19th overall pick: Hakeem Butler WR, Iowa State
Sometimes, I don’t understand why guys fall in the NFL Draft. Look at some of the wide receivers that have fallen into the second half of the first round since 2010:
2014: Brandin Cooks
2016: Will Fuller
So since the start of this decade, there is an average of one receiver per year who falls to that 17-32 range that the Tennessee Titans are drafting in and becomes anywhere from a very good niche player to an All-Pro talent.
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But these guys didn’t come out of nowhere, while Dez Bryant had his own issues off the field a lot of these guys were just largely overlooked. If not that, then teams were focused more on what they couldn’t do than what they could do.
To me, Hakeem Butler is the guy that people just aren’t excited enough about this year. Look at his athletic profile. (Huge thanks to Kent Lee Platte who does a great job breaking down and analyzing athletic testing, while also giving you context on what it means for a player at that size relative to the history of other players at the position.)
Butler’s RAS score ended up being a 9.92, which to give you context means that his weight adjusted athleticism was the 17th best over the last 31 years. That is notable because as much as people want to talk about how athleticism is overrated in receivers, it simply isn’t.
When you can marry production and athleticism, that is when you usually find the great players at most positions and recevier is no different. To back that up, this is a list of all of the receivers drafted in the 1st round with a higher RAS than Butler:
RAS 10: Calvin Johnson
RAS 10: Matt Jones (strange situation as he played QB in college and didn’t have the production, but the Jaguars drafted him in the 1st so…)
RAS 10: Javon Walker
RAS 9.98: Andre Johnson
RAS 9.95: Breshad Perriman
RAS 9.94: Braylon Edwards
RAS 9.93: Julio Jones
If we scratch out Matt Jones who made no sense as a QB to WR project being drafted in the 1st, then that means just six receivers were drafted in the 1st round who were more athletic than Butler. Of those six, five made at least one Pro Bowl and half of the list are likely Hall of Famers (Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, and Julio Jones).
I love those odds if I am the Tennessee Titans, because on top of being an athletic freak he is just great at football. At 6’6 and a legitimate threat at every level, he would give Marcus Mariota a trio of pass catchers that could win vs any coverage and that isn’t even including Delanie Walker, Derrick Henry or Dion Lewis.
Defensive player I would have considered here: Clelin Ferrell EDGE, Clemson