The movement of Amari Cooper, Golden Tate and Demaryius Thomas sparked a wide receiver conversation. Not digging too deep into the trade deals or the immediate impact of the select players, some teams have most likely already peeked into next year’s crop and are either not impressed or very interested regarding a few decisions made before the trade deadline.
Casually looking at the 2019 wide receiver draft class, many will not be overly blown away by the talent pool. It’s not a bad class but there aren’t a handful of wideouts that are really competing to be a top 20 selection. There is plenty of room left at the top for a handful of candidates to fight over. As mentioned over the past couple weeks, the Ole Miss duo of AJ Brown and DK Metcalf (heck, just pick an Ole Miss receiver; DaMarkus Lodge is good too!) make up many of the consensus top two receiver spots.
After that? The rest is left undetermined. And even the top two spots are up for grabs. Metcalf is just a redshirt sophomore and is nursing a neck injury while Brown is a true junior and may not fit the athletic prototype some teams are eyeing in Round 1. The names thrown around on the fence of first round selections are JJ Arcega-Whiteside (Stanford), Hollywood Brown (Oklahoma), Kelvin Harmon (NC State), N’Keal Harry (Arizona State), Anthony Johnson (Buffalo) and Deebo Samuel (South Carolina) among others.
A name that climbs the ladder each week happens to stand in at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds. Iowa State wideout Hakeem Butler has dominated in six Big 12 games this season with 24 receptions, 668 yards and seven touchdowns.
Butler came into the season as a well-known name across the Big 12 landscape finishing 2017 with 697 yards and seven touchdowns. But now with big performances versus currently ranked No.6 Oklahoma and No. 9 West Virginia, among the rest of the schedule, Butler is gaining enough next-level intrigue to forgo his final collegiate season and enter the 2019 NFL Draft.
Versus current ranked opponents this season (6 Oklahoma & 7 West Virginia), Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler:— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) November 8, 2018
140.5 yards/game #NFLDraft #CyclONEnation pic.twitter.com/68Ri7f2eUR
Butler emphasizes his game with an aggressive demeanor. His prowess at the catch point is unmatched as the “my ball” mentality is evident when the ball is in the air. Butler showcases high-end catching technique showing the ability to redirect his hands to provide for an easy catch. His eventful highlight reel catches showcase this skill being able to leap around and on top of defenders and account for smooth and easy catches.
Butler is not going to blow many spectators away with twitchy athleticism or quick cuts out of his routes. He overcomes his lack of elite-level quickness with a subtle burst off the snap and then partnering that with long strides to eat up turf though not possessing attractive top-end speed.
Hakeem Butler: He’s not going to blow you away with athleticism or speed, but he finds ways to throw a trump card down with long strides and winning physical battles. pic.twitter.com/SjnyCNveWD— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) November 9, 2018
The hot-motor junior has found his calling card by contributing to the Cyclone offense by racking up yards after the catch. His nation-leading 23.97 yards per catch average can attest for that. Butler accentuates his skill set by attacking defenses with a strong lower body and a physical determined running style that makes it near impossible for one tackler to bring him down. Even though he doesn’t display oily hips or impressive change of direction, his physical nature makes up for it when in the open field.
Being physical and out-manning an opponent is one thing. But using that physicality and maintaining balance through contact afterward, is an impressive trait to boast. Butler uses his long frame to snag the ball with an overwhelming large catch radius. He then follows through with contact balance and threatening the second level with YAC potential.
Some evaluators will poke holes in his game by not showcasing world-class speed or elite-level quickness to dodge defenders and suffering from the occasional drop. But his physical skills and subtleties off the line put him in conversation as one of the most potent receivers in a fluid 2019 NFL Draft wide receiver class.
*Photo Credits: Iowa State Athletics