Jake Butt had a chance to forgo his final year of eligibility and leave for the NFL. He likely would’ve been picked in the first two rounds as one of the top tight ends off the board.

Instead, Butt elected to come back to Ann Arbor to get one more year learning under Jim Harbaugh. But just because he elected to stay in college doesn’t mean the next level took its eye off of him.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein broke down the top 10 tight ends to watch in college football. As expected, Butt was high on that list. Only Alabama’s O.J. Howard was ranked ahead of the Michigan senior.

Zierlein’s breakdown was plenty complimentary:

Butt is a throwback tight end who combines size with outstanding toughness over the middle as a big, reliable target for the Wolverines. Butt might have the strongest hands in college football. He uses them to snatch throws away from his body and then secure the catch no matter how much traffic surrounds him. Butt plays to his size after the catch, breaking tackles and grinding out yardage. While 21 percent of his catches went for 20-plus yards, he’s not the athlete that Howard is and he might be a little less consistent as a run blocker as well.

Saying that Butt has the “best hands in college football” is obviously quite the statement. Usually, that honor goes to a receiver. Zierlein, however, might have a point.

Remember this gem from the season opener last year?

You can bet that catch will be watched repeatedly by next-level scouts. Many expect Butt to supply¬†several more highlight-reel plays this year. He’s already been put on preseason All-American teams by multiple publications.

The Michigan captain will look to live up to those lofty expectations and lead the Wolverines to their first College Football Playoff berth.

If he can do that, he’ll have a chance to become the B1G’s first tight end drafted in the first round since Dustin Keller in 2008.