Will this be the year Iowa State breaks its decades-long drought of first-round draft picks? Maybe, after the way Hakeem Butler performed Saturday.
Butler was one of 48 wide receivers who took to the turf to try to impress scouts and executives alike at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine. The former Cyclone came to Indianapolis as a probable Day 2 pick, but a scorching 40 time and some crisp turns in the 20-yard shuttle could be all the 6’5 red zone threat needed to convince pro coaches his skills will translate from the Big 12 to the ever-evolving passing offenses of the NFL.
2019 is loaded with solid receiving talent, but no can’t-miss superstar among the group. A few of Saturday’s top performers could wind up making the case that makes him the first WR selected come April. That includes action-figure-brought-to-life D.K. Metcalf:
Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf, of social media fame, measured in at 6-foot-3 and 3/8 and 228 pounds... with 1.6% body fat— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 28, 2019
Other players who took part in the drills include Metcalf’s Ole Miss teammate A.J. Brown (this year’s Swiss Army Knife wideout), Ohio State riser Parris Campbell, South Carolina touchdown machine Deebo Samuel, prolific UMass star Andy Isabella (141.5 receiving yards per game last fall), and Clemson’s Hunter Renfrow, who might have bumped his inevitable drafting by the New England Patriots up a few rounds by posting a quicker-than-expected 40 time of 4.59 seconds.
So who improved their stock the most Saturday? And who may have just lost out on an invitation to Nashville by being a step too slow? Let’s take a look.
D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss
It’s kind of unfair that the receiver who’s built like The Rock is also one of the fastest of the class, but that’s D.K. Metcalf.
The comically gigantic receiver somehow put down a blazing 4.33-second 40-yard dash Saturday:
Earlier in the day, he recorded a 40.5-inch vertical jump. That’s a superhero, ladies and gentleman.
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Harry was already projected to be a first-round wideout, but his impressive bench numbers suggest he could be equally effective as a run blocker downfield as he is a pass catcher.
Top official bench press for wide receivers at #NFLCombine:— NFL Draft (@NFLDraft) March 1, 2019
1. N'Keal Harry, @ASUFootball, 27
1. D.K. Metcalf, @OleMissFB, 27
3. Jalen Hurd, @BUFootball, 23
4. Felton Davis, @MSU_Football, 21
5. Gary Jennings, @WVUfootball, 20
He had as many reps as enormous human Metcalf, who probably doesn’t have only 1.6% body fat.
Harry’s Saturday wasn’t too bad either:
N'Keal Harry at the Combine so far...— Brad Denny (@BDenny29) March 2, 2019
27 bench reps
10'2" broad jump
4.54u 40 yard dash
Yeah, guy is a freak.
Hakeem Butler, Iowa State
Butler is one of the biggest receivers of the class at 6’5, 227 pounds and often won jump balls against defensive backs while he was at Iowa State. But he may be one of the biggest winners of the entire NFL Combine after he showed teams that he has speed to burn players too.
Hakeem Butler is a freak. 4.49 in his first attempt pic.twitter.com/GXg9MF99Ym— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) March 2, 2019
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah summed up that time best with “That’s a huge, huge deal.”
Noah Fant, Iowa
The other Iowa tight end, T.J. Hockenson, has got a bit more love in mock drafts so far, but Noah Fant made sure he wasn’t forgotten when he laid down a blazing 4.51 in the 40-yard dash.
That’s a number plenty of receivers won’t be able to top, and Fant did it at 6’5, 243 pounds. He ended up being the best of the tight end class in almost every drill Saturday.
Noah Fant's athletic profile is— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) March 2, 2019
6'4 249 lbs
4.50 forty (best)
39.5 inch vertical (best)
10'7" broad jump (best)
6.81 3cone (best)
4.22 short shuttle (3rd)
11.49 60 yard shuttle (best)
20 bench reps pic.twitter.com/Rkd4OyvwnY
Fant was fighting for a spot in the first round entering the weekend, but now it seems unlikely that he’ll have any chance at falling out of the top 32 picks.
Emanuel Hall, Missouri
Hall was a speedy deep threat for Missouri who averaged over 20 yards per reception in four years for the Tigers. He finished his collegiate career with only 97 receptions, though.
But if his few receptions made him fly under the radar, Hall made sure NFL personnel took notice when he had one of the best broad jumps in NFL Combine history.
#MIssouri WR Emanuel Hall 11'9" broad jump. WOW.— The Draft Network (@DraftNetworkLLC) March 2, 2019
The 141-inch jump is the longest ever for a wide receiver. It’s second only to Cowboys defensive back Bryon Jones, who had a ridiculous 147-inch broad jump in 2015.
Miles Boykin, Notre Dame
Boykin has a story similar to Hall’s. He’s a deep threat who averaged over 15 yards per reception for Notre Dame, but finished his career with only 77 receptions.
And like Hall, Boykin jumped out of the building in Indianapolis. The receiver had a 140-inch broad jump — just one inch behind Hall, and third best in NFL Combine history.
Boykin also had a ridiculous 43.5-inch vertical jump, one of the best marks ever and only 2.5 inches behind Gerald Sensabaugh.
Parris Campbell, Ohio State
Campbell had a breakout season in 2018 with 90 receptions, 1,063 yards, and 12 touchdowns as a senior. But if those numbers didn’t make you take notice, his speed at the NFL Combine might.
The Ohio State product laid down one of the fastest times of the weekend when he finished the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds, plus he got a shoutout from LeBron James:
Add a 40-inch vertical jump and a 135-inch broad jump, and that’s a great day for Campbell.
Isaac Nauta, Georgia
On a day when the other top tight ends in the class — Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson, and Irv Smith — all did relatively well in the 40-yard dash, Nauta lagged behind.
The Georgia tight end had an official time of 4.91 on his first run, and just barely cracked five seconds with a 4.99-second run in his second attempt. That’s a speed few tight ends have translated into success in the NFL.
Lil’ Jordan Humphrey, Texas
The receiver has great size (6’4, 210 pounds) and a fantastic name, but what Lil’ Jordan Humphrey didn’t have on Saturday was speed. His time of 4.75 seconds was the slowest among wide receivers by quite a bit — he was the only one who ran in the 4.7 range.
Humphrey was mostly average in the other drills and failed to do much to make up for his lack of speed in the gauntlet.
At least he’s got that name.