This is the third piece I’ve done on a wide receiver for Music City Miracles, after Marquise Brown and D.K. Metcalf. Iowa State receiver Hakeem Butler has gotten quite the amount of hype, and in his Junior season with he Cyclones he amassed 60 catches for 1,318 yards (22.0 yards per catch, 3rd in all of college football for 2018) and nine touchdowns.
In comparing him, to Brown and Metcalf, Butler is closer to Metcalf. He’s 6’6 and 226 lb, but looks smoother as a receiver than Metcalf. A popular NFL comparison is A.J. Green, a top receiver. Butler is actually slightly taller than Green, and from the looks of it, he has similar vertical prowess.
In the Titans’ quest for another receiver to match with Corey Davis and Adam Humphries, getting Hakeem Butler would give them another vertical threat that would set Tennessee up for a solid 1-2-3 combo.
Butler’s technical approach as a route runner was terrific in college. While he doesn’t possess the flashiest routes, he can still create separation, which combined with his frame makes him a favorable target on deep shots.
Here, the size matchup doesn’t even come close. Butler feels like a wide receiver version of Rob Gronkowski in a way because of how much of a gargantuan he is compared to the corner he’s facing. And despite his size he moves quite well here, using his left foot to push off and get one step on the corner.
Butler’s quarterback targets him via a back shoulder toss, and he makes sure to drag his foot in bounds (Remember, it’s one foot in college, two in the NFL), so he has the spatial awareness down.
Against the same corner, Butler makes an impressive contested catch. An issue I have with Metcalf is that he can get trapped easily at times vs. corners in comparison to Butler, who uses a more technical approach here. The corner tries to get his hand onto the receiver, but Butler swipes it down, allowing him to get his arms free and win a slight advantage. That’s more than enough to make this play work.
Because of Butler’s hand swat, he has the leverage against the corner, allowing him to make this catch look easy.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Butler’s game is how difficult he is to bring down, again drawing comparisons to Rob Gronkowski. Gronk’s ability to separate and break tackles after the catch didn't come exclusively from his frame, but rather how violent he was with his hands and body. The same can be said for Butler.
Both of these touchdowns occurred in the same game, and as you may have guessed they’re both some of the best touchdowns I’ve seen from a college receiver in 2018. He’s able to slip by the tackle at the catch point in the first play, then stops, spins and pushes the defensive back off him, breaking into the open field. His ball security and frame does the rest for a sensational touchdown after the catch.
In the second play, Butler’s tight friction allows him to win on the back shoulder pass, as he uses his aggression at the catch point to win the 50/50 shot. His impressive 4.48 40’ time at the Combine is evident here as well with his breakaway speed.
If there’s one area Butler has to improve on, it’s his consistency catching the ball. He's been described as a body catcher, and that’s affected his ability to make a few catches as he’s left several on the field.
This is a great throw from quarterback Brock Purdy under pressure. Unfortunately, Butler lets it slip through his hands. Butler’s drop concerns don’t come at an alarming rate, but it’s noticeable enough that it will decide if he can be great rather than just good.
Still, all things considered I enjoy Hakeem Butler as a prospect. I think he’s a more fleshed out version of D.K. Metcalf, and though I think Marquise Brown is a superior receiver, Butler is certainly a far healthier option. Butler’s one of many selections at varying positions the Titans can consider at pick #19.
Butler isn’t without his faults, but he and Corey Davis would make a great starting receiver duo, and combined with Adam Humphries and a few other role receivers, would give the Titans a boost in receiving depth they didn’t have in 2018.