Background: May 10, 2019; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Hakeem Butler during rookie minicamp at the teams training facility. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas
Last year was tough for Cardinals’ 2019 4th Round WR Hakeem Butler of Iowa St.
Coming in, Butler was highly touted by Cardinals’ rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury. When the Cardinals were able to select Butler at pick #103 in the 4th round, Kingsbury said how happy he was to finally have Butler on his side, having tried very hard to recruit him to Texas Tech and then having watched Butler torch the Texas Tech defense in 2018 to the tune of 4 catches for 148 yards (37.0 ave,) and a 48 yard TD in the Red Raiders’ 40-31 loss at Ames.
At 6-6, 225 Butler ran a 4.45 at the 2019 NFL Combine—-coming off his junior season at Iowa St. where he set a school receiving record with his 60 catch, 1,318 (22.0 ave) and 9 TD season. Scouts raved about his size, speed and super-physical style of running over CBs and FSs for every yard he can get. The main concern about Butler was his tendency to drop some catchable passes from time to time.
Prior to the 2019 NFL Draft, PFF had Butler ranked the #47 best overall player—-and here is where he was mocked by three of the most popular draft gurus:
Mel Kiper (ESPN)—-#84 to Seahawks
Chad Reuter (Scouts’ Inc.)—-#85 to Ravens
Todd McShay (ESPN)—-#88 to Lions
As said, the Cardinals were able to draft Butler at #103, the first pick of the Day 3, Round 4.
Think about this—-the Cardinals were so sure about Hakeem Butler that with every top prospect who wasn’t drafted in Day 1 or 2 on the board—-and over 12 hours to ponder the pick—-Butler was their choice.
Early reports from the Cardinals’ 2019 training camp were that Hakeem Butler was hitting on some of his deep routes, but was fighting the ball on some of his other routes. Unfortunately, he suffered an avulsion fracture in his right hand and was placed on the season ending on August 25th.
Then—-rumors swept in that the Cardinals were relieved to be able to put Butler on the IR because they were worried they were going to have to cut him.
To me this made zero sense.
First of all, Butler started slowly at Iowa St., but by year 3 he was outstanding.
This just in—-not all NFL rookies are outstanding right out of the gate, particularly skill players learning a new offense.
Secondly, it goes back to the reasons why the Cardinals had Hakeem Butler at the top of their draft board at pick #103 in the draft.
At the NFL Combine this year, Tony Pauline, of The Draft Network, perpetuated last year’s rumors by claiming that the Cardinals were still down on Hakeem Butler to the point of cutting him or trading him.
If any of these rumors have even one scintilla of truth—-to the Arizona Cardinals I say grab the bull by the horns and coach up this young, highly talented player. A WR of Butler’s size (6-6, 227) and speed (4.45) and production (career at Iowa St. 110-catches/2,149-yds/19.5-ave./18-tds) are hard to find. For comparison’s sake, here are D.K. Metcalf’s career numbers at Mississippi: 67-catches/1,225-yds/18.3-ave/14-tds.
It would be tough to see the Cardinals squander another 4th round pick, like they did with QB Logan Thomas, C Evan Boehm and G Dorian Johnson under the previous coaching staff—-especially so early into his tenure with the team.
Sure, Butler has to do his part—but, if the coaches at Iowa St. rave about his leadership and ultra competitive approach to the game and Kliff Kingsbury has known this kid and has liked him for a long time, then there are good reasons to believe he has it in him.
Player development requires time, coaching and patience.
So Cardinals, let Butler do it!
By sticking with him—-and coaching him up, big-time.