PRO 2019 Rookie Spotlight: Hakeem Butler, WR Iowa State

Rookie Spotlight: Hakeem Butler, Iowa St.
Height: 6’4’’ (official)
Weight: 220 lbs (official)
Hands: 9 7/8” (official)
Arm: 35 1/4” (official)
40 yard dash: 4.48 (Combine)
NFL Comparison: Plaxico Burress, Equanimeous St. Brown

– rare size/speed combo
– possibly largest WR wingspan in the NFL
– impressive RAC
– successful against press coverage

– inconsistent hands, way too many drops
– old for a rookie
– rudimentary route tree
– late bloomer
– could not overtake Allen Lazard for receiving market share

Scouting Notes: D.K. Metcalf is polarizing, but at least there is a general consensus that he’s worth a high pick in this year’s draft – No such luck for Butler. He ranges from the no.1 WR pick in the draft to outside the top 50 picks, depending on who you ask. If you ask me, he’s well worth a top spot, and there are a multitude of reasons why. The first of these is his otherworldly wingspan. At 83 ⅞” he has the wingspan of someone who is 7’ tall – It’s the largest wingspan ever recorded for a WR at the Combine. Pair that with the fact the he runs a 4.48 40, and you have what I’d consider unlimited NFL potential. Just throw the ball up and let Butler catch it. Nothing’s ever that simple though.
As adept as Butler is going up and getting the ball and then either outrunning or dragging his defenders to paydirt, he’s almost just as good at dropping the ball due to lack of focus. This sin is inexcusable for someone with his catch radius and mitt size.

When he did catch the ball, Butler was a definite playmaker. His 22 YPC was third best in college football, and he accounted for almost 44% of Iowa State’s receiving yards and TDs in 2018. The odd thing is that prior to the 2018 season, Butler had little to show save the 7 TDs he had in 2017. Some would say that even his 2018 stats are dubious because his competition in the Big 12 was so lackluster. Only Texas had CBs that came close to being legit (and they really weren’t that close). He also ran a pretty simplistic route tree, but he ran those routes well, and I don’t need a player with his physical abilities to reinvent the wheel anyway. I still think Butler has singular upside based on his intangibles, and in a stacked WR class, intangibles are key.

Fantasy Outlook: First receiver off the board or tenth, Butler has the potential to be an immediate difference maker from day 1. His catch radius makes him a redzone lightning rod in any offense. He showed ability to beat the press with regularity in college, so I think he’ll be able to get open inside the 20’s. His speed should allow him to develop into a considerable deep-threat too, once he learns an NFL playbook. Don’t get me wrong, Butler is still a boom or bust possibility, but so is virtually every skill player entering the draft. His upside is unique enough to warrant a top-5 WR pick in any dynasty draft.

Quotes from the Combine:

(favorite route?)
I guess just ‘go’ because like a lot of people here, ya’ll gonna sleep on my speed. Once I get up on ya, it’s too late.

(does the radius you have help you downfield)
Most definitely. You put the ball anywhere, I’m gonna go get it.

(what is your thought process against press coverage)
I get happy. You got to get happy because nobody is built like me. I’m built differently. I’m gonna show that I’m going to use that.

(you’ve been working with calvin johnson)
Oh, yeah, Calvin Johnson, he’s been my mentor through this whole thing. Him and Anquan Boldin. They’ve both been very pivotal the last two months. I’ve grown immensely.

(what’s the feedback you’re getting)
It’s just a get to know you process. I’ve got to know a lot of receviers coaches in this short process. I really enjoy the conversation with a lot of them.

(big wingspan, size, a lot of buzz about you)
You think there’s been a lot of buzz about me? I disagree with that. I don’t think there’s been enough buzz. But we’re gonna fix that soon.

(how do you stack up against the other WRs)
I think I’m the best. You can’t be here at the Combine if you don’t think you’re the best player here.

(why don’t you post some shirtless pics like DK Metcalf. I mean, you’re bigger)
No. I mean, the dude is built crazy. I can’t knock him. It is what it is. But at the end of the day, it’s football.

(was that pic photoshopped?)
(laughs) No, I’ve seen the dude walking around. He’s pretty big.

(what have calvin johnson and boldin done for you)
I would say the biggest thing is a mentality. Those dudes, both of them are legends, they have a different mentality than anybody I’ve talked to. They get it every day. Every day they want to be the best. They wake up, eat, sleep, breathe want to be the best. You’ve got to have that to be successful in this league.

(how’d you get hooked up with them)
Anquan, he works out at the Boca Raton XP. That’s where I train, he’s there. I got connected with Calvin through my agent.

(your thoughts on leaving early)
Honestly, I came into the season, I talked with Coach Campbell before the season that I wanted it to be my last season. I feel I came every day with that on my mind. I think I showed that and now I’m here.

(took 18 credits last semester to graduate)
It’s just college. I had a goal in mind that I wasn’t going to let anything stand in my way. When I put my mind to it, I can do it.

(do you feel you need to become more consistent catching the ball. 11 drops last year, est.)
I feel I do a great job catching the ball. I had some drops during the season, of course. Every receiver does. It’s a concentration thing. I know what I have to fix and I fixed it.

(what was it like working out with c johnson and boldin)
It was a surreal experience. Calvin Johnson, I had to keep my cool at first, you want to fan girl (???) a little bit. Someone I watched growing up.
I kept my cool. I don’t think he knows every word he gives to me, I’m hanging on it. It means a great deal to me. I hang on every word.

(what did you learn about calvin johnson)
He reminds me a lot of myself. His demeanor. He’s a quiet laid back dude and he carries that chip on his shoulder. He told me to keep that chip on my shoulder and never lose it.

