Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
(percentile rank among all WRs at the Combine since 1999, courtesy of mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.48 seconds (64th)
Vertical: 36” (57th)
Broad: 128” (88th)
20-yard shuttle: n/a
Butler exceeded all expectations at Iowa State. He was tabbed a 2-star recruit by Rivals and received offers from only 2 D1 schools. After redshirting in 2015, he caught just 9 balls in 11 appearances in his debut season.
He earned a bigger role in 2017, though. Butler ranked 2nd on the team in catches and TDs behind senior Allen Lazard, who went undrafted last spring and spent the year on the Jaguars’ practice squad. Butler averaged a big 17.0 yards per catch and accounted for 4 of Iowa State’s 6 offensive plays of 50+ yards.
Lazard’s departure boosted Butler to the top of the totem pole this past season. He responded with a monster campaign, ranking 8th in the country in receiving yards. His 22.0 yards per catch led all players with 40+ grabs. And he finished 3rd in the nation with 10 receptions of 40+ yards. Butler closed the season with 99+ yards in 6 of his last 8 games.
It’s all more impressive when you consider that the Cyclones finished a middling 51st in passing offense. Butler accounted for 25.3% of the team’s receptions, 42.1% of the receiving yards and 45.0% of the receiving TDs. Those marks rank 21st, 2nd and 7th among the 48 WRs at this year’s Combine.
Butler averaged a big 12.2 yards per target vs. 7.2 for all other Iowa State pass-catchers — a premium of 69.4%. And, per Pro Football Focus, he ranked 8th among all draft-eligible WRs in yards per route run (3.27).
Courtesy of @WhatsOnDraftNFL
Games watched - Iowa, West Virginia, Kansas, Texas, Washington State
Butler wins with pure size. At 6’6 and 225 pounds, he was simply bigger and stronger than most of his college opponents.
He tracks the ball well downfield and has the body control to adjust to passes outside his frame. Pro Football Focus credited him with 19 receptions for a whopping 721 yards and 4 TDs on targets 20+ yards downfield last year.
What you won’t see Butler do very often is create separation. He’s not going to run by many DBs, and there’s very little suddenness in his routes. He does enough to make this catch against a college CB but runs a slow, rounded route.
After the catch, Butler doesn’t have the change-of-direction ability to make defenders miss. He’s just OK in the tackle-breaking department. If you give him a runway, though, he has the long-striding speed to run away from opponents.
Butler’s height and long arms (98th percentile wingspan) give him a large catch radius. But his hands are inconsistent. He dropped 5 balls in the 5 games I watched — and PFF charged him with a 16.7% drop rate in 2018.
Butler deserves credit for a big 2018 season, both in terms of raw production and market share. It’s worth noting, though, that he was a 22-year-old redshirt junior. By comparison, he’s about a year-and-a-half older than N’Keal Harry and D.K. Metcalf.
Butler’s size will certainly be an asset at the next level — but it won’t be as big an advantage as it was in college. And if he had trouble separating against college CBs, it’s tough to expect him to excel in that facet as a pro.
That makes Butler a risky pick for both NFL and dynasty teams. But his size and downfield ability give him the potential to be a high-TD and high-yards-per-catch receiver in the NFL.