Sep 29, 2018; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back David Montgomery (32) evades TCU Horned Frogs safety Markell Simmons (3) during the second half at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
David Montgomery is “kind of a grinder.”
Hakeem Butler is “just a big, physical strong dude.”
That’s how ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay described Iowa State’s standout running back and receiver, respectively, during a Tuesday conference call in advance of the April 25-27 draft.
Montgomery, a two-time first team Pro Football Focus All-American, showcased versatility and power in his three seasons as a Cyclone — and McShay expects those qualities to transfer well to the next level.
“Contact balance is the first thing that comes to mind,” McShay said. “And by that, I mean his ability to break tackles and stay on his feet. He’s not the fastest. He’s not the most explosive, but he catches the ball well, he’s a tough inside runner and I think he’s the type of guy who may never be an elite back, but you can rely on him.”
In other words, rock steady.
“You get him 20 carries or so in a game and he seems to just keep getting better,” McShay added.
McShay projects Montgomery to be among the first group of backs taken — and is probably a “day two guy.”
“He’s 5-10, 222 pounds and ran a 4.63 (40-yard dash), which is not ideal, but it’s not a big negative,” McShay said. “And you watch the tape and it matches up. That’s what he is. He’s a grinder. I don’t think he’s ever gonna be an elite back as I said earlier, but I think he’s gonna be part of a rotation and he’s gonna come in and contribute. I just like his toughness and his versatility.”
Butler, who led the NCAA with a 22.0-yards per reception average as a junior, bundles together a huge wingspan, long body and big-play capabilities. He had a very good NFL Combine and has become a darling of some draft gurus, who give him a chance of going in the first round.
McShay’s a bit more cautious.
“He’s like a power forward in basketball,” he said of Butler, who stands 6-6. “He knows how to post guys up. He’s really good in the red zone. He had some drops — I think that’s the one thing, if you look at his tape. And as you go through the course of the season, you’d like to see a little bit more consistency with focus catches, but I think in a class that has a lot of receivers like him, I would put him up there near the top of these big receivers. It’s a unique group.”
Where does McShay peg Butler as going?
“If it’s not in the second round, it will be early in the third,” McShay said. “Wide receivers aren’t lasting as long as they used to, but something tells me he’ll be off the board certainly in the top 80 picks or so, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was late in the second round.”
McShay also said skilled ISU cornerback Brian Peavy will likely be drafted in the later rounds, but could end up being a priority undrafted free agent, which is sometimes preferable.
“Ran a 4.68,” McShay said. “That’s the big issue, with short arms. I do think he’s gonna be drafted late. I’ve got a sixth, seventh-round grade on him, but it’s tough to overcome undersize, marginal speed and short arms. Those are kind of the three big things you look for. Again, I think he’ll get an opportunity. … He’ll tackle. He’s tough. He’s instinctive and he will contribute on special teams. So I think he’ll find a way to stick around even though he doesn’t have the ideal measurements.”
An ISU running back hasn’t been drafted since all-time leading rusher Troy Davis went in the third round in 1997.
The last Cyclones receiver to be drafted was Tracy Henderson, who went in the fifth round in 1985.
Regardless, it’s a near-certainty that both Montgomery and Butler will end up hearing their names called later this month (along with Peavy, possibly), which is a huge step for them — and for Coach Matt Campbell‘s program, which hasn’t seen a player drafted since linebacker Jeremiah George in 2014.