Patriots: 6 surprise players of 2015

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Malcolm Butler Patriots
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3. Malcolm Butler

Entering the 2015 season, Butler was a complete mystery to many outside of New England. Sure, he had made the play of his life in Super Bowl XLIX, but was Butler the real deal?

Butler checks in at No. 3 on this list because of how well he has played—at a Pro Bowl level, quite literally.

Butler was ranked 22nd overall out of all cornerbacks in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. His 15 passes defended was tied for 15th among all defensive players, indicating that Butler excels at getting his hands up in coverage and making the play.

6 frustrations from Week 17 loss

Of course, Butler’s season was defined by his suffocating coverage on Odell Beckham Jr. after OBJ’s 87-yard touchdown (which was more the fault of Devin McCourty than Butler). After that play, Butler limited arguably the most talented wide receiver in the NFL to just 17 yards on three catches, owning the matchup as the night went on.

What makes Butler such a special player is his evident confidence and short memory. When he gets beat, Butler forgets about it immediately and moves on to the next play. That’s the mark of a true No. 1 corner.

Next: 2. Dion Lewis