One article I’ve regretted not writing was that the Vikings should’ve traded Stefon Diggs to Houston for DeAndre Hopkins, who was traded a bit before Diggs was for David Johnson. The reason I didn’t was obvious, as that idea makes sense for less time than it takes to think the thought, in terms of timing and what the Texans clearly wanted in return (a running back).
I bring this up because the Vikings may end up benefitting from the Hopkins trade after all, as Hopkins’ new team the Arizona Cardinals, just released receiver Hakeem Butler as they made their way down to 53-players by today’s deadline.
The Iowa State product was drafted in the 4th-round of the 2019 Draft, and missed the entire 2019 season thanks to a broken hand.
So why am I writing about the Vikings adding an unproven receiver? Because he is everything the Vikings need, at least on paper.
is 6’5” and runs a very Adam Thielen-ian 4.48 40. Actually, a better way to describe this guy’s stats is to show his MockDraftable.com spider graph.
The way these work is that each player’s drill-by-drill stats are compared to other players in the same draft and of the same position group. So, a 4.24 40-yard dash would put a receiver in the 99th percentile, for example.
Just take a look at his graph, and which measurements are essentially maxed out:
<iframe src=”https://www.mockdraftable.com/embed/hakeem-butler?position=WR&page=GRAPH” width=”480″ height=”651″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”></iframe>
That means that Butler is a big dude, essentially. I guess I could’ve just said that. That’s what makes his 40 time even more impressive, as you don’t see many 6’5.5” guys running sub-4.5s (which is why many are tight ends).
Think I’m being hyperbolic?
Many in the draft scouting community described Butler as a potential game changing receiver in the NFL.
Ryan Wilson, of CBS Sports, said the following of Butler before the draft:
Hakeem Butler has the size, speed and physical skills to be a game-changer in the NFL. He’s 6-5, blazed a 4.48 40-yard time at the combine, and more importantly, has the game film to support the idea that he’s a first-round pick.
So why was he a fourth rounder?
He had concentration drops in college and that’s about it. Literally. At least in Wilson’s Pros/Cons scouting report of Butler, where he listed just the one Con (two, if you count his comparison to Plaxico Burress, who also had issues with dropping things, like guns with hair triggers and no safety).
He adds more Pros, though. Lauding Butler’s body control, route running, and start stop ability (“the ability to put foot in ground and change direction like someone six inches shorter.”).
He also can seemingly line up anywhere on the field.
“He can run inside, seam-busting routes from the slot and is a huge middle-of-the-field target who can make contested catches and is a YAC machine.”
That’s not all, though.
“He’s a willing blocker who engages smaller defensive backs and doesn’t let go.”
Let’s take a look at some of his highlights:
I doubt there’s many of you who just watched that and didn’t immediately start to panic that this guy is available and I’m the only person in the Vikings media landscape talking about him.
Imagine that guy lining up opposite Thielen, allowing rookie Justin Jefferson to line up primarily in the slot as he acclimates more and more to the league and press coverage.
Even if Jefferson develops quickly, and as much as I like Bisi Johnson, the Vikings are in desperate need of an outside/deep ball receiver who is truly both of those things. Losing Diggs meant losing one of the best deep ball receivers in the league, which is bad enough but additionally frustrating when you’re paying Kirk Cousins upwards of $45 million dollars a year partially thanks to his accuracy.
While Thielen’s catch radius and route running allow him to move the chains, as we saw in overtime against the Saints last year, he does most of his field stretchery from the slot. Considering that Jefferson literally ran over 99.5% of his routes from the slot in 2019, and fifth-round pick KJ Osborn also is more of a slot guy.
The Vikings kept seven receivers on their final 53, although Dan Chisena is reportedly being converted to safety (although he is the team’s fastest guy with a 4.32 40). Chad Beebe also is mostly known as a slot guy, and while Thielen lines up everywhere he is one of the best slot receivers in the league.
That leaves Bisi and free agent acquisition Tajae Sharpe as the two pure X receivers. While Johnson had a good rookie year, our collective expectations were so low after years of Treadwell, that I think he has a lot to prove in 2020 (considering the time Thielen missed and his sub-300 yard campaign).
Sharpe shows potential, too, and I was higher in him than most when the Vikings signed him, but unless Jefferson acclimates faster (which, considering the fact that it’s been reported that he didn’t do as well as “expected” against the second team corners on a team that I’m surprised has a second team of corners) on the outside, this Vikings passing offense could have issues.
Sure, they have offensive mastermind Gary Kubiak, as well as one of the best 1-2 punches at the tight end position with Kyle Rudolph and soon to be household name Irv Smith Jr., but imagine the four receiver sets of Thielen/Jefferson/Johnson and Butler.
Imagine a nearly 6’6” 4.48 receiver that runs routes like Diggs/Thielen, and can line up all over the field. When you have a guy like Jefferson, too, who is familiar enough with the style of offense the Vikings run thanks to his time at LSU, you’d have three super talented receivers that can line up EVERYWHERE.
That’d make covering the Vikings trio of Thielen-Jefferson-Butler an abject nightmare, and when you throw in Dalvin Cook and the zone blocking scheme of Kubiak/Rick Dennison, and the recent addition of Yannick Ngakoue on defense…
Yeah. See what I mean?
So, let’s hope that the powers that be in Eagan are keeping their eyes on Butler. You’d think that the fact that he played at Iowa State might make him as familiar to the Vikings as he is unfamiliar to other teams/Iowans are to an economy that isn’t solely contingent on whether or not the swine flu is under control.
Cause as much as I kid, a former fourth-round pick that is only a year removed from his draft, one in which he was most likely a top pick on at least one team’s draft board, won’t be a free agent for long.