With the primary surge of Free Agency wrapping up, the focus for the Indianapolis Colts turns to the draft, where GM Chris Ballard looks to hit another home run with the 2019 class. Last draft season, Ballard drafted Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard, who both ended up earning First Team All-Pro honors as rookies. On top of that, he also drafted a handful of contributors in Braden Smith, Tyquan Lewis, Kemoko Turay, Nyheim Hines, and Matthew Adams.
This film room series will attempt to highlight certain prospects that may interest the Colts and go through their film to find their strengths and weaknesses. Today’s prospect is Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler. Butler is a player that put together an outstanding Senior year and posted insane numbers at the Combine as well.
We will look through the film and see what Butler could potentially bring to the Colts if they end up drafting him. Clips in this piece will be from five games that I watched, all three were on coach’s film. The full list of games watched were against Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Washington State.
6’5” 227 pounds with 35.25 inch arms
40 Time: 4.48 / 10-yard split: 1.59 / Bench: 18 reps / Vertical Jump: 36 inches / Broad Jump: 128 inches
110 catches for 2,149 yards for 18 touchdowns. Averaged 19.5 yards per catch as well in his three year career.
Late Round 1/Early Round 2
An extremely underrated part of playing receiver in the NFL is the ability to adjust your body in mid-air to make plays. Passes are rarely perfect, especially with how tight the windows are in the NFL, so it is up to receivers to make plays when quarterbacks throw it up for them. Butler does an excellent job of contorting his body to make difficult catches, as well as tracking passes that are tipped or off-target.
First play is a perfect example of passes being off-target and receivers having to adjust. Obviously an NFL quarterback can put more air on this pass but still these types of plays happen in the NFL as well. Butler beats his man with a clean double move but the pass is severely underthrown. He comes back to the pass and makes a great catch over the defender’s back. He finishes the play with an excellent stiff arm for the score.
This next clip shows off his elite level of concentration as well when the ball is in the air. The pass is again underthrown— his QB at Iowa State was not great, obviously— and thrown into triple coverage this time. As Butler goes up for the pass, it is knocked up in the air by the safety. He does a great job of keeping his balance, though. and locating the ball off of the tip. He is able to find the ball and pull it in for a great catch and a big play for his offense.
This next clip may be Butler’s most impressive play of the year. The quarterback rolls out of the pocket and throws a pass near the sideline towards Butler. Knowing he has little room to work with, Butler is able to extend out of bounds to reach the pass. He then shows the ability to contort and control his body by tapping his left foot in the back corner of the end zone for the touchdown. With his body control and concentration, he was a walking highlight reel last season at Iowa State.
The biggest asset to Butler’s game is his overall length. Butler possesses 35.25 inch arms and a massive 83.875 inch wingspan. Combined with the fact that he is also a 4.48 athlete at 227 pounds, it’s easy to see how he can make a ton of plays all over the field. His ability to extend and catch passes away from his frame though is quite rare and that wingspan will separate him from a lot other players in this class.
This clip may not seem super impressive but his wingspan allows quarterbacks to throw passes further away from defenders than they could with most players. This is just a simple five yard out route but notice how far outside the quarterback is able to throw this pass. The cornerback has no chance to make a play on this ball and Butler is able to simply reach out and catch it with ease. This is just an example of how his wingspan and arm length make things easier for an offense.
This next clip is another one of Butler’s best plays of the season. In the bowl game against Washington State, he made this outstanding one handed catch. The Iowa State quarterback gets hit as he throws the ball which causes the ball to sail a bit. Butler, however, is able to go up and make an insane play. This play may be the best example of how his length and athleticism are incredibly rare for a receiver.
This last clip shows off how he could be used with his length and athleticism. The Colts have a ton of weapons that have to be accounted for in the red zone. If the Colts added a player like Butler, they could isolate him on one side and utilize his natural gifts to score in tight areas. He makes plays like these routinely in the red zone and could be a valuable asset in that area of the field for the Colts.
For a pretty massive player, Butler has some ability after the catch. He rarely settles for what is given to him and makes a ton of plays in the open field. He does it in a multitude of ways, from stiff-arming players to quick jukes, to simply outrunning players. He may have a tight end’s body, but he is an exceptional athlete who can (and does!) make plays after the catch.
The first way he creates after the catch is just his pure speed. I already mentioned his insane 4.48 speed (for a 227 pound receiver!), but that ability shows on film as well. Here, he takes a quick post for a big touchdown with his speed. He makes one man miss and then is able to pull away from the rest of the defense with great acceleration and speed.
This last clip shows shows all the YAC ability that he offers. Butler catches the ball over the middle and then absorbs the big hit by the safety. He puts a nasty stiff-arm on him and keeps his feet moving downfield after that. He doesn’t stop there either as he sheds two more tackles en route to a huge touchdown. Butler is nearly impossible to tackle in the open field by smaller defensive backs.
Butler does have some notable weaknesses that could keep him out of the first round. The biggest issue is his drops, as he double-catches a lot of balls and is inconsistent in traffic. His route running is also a concern, he occasionally struggles to separate with crisp routes. Most of his separation comes from his physicality and speed, which doesn’t translate as well as crisp routes do. Finally, the level of competition has to be a concern as well. The defenses in the Big 12 are pretty terrible year in and year out.
The drops is certainly an area he has to improve, going to the NFL. He is too inconsistent with his technique and he double-catches a lot of passes. In traffic he either will make an outstanding catch or a costly drop. He must clean up this area of his game going to the NFL.
Butler is not the most nuanced route runner at all. He can overpower cornerbacks and win off of the line of scrimmage. Where he struggles is separating down the field. He can win on some double moves and head fakes against Big 12 corners, but in the NFL you have to win with nuanced route running. Butler just isn’t there yet and needs to develop in that area of his game.
Hakeem Butler is an extraordinary talent and could be a great fit for the Colts in this draft. He offers a rare blend of length, ball skills, athleticism, and YAC ability that could make him a superstar in the NFL. The highlight plays are outstanding and if he can put it together at the next level, watch out.
There are some inconsistencies in his game, though, that cause some concern. Butler’s drops and his lack of nuance in his routes are flaws and could lead to him busting in the league. The primary reason why I think the Colts would still have interest is that those weaknesses don’t seem to scare Ballard off of receivers. As I pointed out in my Build-A-Ballard series, Ballard seems to like high-upside players who have inconsistencies.
Chris Ballard is a smart GM and trusts his coaching staff and their ability to develop players. Look at Devin Funchess for instance: he’s another big, athletic receiver with some inconsistencies in his game. Ballard trusts his coaching staff to figure out how to mitigate the flaws and turn Funchess into the player that he always had the potential to be.
Ballard tends to bet on upside with receivers and that is exactly what Hakeem Butler is. I think he is a very real possibility for one of the Colts’ early picks, and would add an intriguing new dimension to the team. Imagine the Colts running 11 personnel with T.Y Hilton and Hakeem Butler on the outside with Devin Funchess in the slot and Eric Ebron at tight end. Who do you cover in that scenario? Endless possibilities with that group of players.