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Scouting Potential Saints: WR Hakeem Butler

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The Saints had a private meeting with Butler, and many might think him a bad fit because New Orleans already has Michael Thomas. What can he provide?

Iowa State v Kansas Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

You would think with the New Orleans Saints lacking a 1st round selection they wouldn’t put much focus on players who carry (for most) high draft grades, especially when those players play the same position as one of their current stars. Hakeem Butler out of Iowa State is projected to fill both of those areas, and yet the Saints still made it a priority to meet with him privately and get a full scouting report on the big 6’6, 225 pound receiver.

He’s not just big, but has the speed to run right by defenders as well. Butler posted an elite RAS (Relative Athletic Score) of 9.77 at the NFL combine with a 4.48 40 yard dash, 18 bench reps and a 36 inch vertical. Players of his size and length rarely are able to show off this level of athleticism, and it’s caused people to draw comparisons to greats like Calvin Johnson and Randy Moss.

Every year these conclusions are jumped to for various players, but Butler has the film to back up what many are saying about him.

Best Traits:

Elite Size & Length, Athletic Ability, Catch Radius, Route Running, Long Speed, Play Strength, Competitive Toughness

Worst Traits:

Change of Direction, Consistency in Hands

Projection:

Year 1: Immediate contributor you can win with. Outstanding H/W/S prospect who has a diverse route tree for early success.
Year 3: Starter you can win because of who displays Pro-Bowl and All-Pro Traits.

Scheme Fit:

Size and athleticism who can fit in shorter west coast systems or vertical systems. Scheme diverse.

Summary:

Prototype Split-End/Possession receiver that played in 37 games, starting the final two years of his collegiate career. Has Michael Jordan dunking in Space Jam reach and that’s only part of the reason why he is such a good triangle prospect (Height/Weight/Speed). Solid initial foot quickness/footwork at the line of scrimmage to get into his release while also being very physical to break away from press coverage.

Shows very good balance to fight through coverage and work towards the ball. Surprisingly good stop-start ability for a player of his length and size, showing the ability to drop his hips to break back on in/dig/comeback/curl routes. Works the sidelines well on vertical routes and has great situational awareness to keep feet in bounds while locating the ball with his eyes and bringing the catch into his body. Will use length to his advantage to separate and uses a head fake to sell double moves/fakes in his routes. Long strider that builds up to elite speed for his size. Possesses another gear after he evens up with defenders to separate with on longer vertical routes. When he’s on his A-Game can be impossibly difficult to defend for most cornerbacks one on one.

He utilizes his large frame well to box out defenders and attack the ball in the air. Very good hand strength that’s able to fight through contact and find the football. Wins more contested catch opportunities than he loses and his route tree is open from top to bottom. Very experienced in both vertical concepts and the shorter passing game. Lined up on both sides of the field out wide while also sliding down into the slot. His power can make him difficult to bring down in yards after catch opportunities. Had several highlight reel type catches, including several one-handers.

Butler is a willing blocker that has the functional play strength and length to lock and capture the boundary. Is not the most agile receiver, and this due in part to his large 6’5 frame. Change of direction ability is just adequate and can limit things like option routes. Inconsistencies (mental lapses?) in his hands that led to several drops during the season. Refinement at the NFL level will help maximize his talents as shorter routes are still not the smoothest in his breaks. Should be an immediate contributor in year one and is a player that shows All-Pro potential for a split-end.

The mindset that Butler keeps is a continual striving to be the best and it’s very similar to what Sean Payton and Saints fans have all come to love about Thomas. It’s not unheard of for two larger split-end styled receivers to work on the field at the same time together in lieu of the more traditional split/flanker/slot mold most offenses use.

Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin were paired together in Arizona. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jefferey were great together even with Jay Cutler slinging the football in Chicago. You have to think Payton could find a way to make it work should a player of Butler’s talent fall within striking distance.

As we’ve seen before, if the Saints are interested in a player they’ll find a way to go after them.