One of the most alluring physical prospects in recent NFL Draft history is off the board in the first round.
D.K. Metcalf, who became the breakout star of the NFL Combine by posting numbers (and shirtless pics) you’d expect from an Avengers hero, was selected with the No. 64th overall pick by the Seahawks
SEC fans have know about Metcalf’s freakish combination of size and athleticism for years, but prior to the combine, the wideout was considered a Day 2 pick at best and had little national profile. That changed in Indy, where the 6’3, 228-pound Metcalf put up a 4.33-second 40-yard dash, a 40.5-inch vertical jump and 27 reps on the bench press. Those numbers, in combination with his Captain America physique, gregarious smile and love for strawberry milk made him a viral star and catapulted him up draft boards.
But Metcalf’s climb into the early round of mock drafts didn’t come without pushback. As the viral wave of popularity ebbed, some experts questioned whether he deserved the hype, pointing to his modest collegiate productivity and struggles in lateral mobility drills. Indeed, Metcalf’s 1,228 receiving yards and 67 receptions over three seasons at Ole Miss pales in comparison to his teammate A.J. Brown, who, as the undisputed No. 1 receiver on the roster, piled up 2,984 yards on 189 grabs. But that criticism ignores the fact that Metcalf missed 15 games due to injuries: a broken foot as a freshman and a neck issue as a junior (neither of which are expected to have any effect on his football playing future). Metcalf certainly made the most of his limited opportunities, averaging 21.9 yards per reception last season.
Pro Football Focus also points out that the Rebels’ offensive scheme made it easy for defenses to lock in on Metcalf.
The way Ole Miss’ offense deployed a dynamic skill set like Metcalf was comically simplistic. He was left wide receiver – no slot, no motion. Defenses knew exactly where Metcalf would be every snap. 324 of his 344 snaps came at left outside wide receiver with the handful of others coming at right outside wide receiver. From there, he ran go routes/fades/clear outs snap after snap. Defenses could either roll a safety over the top or play their corners well off and eliminate the threat of Metcalf’s deep speed.
Concerns over Metcalf’s lateral mobility have better statistical evidence: though his 40 time, vertical jump and bench press ranked him top three among all 2019 combine receivers, his three-cone drill and 20-yard shuffle ranked among the bottom seven. That understandably creates doubts about Metcalf’s route running and separation ability at the next level.
But the Seahawks didn’t draft Metcalf because he’s a polished pick who will show up in training camp running perfect routes. They grabbed him because he’s one of the most dominant physical prospects in draft history. A man of his size should not be able to sprint by SEC defensive backs with ease. No wideout should be able to brush aside linebackers without breaking stride.
There’s no doubt that drafting Metcalf involves a degree of risk. But given his physical upside, the bigger risk might be passing on him.