A lot of Pittsburgh Steelers fans want their team to quickly replace Antonio Brown in the draft. However, in the 2019 NFL draft, not many first round wide receivers stand out.
D.K. Metcalf gets all of the hype and after his combine, he all but assured that he will be gone by pick 20. Marquise Brown is the other consensus first round pick. “Holllywood” did not have the same combine.
Brown is dealing with Lisfranc surgery and showed up the combine underweight. The Steelers met with Brown at the combine, but an undersized wide receiver with a foot injury does not sound worthy of pick 20. Did I mention he is Antonio Browns cousin, too?
The feeling is that a group of wide receivers are going to fall in the second round, and the Steelers may be able to get their guy at that point. Kelvin Harmon, A.J. Brown, N’Keal Harry, Deebo Samuel and more will be coming off of the board near the Steelers second round pick.
While some of those names could be great options in round two, if the Steelers did want to reach for a star early, they should look towards Hakeem Butler.
Butler checked in at over 6’5″ at the NFL combine, one of the tallest wide receiver that would enter the NFL. We know how much Ben Roethlisberger has always asked for a big wide receiver option, as the team has never quite replaced Plaxico Burress, although Martavis Bryant had the potential to be there.
Speaking of Plaxico Burress, a film analyst for NFL.com had singled out his version of Burress in the draft. That is right, it is Hakeem Butler.
.@CycloneFB @410keem #HakeemButler is Plaxico 2.0. Nothing he can’t do and nothing he can’t learn. I will pound the “bully pulpit” for this talent all Spring. Bringing “low post basketball” to the gridiron. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/QZ4qFBDPLo
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) February 18, 2019
What makes Butler such an intriguing prospect is that while he is similar in size and playing style to Burress, he went to the combine and put up more explosive numbers than Plaxico Burress. Butler ran a 4.48 40 compared to a 4.59 from Burress. He had a 128″ broad jump and 36″ vertical, both higher than 115″ and 33″ jumps from Burress.
This is a player who profiles to have more upside than Plaxico Burress.
It shows on the field with his size, but what makes him so impressive is the way he moves for his size. It showed in his testing and in the tape as well. Watch the release in the play below.
He is big but he is able to sink his body, and square up the cornerback. From there he gets a step to the outside and creates separation down the field.
In his ability to sink his hips and get quick separation he has a more diverse route tree than your typical big man. He can run more complex routes, and excels not only deep down the field, but in comeback routes, curls, and even a whip route.
Watch how fluid Butler is able to move in the video below. Players his size do not move that fluidly.
6'6", 225-pound Hakeem Butler #Cyclones running the whip route well enough that Iowa's CB must attempt a tackle.
Don't care if the play was unsuccessful for Butler. The route is a compelling example of this prospect's ability. pic.twitter.com/0r4JTddVW1
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) January 17, 2019
Butler turns this fluidity into a short area threat, but also deep down the football field. He is not getting much attention in part because he played for Iowa State, who ran the ball often and had a quarterback who forced Butler to contort his body in ways like the play below.
Hakeem Butler has such good body control. Makes the back shoulder look effortless, keeps his balance, finishes the 360 spin, and drags defender for extra yards. pic.twitter.com/xBVB5pH4eq
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) November 30, 2018
The ability to stop and turn his entire body back to the ball is impressive. The play below is the encapsulation of every thing he brings. He fight backs to the ball, turns his body and finishes it with an impressive haul after the catch. Size, body control, and speed.
The back-shoulder fade is Hakeem Butler's best route. He has a great feel for it and his big body allows him to shield defenders with ease. pic.twitter.com/2NQoRRE5GU
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) January 18, 2019
Butler was able to break yards after the catch often last season. Butler averaged 6.9 yards after contact per catch last season. While Metcalf averaged over 9 yards after contact, it was also a small sample size, due to his injury. For his career Metcalf averaged seven yards after contact.
Butler is not a complete wide receiver. He has a 16.7% drop rate, which is one of the worst rates of the class.
What is surprising though is that he makes some tough catches, as shown above. He catches the ball away from his body, and for the most part these are not technique based drops. The issue is that he drops too many easy passes. While Steelers fans will point to Limas Sweed, Sweed never made contested catches like Butler. For Butler, this should be something that can be fixed.
If this gets Butler to fall to the Steelers, it could be worth an investment.