(where did your game develop last year)
Over the last year, I’d say mentality. I came every day ready to work. Trying to be the best. And I think I showed that. And I still have to show that.

(what do you need to work on)
I would say I just have to keep working as a whole. I can’t be satisfied. Even if I had 100 big catches in a year, I have to have 200. You can never be satisfied. So, I would say my whole game.

(what makes you the best)
I’m 6-6, first of all. Nobody here is 6-6. I’m the biggest. I’m gonna run good. So … I just know me. It’s up to you to believe who you are. I believe I’m the best.

(what do you have to prove here?)
I mean, a lot of people see my 40 [and doubt his speed] and that’s expected. You put me on tape and you just see long legs eating up space. You don’t know how fast they’re moving. But if you put me next to a small guy, you’re gonna see the speed. I play fast. I firmly believe I play fast. I just got to show I run fast on the track, I guess.

(after your mom died of cancer a few years ago, you moved from Baltimore to Houston. Why?)
Baltimore, everyone knows it’s a rough place. But it’s a city that taught me a lot. You gotta be a dawg. You can’t take no days off. You gotta go out there and eat and it’s a dog eat dog world. Every day I take that with me. Everybody here kind of knows my story, what I’ve been through. Moving to Houston was maybe the greatest thing that every happened in my lifetime. I wouldn’t be here talking today if I never moved to Houston. Everyone knows how Texas football is how they treat it. The way they treat it, I love football. We didn’t have spring football at Baltimore.

(what helps you with ability to play the slot)
I would say my basketball background because a lot of coaches, they think 6-6 you’re a little stiff. I got a little wiggle to me. I got a little short guy to me in there somewhere and he comes out every now and then. In the slot, you have that 2-way go, whether it’s a LB or a S, you have a 2-way go. It’s a lot to defend.

(YAC, your mindset)
When the ball’s in my hands, I got to score every time. Like, I think my redshirt freshman year I only had 8 catches and every time I caught it I tried to score because you never know when that ball’s coming back to you. Even when I became the ‘man’ or the go-to receiver, I never knew when it was coming back to me and that’s how I treated it. I tried to score every time.

(what did you learn from allen lazard – undrafted, now with Jax?)
Allen’s a great receiver. He didn’t get drafted, which I think is bogus and B.S. He taught me a lot. He’s one of the first really physical big body receivers that I ever interacted with coming into college. He used his as well as anybody. He showed me body control, work ethic, a lot of different things. The dude had a great career at Iowa State and I think he’ll have a great career in the NFL.

(how did you get through your mom’s passing)
I always say that’s how life goes. I fall back on my family. My mom had 11 brothers and sisters, so I have a lot of aunts and uncles to lean on, and a crazy amount of cousins, and my younger brother, my partner in crime, my best friend, I love him to death. And I have an older sister who constantly looks out for me. With those two, I can get through anything.

(what would your mom say now)
She’d be immensely proud of me. She’d be crying tears of joy. She’d be wearing my jersey and hoping I’d get drafted by Baltimore to get back home. I know she’s looking over me always.

(challenge of playing at 6-6?)
Like I said, with a basketball background, I know a lot of different movements that a lot of people that just play football don’t have in their body. And I have that muscle memory stacked up. And I get to unleash it from the slot, and I get to show I have some wiggle and am not stiff like everybody else.

(better than Metcalf?)
I don’t compare myself to nobody else. He’s a great receiver, but I didn’t watch a lot of college football. He’s a great receiver and I wish the best for him.

(NFL models?)
No. You can’t model yourself after anybody because there can be only one of each person. So I steal a lot from a lot of guys and bring it out when I have to.

(what advice did you get from Calvin johnson)
That the man across from you is trying to take your head off so you have to take his head off first.

(what kind of shape is he in)
He could come play right now. First overall pick in this year’s draft. Maybe second after me.

From the Iowa State Athletic Department:

Second-Team All-American by The Athletic and College Football News … First-Team All-Big 12 by ESPN and a second-team selection by the Coaches and AP … member of the Biletnikoff Award watch list and a semifinalist for the Tyler Rose Award … All-Bowl Team by USA Today … recorded one of the greatest seasons by a wide receiver in Iowa State history, shattering the school record for receiving yards in a season with 1,318 … third in the nation in yards per reception at 22.0, setting a new single-season school record … tallied 60 receptions and nine touchdown catches, tying for second on ISU’s season list … ranked third nationally in 40-yard receptions with 10 … ranked ninth nationally in receiving yards per game (101.4) and 29th nationally in receiving touchdowns (9) … posted six 100-yard receiving games, tying an ISU season mark… ended season and career with a streak of 28-straight games with a reception, the third-longest string in school history … tallied six catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns vs. Oklahoma, tying for the 11th-best single-game receiving effort in school history … had 100-yard receiving efforts vs. West Virginia (107) and Texas Tech (148) with a touchdown grab in each game … his 48-yard touchdown catch vs. the Red Raiders sealed the victory in the fourth quarter … had five receptions for 164 yards and two touchdowns vs. Kansas … corralled a 83-yard touchdown vs. the Jayhawks, tying for the fifth-longest reception in ISU history … had five receptions for 144 yards vs. Kansas State … posted career highs in receptions (9) and receiving yards (192) vs. Washington State in the Alamo Bowl … his 192 yards ties for the fifth-best single-game effort in school history and set a new bowl record by a Cyclone … had a streak of a touchdown catch in four-straight games, tying for the third-longest string in ISU history … ended career with 110 receptions, 2,149 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns catches in just three seasons … his career receiving yards ranks fourth in school history and career touchdown catches ranks third in school history … also had eight 100-yard receiving games in his career, tying for the second-best total in the ISU record book … owns the school record in yards per reception in a career at 19.5.

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