The New England Patriots have a strong roster but should be looking to improve their pass-catching talent. The 2019 NFL Draft class is stacked to the brim with receiving talent, and the Patriots could choose to invest one of their early picks in wide receiver Hakeem Butler. Butler spent the past four seasons with Iowa State and could be New England’s perimeter receiver of the future.
New England Patriots 2019 NFL Draft Targets: Hakeem Butler
Hakeem Butler is one of the most physically dominating wide receivers in the NFL Draft. At 6’5”, 227 pounds, he’s bigger than just about any cornerback he’d ever have to face. Additionally, his wingspan, arm length and hand size all tested with the 98th percentile in his draft class. He matches this size with some impressive strength, as he recorded 18 reps at the NFL Combine’s bench press. While his 4.48 40-yard dash wasn’t as impressive as the rest of his numbers, that’s still easily good enough for a player of his size.
All of this combines to make Butler one of the better contested catch wide receivers in the 2019 NFL Draft. He’s never truly covered, as he has the physical ability to outleap anyone and the wingspan and hands to catch anything thrown in his general direction.
Having the raw ability is one thing, but Butler has already shown that his athleticism can translate onto the field. The Iowa State product recorded 101 receptions for 2,015 yards and 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He’s a big-play machine, as he’s recorded eight touchdowns of 40 or more yards. If everything breaks right, he has a chance to be one of the best wide receivers in the league.
While Butler has the raw ability to develop into a great wide receiver, he’s still an unpolished product. Butler relies on his physicality and size to win, and because of this, his route running leaves a lot to be desired. He’s slow out of his breaks and better cornerbacks are able to disrupt his timing in press coverage.
While he’s able to quickly build speed and beat defenses over the top, he doesn’t have the best change-of-direction prowess. Butler didn’t participate in the three-cone or any other agility drills at the NFL Combine, so there’s no way of knowing if he has the raw ability to improve this portion of his game. Because of this, he’s something of a one-trick pony at this point in his career, even if he does that one trick incredibly well.
As previously mentioned, Butler has a fantastic catch radius and can get his hands on just about any ball thrown his way. However, he doesn’t always haul in said passes. Butler has a well-documented drop problem dating throughout his entire collegiate tenure. While he has large hands and theoretically could improve on this, the fact that he hasn’t already done so should be a serious red flag.
Last Word on Hakeem Butler
Iowa State wide receiver Hakeem Butler is one of the more intriguing wide receiver prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft. He’s a freak athlete who could develop into a dangerous weapon. He’s too big to cover and has all the tools to win jump balls on a consistent basis. He has solid speed for his size and is capable of destroying defenders after the catch and never goes down after first contact. It’s this combination of size and speed which allowed him to score eight touchdowns of 40 or more yards over the past two seasons.
While he has significant promise, Butler still has a long way to go before reaching his ceiling. The Iowa State product isn’t a polished route runner and NFL cornerbacks will be able to undercut his highly-telegraphed route tree. He’s slow out of his cuts and his stop-and-go speed leaves a lot to be desired. This unpolished route tree combined with his subpar hands means that he’s a raw prospect who needs time to develop.
History shows that the Patriots tend to draft unpolished wide receivers with athletic upside like Aaron Dobson and Taylor Price. Butler is more developed than Dobson or Price were, he still has a ways away from reaching his ceiling. Ultimately, Butler is a high-risk, high-reward prospect, but New England should also think about adding a safer pick like Deebo Samuel or A.J. Brown to pair with Butler.
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