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Hakeem Butler: The Cardinals Forgotten Receiver

Can Butler become a starting wide receiver in year two on Kliff Kingsbury’s offense?

Los Angeles Chargers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals had one of the worst red zone offenses in the NFL this season. Although a lot of the blame went on Kliff Kingsbury and his play calling, it was not entirely his fault.

In an ideal offense for Kingsbury, he would like to have two big wide receiver playing on the outside. Larry Fitzgerald (6’3’’) played primarily inside in the slot, while Christian Kirk (5’11’’) lined up on the outside. The team mixed it up rotating Damiere Byrd (5’9’’), Pharoh Cooper (5’11’’), and Andy Isabella (5’9’’) as the other outside receiver while making KeeSean Johnson (6’1’’) inactive for most of the second half of the season.

The Cardinals lack of size at the receiver position was very clear but let’s not forget that they also have 2019 fourth-round pick Hakeem Butler.

Butler was placed on injury reserve during the preseason, after suffering a season-ending hand injury. Before he became a Cardinal, he was one of the most talked-about wide receiver in the 2019 draft and was arguably the most dangerous receiver in the 2018 college football season.

In his final year at Iowa State, the 23-year-old had 60 catches, 1,318 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns. He was even compared to Calvin Johnson due to his big play ability and his size. Butler stands at 6-foot-5 225 pounds and was a mismatch red zone weapon for the Cyclones.

Unfortunately for him, his draft stock fell quickly due to the concerns with his drops. However, he did perform admirably at the combine. He ran a 4.48 40-yard dash, benched 18 reps, and had a vertical jump of 36 inches.

As we saw in the Cardinals’ regular season finale against the Los Angeles Rams, Kyler Murray was throwing it often to a big and athletic target in 6-foot-6 tight end Dan Arnold. He caught four of his six targets for 76 yards and a touchdown. Keep in mind he was claimed off waivers only a few weeks before that game.

Although it is too early to tell if Hakeem Butler’s talent will translate in the NFL, all he needs is an opportunity to prove himself. Arnold quickly earned the trust of Murray and it should be no different with Butler.

Whether the Cardinals draft a receiver with their No. 8 pick or not, they already have a lot of young talent to work with. Christian Kirk would be most effective in the slot where he was most dangerous in college. Isabella is the little monster of the offense that can take the top off of any defense. KeeSean Johnson displayed exceptional route-running ability during the preseason.

Kingsbury certainly thinks very highly of Butler:

“I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice,” said Kingsbury in a phone call to Butler when the Cardinals made him the 103rd pick this past draft. He had an opportunity to recruit Butler when he was the head coach at Texas Tech.

The 2020 season should be very a exciting time for the Arizona Cardinals.