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Tennessee Titans Draft Outlook: Hakeem Butler

[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

The first draft profile is for Hakeem Butler, wide receiver out of Iowa State.  He looks like a good pick for the Titans in the first round and fills out a desperate need for a receiver with No. 1 qualities. 

Why do the Titans need a receiver?

To any fan, this is fairly obvious because the offense stagnated once Delanie Walker was out for the year. 

Passing Yards per game: 203.4, which placed the team 30th overall, barely beating out the Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals, both with rookie QBs. 

Corey Davis led the team in receiving yards for the season, but his yards per game places him 35th in the league, nestled behind Jared Cook and Marvin Jones.  Those stats are good for a No. 2 receiver, but he’s not a true No. 1, especially considering the 4 touchdowns. 

Marcus Mariota is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and has yet to have a good set of receivers.  Walker returning from injury certainly helps, but QB is the most important position on the field.  The Titans can’t properly evaluate Mariota for the future because he may or may not be held back by his surrounding cast.  It’s also important to note that Tennessee finished 23rd last year in red zone efficiency, so adding a TD threat would certainly add to the offense. 

Hakeem Butler:

First of all, I want to do a physical profile, albeit, at this time Hakeem Butler has not done the 3 cone drill or 20 yard shuttle, therefore his agility times are unknown. 

Player A:

Height: 6’5”

Weight: 229

40 Yard Dash: 4.52

Vertical Jump: 37”

Broad Jump: 120”

Catches (Final Year in College): 74

Yards (Final Year in College): 1195

TD (Final Year in College): 11

Percent of Passing Yards in Offense (Final Year in College): 39.2%

Percent of Passing TDs in Offense (Final Year in College)45.8%

Arm Length: 32.6”

Player B

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 231

40 Yard Dash: 4.53

Vertical Jump: 37”

Broad Jump: No Stats

Catches (Final Year in College)69

Yards (Final Year in College): 1394

TD (Final Year in College): 12

Percent of Passing Yards in Offense (Final Year in College)30.3%

Percent of Passing TDs in Offense (Final Year in College): 30%

Arm Length: 35.1”

Hand Size:  9.6”

Hakeem Butler:

Height: 6’5”

Weight: 227

40 Yard Dash: 4.48

Vertical Jump: 36”

Broad Jump: 128”

Catches (Final Year in College): 60

Yards (Final Year in College): 1318

TD (Final Year in College): 9

Percent of Passing Yards in Offense (Final Year in College): 42%

Percent of Passing TDs in Offense (Final Year in College)45%

Arm Length: 35.2”

Hand Size10.75”

Who is Player A?  Who is Player B?

Brandon Marshall.  Mike Evans.

They all play a physical style of football, with deceptive speed down the field, but overwhelming size to overpower cornerbacks in one on one situations.  The arm size was important because it allows them to high point the ball away from defenders, but also fight off press coverage.  You will hear about Jonah Williams and his less than ideal arm size leading up to the draft, and it’s mainly because longer arms allow you to get leverage on a defender.  Players like Mike Evans and Brandon Marshall have a physical advantage in beating press coverage at the line of scrimmage, because they can reach out and get leverage off the line. 

The hand size is also highlighted because bigger hands have greater surface area naturally, which make it easier to catch the ball.  For example, Odell Beckham Jr. has very large hands at 10”, and he’s fairly famous for his one-handed catches. 

Hakeem Butler didn’t play with an NFL prospect at QB (Neither did Brandon Marshall), which limited the accumulating stats.  You can make an argument about the quality of Johnny Manziel in terms of NFL potential, but he was leaps and bounds better than the other two QBs in the mix. 

Let’s break down some film: 

The first film I picked is from the Iowa game, because they were the top ranked defense faced by Iowa State.  I like to see matchups against good defenses, because it doesn’t tell me much about a prospect to see him beat terrible defenders at the college level.  I’ll dive into a couple of plays from those games, but mostly would like to stay with top tier defenses. 

Butler is lined to the outside on the right side of the formation.  He doesn’t get the ball, but I want you to notice this curl route and how he maintains separation from the cornerback.  They are playing off coverage because the safety is rolling to the other side, with the cornerback playing back, and a linebacker dropping into coverage, but this is an easy pitch and catch if the offense targeted Butler. 

I just wanted to highlight this play, because it shows off why having elite arm length allows you to gain leverage in blocking.  It’s a run play where he’s blocking the cornerback down the field, and notice how he gets his hands on the defender first, and just throws him backwards.  The arm length allows him to gain leverage first, so the defender doesn’t have a shot, especially considering the size disadvantage. 

Once again, a running play where he absolutely takes away the defender with blocking.  Once again, notice the leverage he gets, and how the cornerback is one his heels. 

Now, we move onto a game against Texas, another stout defense.  On this play, this is once again just a quick curl route, and he executes it perfectly.  Watch how the defender is left in the dust, and he makes the quick and easy catch.  

This is a great play from Butler (albeit I think the catch was challenged) because he shows off his speed, agility, and hands.  First of all, he’s running away from Kris Boyd, who is also in the draft and just ran a 4.45 forty yard dash, so Butler shows in game speed.  However, the biggest thing I want you to notice is the hands.  As Butler breaks up field, Boyd uses puts forth his hand to check him and slow down the momentum, but the big receiver just knocks away the hand.  Boyd can’t slow down Butler’s momentum on the play, which is why the receiver just runs right by him.  This is an absolutely terrible throw as Butler is about 2 yards ahead of Boyd, but it’s severely underthrown to the outside.  Butler does a great job in adjusting and making the catch by the sideline (I believe it was challenged because his toe was right on the line) even though a competent QB probably throws this for a TD.  The adjustment is great, but it’s really the speed and hands that impress me with the play. 

