Know Your Prospect: Hakeem Butler, the Iowa State receiver with the upside of A.J. Green

It's draft season and it's time to get acquainted with some potential future 49ers

Tommy Call
March 26, 2019 - 10:30 pm

We’re officially less than one month away from the 2019 NFL Draft, and 95.7 The Game’s “Know Your Prospect” series is underway. Over the next month we will highlight some of the top players and best fits and names you should know for the 2019 draft class.

With Jimmy Garoppolo coming back from injury and with pressure building for John Lynch in year three the 49ers desperately need to put together a draft haul that can make an impact day one.

 

Hakeem Butler, Iowa State, Wide Receiver

Height: 6’5

Weight: 227 LBS

40-Yard Dash: 4.48

2019 Statistics: 60 REC, 1,318 YDS, 9 TD

Physical Specimen:

The first thing you’ll notice when watching Butler is his monsterous size — he’s freakish. Basically a 6’6, 230 lbs NBA power forward who plays football. Butler broke the combine when measuring in the 95th percentile or better in height, weight, wingspan, arm length and hand size. Few words can do Butler's size justice. Outside of George Kittle, the 49ers, or any team for that matter, don’t have a player of Butler’s stature on their roster.

Butler’s size transitions well to the field — he’s a bully with the football in open field and uses his elite size to box out corners in the red zone.  Butler's YAC ability might be the his best skill at this stage of his career as he's incredibly tough to bring down. His frame does take away some of his agility, but in open space he's surprisingly elusive and creative as a runner. 

Butler continually wins when battling with defensive backs for contest catches. Butler can grab almost any highpoint opportunity as he plays off contact well even with physical corners.

Deep Threat:

A 6’6 deep threat? What? Yep. Butler is a show stopper with his size, but you can’t miss his downfield speed — it’s for real. Butler is a legit, but underrated deep threat in this class. When looking at him you instantly categorize him as "redzone target," but he's much more.

Butler uses his long strides to eat up ground quickly and before you know it he's behind the secondary. Butler had receptions of 83 yards, 65 yards and 57 yards last season for the Cyclones. Yes, Butler did play in the Big 12 where defenses liked to give up the big play, but Butler backed up his speed with an impressive sub 4.5 40-yard dash at the combine. Butler does need some space to get going off the line, but once he hits that nextgear — good luck.

Lastly, one thing to note is Butler’s downfield route running. Butler is able to consistently create seperation down the field, which stands out because Butler’s release and intermediate route running could use some refinement. Butler finds the football and soft spots in the defense down field very well, which is a skill of its own.

Unique Weapon:

Everytime I watch Butler, I walk away with one word flashing in my head: unique. Every game note I have of Butler the word unique is mentioned. He’s a rare blend of elite size and blazing speed, just something we don’t see these days. With all the innovation in modern day offenses there isn’t much doubt Butler will find a role in the NFL. Creative offensive minds are always seeking out player with unique a unique skillset like Butler’s (ie: Kyle Shanahan).

Butler also has a knack for explosive plays — simply put, he’s a playmaker. The 49ers lacked the “big play threat” on offense and that’s something Butler could bring to this offense. The mix of YAC skills, big play abilty, speed and size stick out as the perfect piece of clay for offensive gurus to mold. 

Negatives:

Butler needs to improve his release off the line. Corners at the next level will try and get physical with him at the line of scrimmage unless he can beat them better with a crafty release. Butler also needs to be more consistent with his hands. Butler is exceptional when high-pointing the football in a battle, but can get very inconsistent with easy catches. Butler may have dips in focus on the football field which is a problem, but these are fixable with the right coaching and development.

Fit:

As productive as Butler was at Iowa State he still has a lot of untapped potential. Like I had mentioned earlier, a creative offensive minded coach like Shanahan could be the coach to unlock Butler’s true talent. Although Shanahan hasn’t valued large targets during his tenure in San Francisco, Butler’s skills check a few of Shanahan’s wants — versatile, speedy, unique and creative. Butler could start as an outside receiver, but has the traits to play the newly popular “big slot” position. If Butler falls the 49ers should be doing whatever they need to do to get him to Santa Clara.

NFL Comparison: A.J. Green

Projection: Top-15 pick

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