Fit with Steelers
Hakeem Butler would not be similar to Antonio Brown in size, but he would be able to fill in for some of the big plays that he brought. His big play ability can once again open up space underneath for JuJu Smith-Schuster and Ben Roethlisberger would be very happy with a red zone threat who can line up all over the field and go get the football.
Butler played in the slot more than you would think for a big player. With his versatility in role he can get on the field with Donte Moncrief, Smith-Schuster, James Washington and the smaller slot receivers. His fit, versatility and upside make him an intriguing option for the Steelers.
The Iowa State Pro Day is March 26. Steelers fans should have their eyes on the event to see who from the Steelers is in attendance, and how many eyes are on Hakeem Butler.
NFL Releases Further Details of Altered Draft Process
After cancelling the in-person NFL Scouting Combine last week due to COVID-19 concerns, the league released further details of the significantly altered draft process in a memo to clubs Friday.
Teams are prohibited from timing, testing, interviewing or examining draft prospects at any location other than all-star games or the respective player’s pro day.
Clubs are also banned from hosting draft prospects for facilities visits, dinners, film sessions and private workouts. Violations of these rules would be subject to punishment in line with the NFL’s anti-tampering policy.
Further muddying the process, clubs will only be allowed to have a maximum of three individuals attend pro days. However, all times and measurements are said to be made available league-wide.
Lastly, the league also released further details and restrictions on the pre-draft interview process. While in-person interviews and visits will be prohibited, they can be conducted virtually or via telephone.
Clubs can schedule up to five video conferences or phone calls with a prospect, with each conversation limited to one hour. Virtual psychological tests will not count against the five interview limit.
Teams can begin conducting interviews with draft eligible underclassmen on Monday, Jan. 25.
Interviews with seniors can begin on Monday, Feb. 1.
NFL Cancels In-Person 2021 Scouting Combine in Indianapolis; Pro Days On
After weeks of rumors and speculation, the NFL has made it official, announcing in a memo to clubs Monday they are significant alterations to the 2021 Scouting Combine.
Annually held in Indianapolis, the league is scrapping in-person workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium, instead opting for pro days on college campuses. The NFL will coordinate with schools to ensure “consistency in testing and drills,” providing video of said workouts to all clubs.
Interviews and psychological testing of prospects normally executed at the physical combine will instead be conducted in an entirely virtual format.
As for medical evaluations, limited in-person exams will most likely be conducted over a three-day span in early April. While some evaluations will also be held virtually, an undetermined number of prospects will be invited to designated satellite locations for in-person exams. Each franchise will be permitted to dispatch a physician and athletic trainer to conduct the in-person portion.
Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft in April, the league will work directly with clubs, schools and affiliated broadcast partners to ensure media availability with Combine invitees. The NFL intends to keep with tradition and make head coaches and general managers available to the media as well.
The altered Combine format was devised and overseen by a special committee of league and club officials, including NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills, Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill and Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert.
Further details regarding protocols and finalized dates will be released as the committee continues to meet and plan over the coming weeks.
Here’s the full memo on changes to the 2021 scouting combine: pic.twitter.com/e1KNcuaUTn
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 18, 2021
Report: NFL to Make Significant Changes to Combine Due to COVID-19
Major changes to the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine are expected amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a report by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, plans of hosting the combine as traditionally constructed are “dead” following a conference call between league officials Friday. It is becoming increasingly likely that the medical and performance-based portions of the event will be held separately.
A number of alternatives are being considered, including regionalized medical checks, standardized pro days and interviews conducting via Zoom.
With regards to the regional medicals, the NFL could set up shop and administer the examinations at hospital in states where a large number of players are conducting their workouts and preparation, such as Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.
The intent would be to limit travel for players, where as the team physicians conducting the examinations would likely have already received their vaccinations.
Other aspects of the medical process can be accomplished virtually, such as reviewing injury histories.
As for the pro days, NFL or individual team personnel would put players through drills at their respective schools, but standardize each workout to ensure prospects are going through the same exercises as they would in Indianapolis. Measurements and result would then be distributed league-wide as they normally would be.
League officials will continue to meet over the coming days, according to Breer, but a finalized plan is expected later this coming week.
The NFL has also weighed the option of postponing the combine until April, but still holding it in Indianapolis. While it is on the table, the move would likely requirement the 2021 NFL Draft to be postponed as well.