2019 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Prospect: D.K. Metcalf
School: Ole Miss
Ht: 6'4" Wt: 230
Eligibility: Red Soph
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Evaluated by: Austin Smith
Injuries have certainly changed the complexion of the top-end talent at the offensive skilled positions in the 2019 class. Rodney Anderson was considered to be a candidate to be the top running back taken, and D.K. Metcalf was in the same category at wide receiver. The difference is Metcalf is still the heavy favorite to be the top player selected as his position. While his production was limited because of a season-ending neck injury in 2018, it doesn't take long to realize what kind of monster Metcalf will be at the next level. It's typical for a guy that stands six foot, four inches at 230 pounds to be a physical player, but I don't know many NFL receivers that play as physical as Metcalf, while also being this kind of athlete.
Put it this was, the guy just makes big plays. His true-freshman year he caught two passes, and both were touchdowns. As a redshirt freshman, Metcalf had 39 catches, averaging 16.6 yards a pop for seven touchdowns. Prior to the injury as a third-year sophomore, he was averaging an astounding 21.9 yards per catch on 26 receptions with five more scores. In his career, Metcalf scored every 4.78 times he touched the football. He averaged 18.32 yards per reception. Those are insane numbers. He appears to be the total package when considering what NFL scouts look for at the receiver position, and that is incredibly rare.
As we look at what makes Metcalf so special, I am going to start in area that might be the most-overlooked skill for a receiver to possess coming out of college. He is terrific getting off the line of scrimmage. What makes him so impressive is he can get a clean release in a variety of ways. Look no further than his tape against Alabama this season against a fellow underclassman that has declared in Savion Smith. There were plays where an explosive jab step was able to turn Smith's hips, getting him a free release to Smith's backside. There were others where Metcalf located Smith's hands, and knocked them away and exploded up field. His initial burst was impressive enough that he even had snaps where he just exploded right by the Crimson Tide defensive back.
Getting off the press is a work-in-progress for most collegiate pass-catchers, but Metcalf looks to have a natural feel for it. He also shows the ability to be physical in his routes, allowing him to get defenders off in him in order to maintain the integrity of his path. This is another advanced trait for a receiver, because it allows them to play at top speed. The guy also appears to have monstrous hands, and he routinely extends them to the ball. Not only does he display soft hands when making the catch, but once he has the ball in his grasp, he locks on to it. Metcalf is also one of the best receivers in the country at winning 50-50 balls, and will likely be one of the top red-zone targets the day he steps foot on an NFL field. His body control, strength and ability to lock his eyes onto the ball are terrific, and is equaled by his ability to finish.
There are also a few areas I suspect he will be very good, although they are not quite as easy to evaluate. The first aspect is his long speed. He certainly appears fast but we rarely see him in snaps to display it. Most of his deep balls are won when he gets off the press, so the fact that he is 10 yards behind the defender is skewed based on the start. He seldom got caught in most of those situations, but I didn't always see a ton of conviction in those chasing him either. He also rarely had much further to go in a lot of his deep routes. Still, there were a few occasions where it appeared his speed would be in the 4.4-range on shorter routes where got free. Also, because he didn't run a variety of routes at Ole Miss, it is difficult to gage his ability to get in and out of his breaks quickly.
Once again though, there were signs that this will be an area of strength. Against Auburn, he caught two hitch routes inside the 15-yard line and scored on both of them. I'll say this from experience, that is a difficult task unless you are good at getting in and out of your breaks. In the red zone on the outside, defenders have no reason to fear you running by them because there is limited space behind them. Because of that, they are quicker to jump routes. So, the ability to breakdown quick enough to gain separation for the quarterback to fit the throw in, while also turning up field in order to get around the defensive back is impressive. Anytime a player can destroy a defender's angle to them, it is a testament to their initial burst and acceleration, and Metcalf has shown a few flashes in that regard.
Now on to the negatives. I really wish we had a larger sample size. Not only did he miss significant time with a pair of injuries in his two years, but the ball was spread around when he was on the field to a number of talented receivers at Ole Miss. You don’t always have to see the ball come a receiver's way to evaluate them, but with some of the quick routes they liked to run to A.J. Brown in the slot, it often didn't give us a good opportunity to see him get into his route.
Speaking of routes, they didn't ask Metcalf to run many. While he is a heck of a player on the deep ball, NFL teams are going to want to get him as involved as possible, and that means expanding his route tree. The injuries are also a bit concerning. He is a big target, which means he is going to take some shots. A foot injury as a freshman, followed by the neck injury this season could worry some teams evaluating him.
As far as Metcalf the person, he has NFL bloodlines two generations deep through his father and grandfather, and his uncle Eric Metcalf played 13 seasons in the league. He took care of business in the classroom through his three years in college, and was wise enough to set career goals outside of the grid iron, in addition to his work to be an NFL receiver. He is also a physical specimen, and the hard work he puts into the weight room is evident by his stature. One area I do get a little concerned with is he does show traits of being a "diva" receiver. We have recently seen teams be less accepting of players that can be just as detrimental to their team as helpful. Antonio Brown is one of the most productive receivers in football, yet tantrums are rumored to have him on the trade block, which was also reportedly the case with Odell Beckham Jr. this past off-season. I’m not saying that Metcalf has been anywhere near that sort of distraction, but there are signs that he let's his emotions get the best of him.
While this class is deep at the receiver position it's not exactly top heavy. Metcalf is the only player I believe will be a lock to go on Day 1, and could even hear his name called among the top-10 selections. Teams are always looking for that player that can dictate the way that defenses prepare, and Metcalf has that kind of ability. He is the top receiver I have evaluated in the last four years, and if teams aren'[t worried about his injury history, he shouldn't last long this coming April.
NFL player Comparison
I considered Brandon Marshall but I am going with Josh Gordon. Gordon has a similar combination of impressive athleticism and overwhelming size. I'm not going to put Metcalf anywhere near the kind of character Gordon is, but the way the two both play the game from their ball skills to their ability to climb the ladder is uncanny. Gordon came into the league with inexperience and questions about the route tree he'd run in college, but it didn’t take him long to put those worries to rest. Where I see a bit of Marshall is at the line of scrimmage. Marshall routinely blew past guys at the line, and I even remember instances of him knocking guys on their rears in college.
- Terrific beating the presses using a variety of techniques successfully
- Has imposing size with exceptional athleticism for his frame
- Naturally extends his large hands to the ball displaying both finesse and power during the catch
- Makes 50-50 balls look routine with his body control and concentration
- A constant threat to make a big play from anywhere on the field
- Has NFL bloodlines from multiple members of his family
- Inexperience is an issue
- Ran a very limited route tree at Ole Miss
- Two significant injuries will be the biggest obstacle for his draft stock
|Scouting Video Courtesy of the University of Alabama|