If you had to take a guess, who would you say leads the nation right now in yards per catch? Would you guess the 5-foot-10, 175-pound speedster from Oklahoma, Marquise Brown? How about Anthony Johnson from Buffalo, Tyree Jackson‘s favorite target with that big arm? Maybe you’d guess one of the Alabama players. Wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs have been making long plays a weekly thing on SportsCenter.
Small guys, fast guys, but not the guy.
The correct answer is Iowa State’s 6-foot-6, 225-pound Hakeem Butler.
Butler currently lead the nation with 23.97 yards per catch. To think that is the case with a man his size is crazy. I get that sometimes a big man will break one off, but to have nearly 800 yards on just 33 catches this season is impressive — and what do you know, he has eight touchdowns to go with it, which is tied for 14th.
So how does a man his size do it, or better yet, how does he keep doing it?
Against Kansas, Butler put on a 5-catch, 164-yard performance that gave him his third straight 100-yard game and his fourth 100-yard game of the season. His two biggest plays gave us a good look into what makes Butler different than other big receivers we’re used to, but his game tape as a whole form this week was a good examination of the little things that make Butler a name to keep in mind as a potential WR1.
Butler’s game actually didn’t start out well, even though what you’ve read is that he had a monster first quarter. A dropped pass on a route across the middle went right through his hands to start the game, something that you could see got him visibly upset at himself.
But Butler came back in a big way after his mental mistake, something he always seems to do — turning negatives into positives is a trait we often forget.
In my mock draft from last week, I had Hakeem Butler going No. 6 overall to the Cleveland Browns as WR1 in this draft class. With Ole Miss’ D.K. Metcalf down with a neck injury, I really think there is a chance.
I compared some of what Butler does and the sheer dominance he can have over college defensive backs to that of A.J. Green when he was at Georgia. I think Green was and still is more explosive than Butler, but both won in ways where they caught the ball big with their frame and constantly were determined to get yards after the catch. That’s rare with big receivers.
Butler is smoother than he is fast. He can get up to a good top speed due to his long strides, but he’s not going to “wow” you with change of direction. But, his get-off from the snap is still quick enough to eat up cushion, get even and get by defensive backs. It totally overwhelms them.
And speaking of overwhelmed…
Now that was a modern-day Moss’ing.
This was not the first time we’ve seen a play like that from Butler this season, either. He has a mindset that is rare for bigger wide receivers. As players who wins naturally at the catch point, the strategy behind most big targets is to go up, get it, secure it, and then you’ll see what happens after that, but often the next step is to go to the ground.
For Butler, he wants to score on every play.
But it’s not just on the big catches, it’s the smaller ones, too.
You can notice a few things on Butler’s final catch of the Kansas game. First of all, to gain separation you see him use strength. That’s more risky than speed, since it can be susceptible to penalties, but it’s still a strategy. You don’t see him win with that quick change of direction, but when he got the ball, he had balance and determination through contact yet again to get whatever yards he could.
Butler is a rare breed. The lack of explosiveness still has me wondering just how high I would take him, but the mentality paired with the body frame and the natural skillset of his makes him a strong candidate for WR1. I also have to keep in mind that butler is still raw as a player. This is only his second year of major action, and Iowa State is still built around running the ball.
Will he be my WR1? You’ll have to check out my updated Big Board later this week…