A great back shoulder connection here, as Butler adjusts perfectly for the ball and gets both feet in to complete the catch.  This play is a staple in almost (if not) all offenses at this point because it’s virtually impossible to defend if the QB and WR are on the same page.  In this case, Butler sells the route upfield, and then adjusts for the ball at the right time to not give away the route. 

Once again, he’s going against Kris Boyd, and he shows off his ability to catch 50/50 passes.  Boyd is in press coverage, but notice how his hand is extended backwards when he first makes contact.  Butler pushes his hand away once again to retain momentum, but Boyd recovers better on this play.  Once again the hands come into play at the end, because Butler knocks the hands away from the center of his body, to prevent the cornerback from getting leverage between the receivers arms.  The defender recovers and gets the other hand in there, but Butler hangs onto the ball.  This is an exceptional display from two very good prospects, but I wanted to highlight how Butler can make the touch catches as well as the subtle moves to help his cause. 

This is from the game against Washington State, which surprisingly (at least to me) had a good defense last year.  It’s a simple out route, but the quick cut to the outside, and then ability to keep the defender away with his arms while turning upfield is quite impressive.  This is not a wow play, but the ability to make a large gain out of simple plays is an excellent trait of a No. 1 receiver. 

Remember what I said about press coverage, and how his arms allow for better release? Well here you go with a good example.  The defender tries to jam him at the line, and Butler completely pushes him aside and runs freely down the field.  If this ball is thrown on time, it’s an easy touchdown.  It’s hard to play press man coverage against a guy with his size, while playing off coverage allows for easy curl routes. 

You have seen this clip in every Butler highlight package, and it’s just a ridiculous catch.  This isn’t quite Odell Beckham Jr. type catch, but it’s an insane one, nonetheless.  The large hand size allows for him to catch it one handed, and it’s impressive that he held onto the ball through contact.  There isn’t much to write here, this is just insane. 

Once again, a play that you’ve seen a bunch of times for highlight reels.  There isn’t anything to dissect here, this is just excellent strength and will to get a touchdown.  He breaks tackle after tackle like Derrick Henry against the Jaguars. 

A back shoulder pass, in which he uses his body to shield the defender from the pass and stay inbounds.  Notice how Butler keeps the ball high and away from the defender, who is attacking him near the waist, thus securing the ball without chance of it being knocked out.  It’s a small thing, but he does seem to know some of the technical aspects in protecting the ball. 

He showcases excellent footwork here, as he secures the pass and makes sure to get one foot inbounds.  Once again, notice how he uses his body as a shield from the defender and catches the ball away from him.  This isn’t just an athlete trying to catch the ball, but he understands some of the nuances of being an elite receiver. 

Press man coverage, and Butler once again uses his hands to get the defender out of the way and run down the field.  Once again, a competent QB, and this may have been a touchdown. 

Positives:

  • Excellent Strength, overpowers defenders around the field
  • Great speed allows for a consistent vertical threat
  • Fear of vertical threat allows for easy curl routes and quick cuts
  • Adjusts the ball extremely well
  • Uses body to protect the ball when catching a pass
  • Excellent use of hands to beat press coverage
  • Does highpoint the ball at times
  • Non-stop motor with the ball in his hands, hard to bring down. 
  • Good at 50/50 balls

Negatives:

  • Route tree is somewhat limited because QB was extremely limited
  • Concentration drops are a major problem
  • Trouble with agility at times, slows down with some in routes, albeit not always the case
  • Gives up on some broken plays, albeit this could be a coaching issue

Why should the Titans draft him in the first round?

Hakeem Butler is the rare specimen of a receiver that has exceptional physical tools matched with very good production in college.  This isn’t a combine warrior that shows up out of thin air, but rather someone that is affirming his game day film with athleticism to match.  If not for subpar Iowa State QBs, his stats would have been much better in college and even so remains impressive. 

He’s a great fit for the Titans because he has No. 1 receiver potential and is a one on one match up nightmare.  He’s great at evading press coverage, as well as making catches in traffic.  The deep threat speed will give pause to safeties, which will allow players like Corey Davis/Taywan Taylor to thrive. 

A lineup of Butler/Davis/Taylor with Walker would be the best receiving core in Mariota’s tenure with the Titans.  He’s not a perfect prospect, but if he were, he’d be picked in the top 5.  There are concerns about his agility, which is part of the reason why he didn’t run agility drills at the combine. 

His style of physical play reminds me of Brandon Marshall and maybe even Mike Evans to an extent.  Evans was a more proven receiver coming out of college, but also played with a great college QB.  I used Marshall as the main comparison because they both played with subpar talent and put up similar numbers on the field and at the combine.  The offense can’t afford to pass up on a receiver that has the potential to be a No. 1 option with great size/speed/production combination.  Numerous teams have been burned by size/speed guys that were raw (Hello Stephen Hill) but Butler shows good technical ability.  He blocks out defenders with his body, shows good footwork on the sidelines, uses his hands to gain leverage, and high points the ball when needed.  He does need to work on his drops, but a year from now, Butler could be the top receiver from this draft.  

The style of play also compliments the team because Corey Davis can be the intermediate receiver, while Taylor can play the role of the deep threat.  Butler is a great red zone threat as well, which allows for a duo of Walker/Butler to terrorize defenses near the end zone.  Factor in Derrick Henry/Mariota as a running option, and the offense instantly becomes dangerous. 

I’m, of course, writing with the assumption that the Titans aren’t trading for Antonio Brown.  If they do trade for the receiver, then the No. 1 spot is taken care of, and they may have to focus on other need spots.  However, in the absence of a trade, Hakeem Butler is the best option for the Titans in the first round. 

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