Hakeem Butler is a great wide receiver prospect. But NFL teams didn’t like him enough to break Iowa State’s ignominious draft streak.
The Cyclones deep threat had the chance to be his university’s first first-round selection since 1973 when the immortal George Amundson (74 carries, 194 yards as an NFL tailback) went 14th overall to the Houston Oilers. While that didn’t come to fruition, he was the first ISU wide receiver to hear his name called at the draft since Tracy Henderson in 1985.
At 6’5, Butler has the length to be an elite red zone threat — the prototypical “go up and get it” threat in the corner of the end zone. With 4.48-second 40-yard dash speed, he’s also a proven burner who can tear up opposing defenses down the sideline. While questions remain about his hands, he’s a physical presence who feasted in the offense-happy realm of the Big 12.
He’ll have the chance to prove himself while learning from one of the greatest wide receivers off all time, Larry Fitzgerald. The good news for the Cardinals is he’s got a track record of developing quickly. The former two-star recruit — the high school standout whose only other FBS offers were from Houston and New Mexico State — is already one of the 2019 NFL Draft’s greatest success stories. His trajectory suggests he’ll only get better as a pro.
Iowa State has typically been a blind spot for college football excellence. The Big 12 member has occasionally been the source of exciting upsets if you were willing to dig through the rubble of three- and four-win seasons, but was more often a sigil of disappointment. When Campbell began his second year as the Cyclones’ head coach, the program was working through an 11-year streak of failing to crack the AP Top 25.
That changed that season, when the Cyclones’ eight-win 2017 gave way to an eight-win 2018 — the first time Iowa State had recorded 16 wins in a two-year span since 1978. And a major part of the offense that grew strong enough to fight for a top spot in the scoring-heavy Big 12 was the occasionally uncoverable Butler.