offense does.
Butt is currently about 4 months into his rehab process, and will almost certainly not be ready for the start of the NFL regular season. Personally, I would actually love to see Butt sit out his entire rookie season, rehab properly, and learn from a productive vet at TE. For me, ideal landing spots include New England where he can learn from Rob Gronkowski (turns 28 in May), Dallas where he can learn from Jason Witten (turns 35 in May), and Tennessee where he can learn from Delanie Walker (turns 33 in August). Being able to grow with young QB’s like Marcus Mariota and Dak Prescott would also be great for Butt’s long-term dynasty value.
Given Butt’s history of ACL tears, he is an obvious risk in your dynasty start up and rookie drafts. However, he has shown that he has the ability to come back from this injury before, and I believe he can come back once again. If you aren’t willing to spend a late first round pick on one of the top TE’s in this year’s class, you may be able to get an equally talented player much, much later. According to TFA’s rookie ADP, Butt is currently going in the early 4th round. For that price, I’m definitely comfortable taking a risk on a player who, when we look back 2-3 years from now, could end up being the most productive TE in this class if he is able to stay on the field.
Injury details from the Detroit News
College statistics from Sport-reference.com
Combine measurable from NFL.com