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.
Mic Drop: Adam Zielonka of Washington Times on McFarland, Brooks
Instead of trading for a proven running back like Leonard Fournette, the Steelers simply drafted a rookie with their 4th round pick. That rookie is Anthony McFarland out of the University of Maryland. To fully explain what McFarland brings to the table, Mike Asti was joined by Adam Zielonka, who is a sports reporter for the Washington Times. Zielonka also touched Antoine Brooks, the other Maryland product drafted by the Steelers.
Colbert Explains Why He Wanted Three Rounds Added to 2020 Draft
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is offering an explanation as to why he wanted three rounds added to the 2020 NFL Draft.
Speaking with NBC Sport’s Mike Florio on the PFT PM podcast Tuesday, Colbert took the opportunity to clarify his suggestion.
“The reasoning was, part of it was selfish,” Colbert said. “You wanted to have a safety net because we’re dealing with less information, and the more picks you have, maybe you’ll have a little bit of a safety net again.”
With the league’s self-implemented travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs were unable to conduct their normal scouting activities prior to the Draft. This included Pro Days, private workouts and in-person interviews.
Less opportunities to watch and speak with prospects results in a larger margin for error.
Colbert went on to say that it also would have benefited some of the fringe prospects in the Draft that never had the chance to showcase themselves at a Pro Day or other setting.
“The other thing was it would give the marginal player that didn’t get his opportunity to go to a Pro Day and to perform. Maybe there will be more players drafted and then those players will then again have the chance they might not get.”
Now without rookie minicamps, the challenges are mounting for clubs and NFL hopefuls.
“Every year a team might stumble upon a tryout player,” Colbert said. “Maybe if we ever get on the field, we can think of a way to help those because there’s a big group of players that aren’t getting opportunities because of the situation.”
Colbert reminded Florio that the Steelers discovered Devlin “Duck” Hodges as a tryout in camp last year.
It is unclear when teams will be allowed to return to the practice field for their offseason programs, with clubs currently conducting theirs entirely from home.
Mic Drop: NFL Draft Recap Show
It was eat, sleep, draft coverage, repeat for Mike Asti and the Steelers Now crew this past week. And now that the draft is over, Mike Asti evaluates each pick and gives his thoughts on some moves he says the Steelers should have made.