The emotion of it all was overwhelming for D.K. Metcalf.
The former Ole Miss receiver crouched on the sideline of Lucas Oil Stadium, his head down, a phone clasped in both hands. He wiped tears from his eyes as he spoke with his mother back in Oxford, Miss.
“I called my momma after I ran the 40. I cried a little bit,” Metcalf later told the NFL Network. “Just sharing that moment with her... She told me she was proud of me.”
She had plenty reason to be proud. Her son had just finished off one of the most dominant performances in the history of the NFL Combine by blazing a 4.33-second 40-yard dash—a seemingly impossible feat for someone who measured in the day before at 6’3, 228 pounds.
The story of the NFL Combine wasn’t Kyler Murray’s height, Ed Oliver’s 40 time or whether Trace McSorely should work out as a defensive back. On a weekend that gathered football’s biggest names and storylines, there was only one that mattered.
It’s a story that almost didn’t happen.
In the first quarter of mid-October game against Arkansas, Metcalf walked off the field suited up as a Rebel for the last time. He’d suffered a neck injury that, while not a serious health risk, would require surgery and claim the remainder of his redshirt sophomore season.
“Long-term, he’ll be fine,” Ole Miss coach Matt Luke told the press. “But but he’ll be done for this season.”
At the time, Metcalf was generally considered to be a Day 2 selection in the NFL Draft; a fringe first-rounder at best. Anyone who watched him play knew the physical tools were there, but injuries kept him from amassing the production typically expected of a first-round prospect. Compared to the mountain of yards and points piled up by his better known teammate, A.J. Brown, Metcalf’s career 1,228 yards and 14 scores are modest.
Metcalf, a four-star prospect coming out of Oxford High in 2016, saw the first two receptions of his college career go for touchdowns. But he came down awkwardly after catching the second, breaking his foot and sending him to a medical redshirt.
In total, Metcalf played in just 18 full games at Ole Miss.
“I’m not supposed to be here because of my neck injury last year,” Metcalf said back on the turf at Lucas Oil. “Just to have this opportunity to perform is just all a blessing.”
Metcalf’s dramatic heist of the NFL Combine started almost as soon as he walked through the door.
On Friday, he officially measured in at 6’3, 228 pounds—formidable numbers for a wideout. But it was the 1.9 percent body fat (and the body builder-like photos) that got Twitter chirping. That number could be wrong and, if it’s not, a fat percentage that low probably isn’t healthy. But those details are beside the point, which is that Metcalf is built like an Avengers hero.
“He looked like Jim Brown,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden told the New York Post. “He’s the biggest wideout I’ve ever seen. You have to ask yourself, who is tackling this guy?”
Metcalf has the strength to go along with the build.
Video proof @dkmetcalf14 may not be human. #HottyToddy— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) March 1, 2019
To put the absurdity of Metcalf’s 27 bench reps in perspective, consider that just 14 of 44 participating D-linemen did better. Arizona State wideout K’Neal Harry matched him at 27, but no other receiver put up more than 23 and only three others passed 20.
Of course, there’s such thing as a receiver being too big, something Metcalf was asked about on Friday.
“They haven’t met me yet,” Metcalf said of the doubters. “They haven’t seen ‘too big’ in seeing what I can do on the field or as a 40 or bench 27 reps, they haven’t seen me yet, so you know they can compare me to other big receivers that have been unsuccessful but like I say, they haven’t seen D.K. Metcalf.”
The concerns over Metcalf’s size evaporated in the jet stream of his blistering 40 time on Saturday.
D.K. Metcalf just ran a 4.33u 40-yard dash! @dkmetcalf14 @OleMissFB— NFL (@NFL) March 2, 2019
: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/1mDnh8VjcG
“I shocked myself with that one,” Metcalf admitted to NFL Network. He wasn’t the only one shook. The 4.33 catapulted Metcalf’s story into the stratosphere; Twitter lost its mind.
@dkmetcalf14 4.33 pic.twitter.com/QfyHb2nKQg— Mike Hilton (@MikeHilton_28) March 2, 2019
The @DraftNetworkLLC squad is pumped about D.K. Metcalf’s 40 time. pic.twitter.com/BoJdANpn3G— Paige Dimakos (@The_SportsPaige) March 2, 2019
In all my years, I've never seen anything quite like D.K. Metcalf - the size, the speed, the strength, the physique. 4.33 at that size?! Loved his grandfather and uncle as game-breakers. In awe of numbers he put up at Ole Miss. If he can stay healthy ...— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) March 2, 2019
4.33...— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) March 2, 2019
Human beings that weigh 228 pounds are not supposed to move that fast. SB Nation noted that of the other five receivers to break the 4.4 mark on Saturday, none were within more than 20 pounds of Metcalf.
- Parris Campbell, 4.31 seconds, 205 pounds
- Andy Isabella, 4.31 seconds, 188 pounds
- Mecole Hardman, 4.33 seconds, 187 pounds
- D.K. Metcalf, 4.33 seconds, 228 pounds
- Terry McLaurin, 4.35 seconds, 208 pounds
- Emanuel Hall, 4.39 seconds, 201 pounds
- Darius Slayton, 4.39 seconds, 190 pounds
Speed Score is a metric that contextualizes 40 times by taking a player’s weight into account. Of the 800-plus wideouts who have competed at the combine since 2000, only Calvin Johnson and Matt Jones have scored higher than Metcalf’s 129.7.
Next came a 40.5-inch vertical jump that put Metcalf into the 93rd percentile of wide receiver combine participants. His long jump was in the 97th percentile, his bench press in the 99th and his 40 in the 95th. The only things Metcalf didn’t excel at were the 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drill, creating this hilariously odd percentile chart.
DK Metcalf’s percentile rankings from the combine are hilarious. He’s the greatest athletic freak on earth….as long as he doesn’t have to change direction. pic.twitter.com/oIw7Upd7o1— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) March 3, 2019
The poor testing in lateral mobility could create concerns about Metcalf’s ability to separate at the next level, but it won’t scare teams off. As a whole, Metcalf’s showing in Indy rocketed him up draft charts of teams and media experts alike. A fringe-first rounder a few months ago, Metcalf is now listed by CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson as the third best skill player in the draft behind Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins. Mel Kiper, the guru of ESPN’s draft coverage, has Metcalf in the top 10 of his latest mock.
“We knew Metcalf was a special athlete,” Kiper wrote on Saturday. “I thought he’d perform extremely well here in Indianapolis. I didn’t know he could run a 4.33 40, though. That’s in the territory of Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson as far as athleticism.”
Whether or not Metcalf can match the NFL production of those two future Hall of Famers is still to be seen, but he seems to have cemented himself as the top pass catcher in this year’s class. When asked by reporters where he ranks among this year’s crop of wideouts, Metcalf didn’t hesitate: “I see myself as the best receiver in this draft, because I’m a competitor and I’m going to compete every day.”
After an otherworldly performance in Indy, Metcalf isn’t the only one who thinks that.