Stop using Jake Butt to prop up an argument he doesn't want to be in. Put him in the conversation he wants to be in instead.
Butt suffered a torn ACL in Michigan's 33-32 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30, 2016, and as a result he joined former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith on the list of "reasons why bowl games are meaningless" argument, especially after watching college stars Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey sit out bowl games, then go on to become Top 10 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Butt fell to the fifth round, and was selected No. 145 by the Denver Broncos on Saturday. The injury no doubt affected Butt's status and cost him money, but let's get a few things straight in this conversation.
-Butt wasn't going to be a Top 10 pick like Fournette and McCaffrey, who also play different positions. That's hard to compare the value of those two positions in college or in the NFL.
-Butt wasn't going to sit out anyway, and he told you that more than once. In fact, Butt probably would have tried to play through the knee injury if he could have. That's the kind of throwback player he is.
“You can get injured walking down the sidewalk,” Butt said at Michigan Pro Day on March 24. “I’m never sitting out of a football game.”
-Butt was caught in a loaded tight end class. O.J. Howard, Evan Engram and David Njoku were first-round picks. There were six tight ends taken in the first three rounds, and Butt was the eighth tight end selected.
Butt actually comes as a value pick provided he comes back from his second torn ACL as the same reliable pass catcher he was for the Wolverines. He'll need a year to recover and develop for the Broncos, but this should pay off for Denver down the line as a draft-day steal. That's when Butt will be properly compensated. It's an unfortunate part of the business, and there's no easy solution.
There's no question Butt's drop was related to the injury, but it likely made him a second day pick instead of a third day pick. Plus, it can happen at any time. Washington's Sidney Jones could have been a first-round pick, but he suffered a torn Achilles tendon at the school's Pro Day. This cost Butt money, however, and that also needs to be fixed on the college level.
-Butt is an outspoken advocate of NCAA athletes getting paid for their likeness, which he detailed on social media throughout his college career and at Michigan's Pro Day. So the same people arguing Butt should have sat out of the bowl game are on the same side of the argument of whether NCAA athletes should be paid. Butt is on their side.
“I think I should be the example of why athletes should be paid in college or why I can’t use my name to benefit off my likeness in college,” Butt said.
That's the more productive exercise, otherwise we'll end up with more exchanges between former Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky and ESPN analyst Dan Dakich, where both sides dig on the issue of players getting paid. Right now the conversation is two sides digging trenches.
The "to play or not to play in a bowl game" ties into that. Butt took his stance by playing, and there are a lot of players just like him. Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa didn't hurt their NFL Draft stock by playing in the same Fiesta Bowl that Smith was injured in the previous season. Yet there will be more star players such as Fournette and McCaffrey who opt to sit out of bowl games next season.
For those hell-bent on putting Butt in the middle of both arguments, he's got the right answer for both. Yes, student-athletes deserve more compensation from the NCAA and there's a lot of room for reform in that area. But those same athletes should want to play in bowl games, and that's why they were given a scholarship in the first place. You can question the values of both sides, but Butt's views strike all the right points. You can question either side.
Just don't question the value of a player making their decision on the future.
Butt proved he can do that on his own, and he's willing to live with it. Chances are that ultimately will lead to a successful NFL career.