By now you’ve likely seen Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf scorch the football universe with his 40 time at the Combine. His 4.33 time is impressive on its own considering it’s currently the second fastest for any wide receiver or running back in this year’s class, but add his massive size (6’3, 228 lb.) to the equation, and it becomes even more mind-blowing.
The son of former NFL offensive lineman Terrence Metcalf and the cousin (yes, cousin, not nephew) of former NFL running back Eric Metcalf, it’s safe to say D.K. comes from what analysts use as a cliche: “A football family.”
Barring any freak injuries, Metcalf will likely get drafted in the first round, and may even be a top ten pick come April. And yet, if he somehow lands far enough that the Titans have a chance to pick him, they should very well consider that option. His stats from 2018 (26 catches for 569 yards and 5 TD in seven games) may suggest he’s a late round pick, but from a tape standpoint I came away extremely impressed.
It’s no secret that the Titans could use help with their receiving corps in the offseason, and Metcalf—if he actually slips to the 19th overall pick—would significantly boost the quality of that unit.
Receivers of Metcalf’s size are not a rarity in the NFL, and the Titans should know this from experience considering they drafted Dorial Green-Beckham (6’5, 237) in the second round in 2015. What is rare about Metcalf is how he combines his size with an incredible display of separation and speed. That’s where the quantity of these athletes decreases, and it’s what makes selecting Metcalf all the more enticing.
Metcalf separates from guys like Green-Beckham and Kelvin Benjamin because he’s significantly faster than the two. Take the above play against Alabama for example. #4 of Bama is engaging in press coverage against Metcalf, and the patience he uses in his route baits the corner. Right as the defensive back takes the bait, #14 turns on the jets with an amount of separation that would make Randy Moss widen his eyes.
Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu tosses him the deep ball and Metcalf hauls it in for a touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage.
Despite his size, Metcalf’s release off the line of scrimmage is smooth and sometimes offers him instant separation. His 21.9 yards per reception was also fourth in all of college football in 2018.
Metcalf’s athleticism after the catch also stands out. No one of his size should be able to be this good after the catch, but somehow he provides an exception. The concentration he displays on this pass in a tight window (And we’re talking tight) is wonderful, and he has great awareness after he caresses the ball in as he makes sure to keep his feet in bounds dangling on the sideline.
But come on, having this level of speed and elusiveness after the catch is a cheat code if you’re a physical monster. He gets by one man, breaks his last resort tackle attempt, then races to the end zone for the touchdown.
One receiver I’ve seen Metcalf get compared to quite often is Dez Bryant, and yeah I can see that to an extent. Both guys are heavily involved in the vertical passing game and Metcalf has certainly shown a Dez-esque impact in the red zone when he’s had the chance. He had few of those in 2018, but plays like this suggest he has potential in this area.
Metcalf’s size alone makes him a tantalizing red zone target, but guys who succeed in the red zone use a combination of toughness, ball security, and tight footwork. That’s where this touchdown comes in. Metcalf is able to size up against the corner and high safety, and uses his wingspan to haul the pass in. The toe tapping concentration he uses at the catch point allows him to complete the tedious process of catching the ball as this goes for the score.
Now, allow me to address the concerns a lot of people have with Metcalf. I expect the comment section of this article to have a few replies concerned about his injury issues, as he only played seven games in 2018 due to a season ending neck injury. He also missed the majority of his freshman season with a broken foot after only playing two games. A career of 67 receptions for 1,228 yards and 14 touchdowns doesn’t seem like anything to sneeze at either.
But I think if you enter the NFL, there’s bound to be risks. Hell, you’re making a risk regardless of who you pick in the first round, after all you’re using that pick to help decide the future of your franchise! And what people dragging Metcalf for his injuries aren’t accounting for is how he ran a 4.33 40 time with that neck injury. I’ve never been a big fan of focusing on the Combine myself when it comes to deciding how high prospects should be drafted, and yet I find that very impressive.
I’m also not one to judge players based on their college production. You can have great college stats and still appeal less to analysts, as numerous examples have shown. One such example is former Ohio State receiver Michael Thomas, currently a superstar with the Saints. Thomas only had 1,633 receiving yards in three seasons with the Buckeyes, but those who watched him understood how much potential he had in the NFL, which is why New Orleans drafting him in the second round of the 2017 Draft is considered a massive steal.
It also didn’t help that teammate A.J. Brown was a huge factor in the Ole Miss offense as well, as he was the team’s X receiver. Former offensive coordinator Phil Longo was also heavily criticized for what was perceived as a lack of efficiency in the red zone and on third down conversions.
Bottomline, success in the NFL is about what you do at the college level that can translate to the professional level. D.K. Metcalf’s ability to win at the line of scrimmage combined with his speed and elusiveness make him an outlier for someone of his size. There’s been some criticism of him for not having a massive route tree or the most technical wide receiver skills, but what he does well he does really well. Having a receiver with outlandish strengths, to me, offsets whatever issues their style of play has.
And can you imagine how much better Corey Davis would look with another capable wideout opposite of him? Both Davis and Metcalf are especially good stretching the field, and both are certainly capable of creating yards after the catch thanks to their approach at the catch point and their athletic abilities.
In conclusion, D.K. Metcalf is an extremely gifted and appealing wide receiver prospect, and while it’s highly unlikely he falls to the Titans with the 19th overall pick, they should by all means consider taking him if that ends up happening.