NFL Draft News & Analysis

2018 Prospect Preview: James Butler reigns over returning FBS backs in missed tackles forced

TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 29: Running back James Butler #20 of the Nevada Wolf Pack leaps over safety Trent Matthews #16 of the Colorado State Rams as he rushes the football during the fourth quarter of the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium on December 29, 2015 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wolf Pack defeated the Rams 28-23. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Iowa RB James Butler, a transfer from the University of Nevada, dominated the Mountain West Conference a season ago with his ability to make defenders miss both in tight quarters and the open field. He forced 87 missed tackles on 299 total touches, ranking No. 1 among all returning FBS running backs.
  • Of his 87 missed tackles last season, 23 (20 on the ground and three through the air) were recorded in his final game of the season against UNLV, the highest single-game total of any FBS running back in the PFF College era.
  • At 5-foot-9, 210 pounds, Butler possesses a compact, well-built frame for a small back, allowing him to run through arm tackles with relative ease. He stayed up through first contact on 40.6 percent of his rushes last season, which ranked No. 4 among draft-eligible backs.
  • Butler moved the chains on 33.1 percent of his carries, the top percentage among draft-eligible running backs with at least 200 carries.
  • In addition to his production on the ground, Butler carved through defenses coming out of the backfield as a receiver. He dropped just one of 39 catchable targets en route to a ninth-ranked yards per route run total (2.17) in the 2018 draft class.

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