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2019 NFL Draft Prospect D. K. Metcalf WR Ole Miss

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A Fast, Tall Adonis with elite skills

NCAA Football: Kent State at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

D.K. Metcalf, 6’ 4” 230 lbs, WR Ole Miss #14

D.K. (DeKaylin Zecharius) Metcalf is a towering WR with elite traits that have many scouts drooling with dreams of drafting him for their team. While Metcalf has out of this world talent, he comes with some questions as well. D.K. comes from a long line of football professionals, he almost seemed destined to play in the NFL.

D.K.’s father is Terrance Metcalf, who was an All-American at Ole Miss and played 7 seasons in the NFL, mostly with the Chicago Bears. D.K.’s grandfather Terry Metcalf played 6 seasons in the NFL, 5 of which were with the St. Louis Cardinals. D.K.’s uncle Eric Metcalf (his dad’s brother) was a three time Pro Bowl RB/WR/KR and played 13 seasons in the NFL, mostly with the Cleveland Browns and the San Diego Chargers.

Let’s start with the good about Metcalf. He is tall with good feet (not great feet) which are above average for a tall receiver. He is fast, very fast, which also is above average for a tall receiver. Some taller receivers need an airport runway to get up to speed; Metcalf does not. Metcalf has elite acceleration for a tall receiver. From a dead stop or after a reception Metcalf gets up to full speed in just a few steps which is outstanding. Here is an example.

For some reason he decides to slow play it off the line but Metcalf takes three steps, chucks the defender to get an inside release, then he is gone. It was man against child in this play as once he gets by the CB can’t even get close enough to interfere with him. Now to be fair this route was run against a redshirt freshman corner who was the 88th ranked CB in 2015 coming out of high school. Why the defensive coordinator wants to put him on an island when he is overmatched physically is beyond reason. This also was only the second play of the game; it took all of 33 seconds to score against Texas Tech.

Of course you could ask the same thing of Nick Saban on why he has Saivion Smith locked in press coverage against Metcalf; this was the first play of the game.

I think Nick Saban is the second best all around football coach in the world and a top five DB coach but this was an overestimation of Smith’s abilities. Smith is fast but he is poor in press coverage and is more of a zone corner. Metcalf’s release is again puzzling as he uses three steps that go nowhere, he then (again) just chucks the CB and blows by him leaving Smith in the dust. This is the elite acceleration I was describing; long legged receivers are not supposed to have this type of ability. This is Calvin Johnson-esque.

These next two plays come about 40 seconds of game time apart and show the difficulty in trying to cover Metcalf with a mediocre corner. The first play is a poorly run “in” route that Metcalf lets fade upfield. Metcalf succeeds on this play because he sprints off the line like he is running a “9” route. This is how you teach a player to come off the line on an “in” route; shoulders over knees; nicely done. The corner has to bail and Metcalf plays catch with the QB for 10 yards and a first down.

He is playing against Lonnie Johnson, who is 6’ 3” and is poor in man coverage, but makes up for it by being even worse in press coverage. Johnson is a text book cover 3 corner but Kentucky used him in off coverage man on this play because he is a big CB.

Since off coverage didn’t work the first play Kentucky uses press coverage against Metcalf. You can almost see the QB drooling when he observes Metcalf covered one on one, as he gives the cursory play fake, a real quick look to hold the safety and then bombs away to a wide open Metcalf. Johnson gives a great demonstration on how not to play press coverage as he can barely stay in front of Metcalf at the snap then tries to impede him while falling backwards. It didn’t work. Metcalf shows better footwork off the line as he takes two steps left then crosses the face of Johnson with open field in front of him. Metcalf is at about full speed three steps after going by Johnson which is fantastic.

This next play I think is the best play Metcalf has made in his career thus far. It is again against our buddy Lonnie Johnson but Lonnie actually does a decent job of coverage mainly because he has very little area to cover. This play is for the game as Ole Miss is down by 4 with 10 seconds remaining no time outs on the 7 yard line. Metcalf does about as good a job on this play as he can.

This is a fade to the corner and Metcalf gets a quick outside release and gains an advantage on Johnson. Metcalf races to the mid portion of the end zone, giving himself room to stay in bounds if he should need to jump. He then looks back, gets his body turned so he is square to the QB, then goes up strong with two hands to snare the ball. Johnson gets his hand in between Metcalf’s arms but Metcalf gets one foot in bounds then pulls the ball away with one hand (away from danger) and maintains control. You could not make this play any better against this coverage. This is the type of red zone play that coaches will want to use Metcalf on numerous times in the NFL.

I think D.K. Metcalf is a tremendous talent and could develop into an outstanding receiver in years to come. He has the ability to be an All-Pro receiver; the problem is he is not even close yet. Metcalf has played three years of college football and had severe injuries (foot and neck) that ended two of those three years. Those are two of the worst injuries a WR can have; the medicals at the combine will need to be gone over with a fine toothed comb. Certain foot injuries (especially in larger players) can be a recurring problem. Neck injuries can have the same problem of recurrence. Metcalf has never caught 40 receptions or had 650 yards receiving in a year even while playing in 12 games in 2017. The hype surrounding this kid is amazing and even legitimate well known sports sites are pushing the envelope of hyperbole. This is actually written in a scouting report:

Put it this way, 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.

Those two touchdowns he mentions covered a total of 13 yards. The 39 catches he mentions means he averaged 3.25 catches a game in 2017 which is better than his career college average of 3.2 receptions a game. Metcalf also drops a lot of balls. In 2017 in 12 games he was targeted 79 times with 39 receptions which is a 49.37% catch percentage. For a huge star who supposedly carries a team Metcalf had only 16.32% of the targets on his team. He was 12th in the SEC in targets but 4th on his own team in receptions. Van Jefferson had more receptions than Metcalf with only 57 targets and he transferred to Florida after 2017.

Metcalf runs a very small route tree and is always outside which makes it easier to use different types of blanket coverages. Players rarely make huge jumps in production from their college stats into the pro game; it happens but it is rare. How dominant is a player who has the 4th most receptions on his own team?

Also from the same article:

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.

Here are the two scores he talked about.

They are decent plays but look at the scores of the game, you have no idea which players were in the game with Ole Miss getting destroyed like that. In that game he had 4 receptions for 28 yards with the 2 TDs so he wasn’t a difference maker in that game. Those 2 TDs account for over 25% of his TDs for the year.

This game was Metcalf’s best of the year as he accounted for 125 yards receiving and a TD on 3 receptions against Cal.

You see once Metcalf gets by his man he is more comfortable making the catch. He will need to make more contested catches in the NFL, something he struggled with at times in college. The same game but Cal switched a 5’10 corner with better cover skills against him.

I read numerous scouting reports about how great Metcalf is on getting off the line. This get off is called the cha cha and NFL WR coaches will not like it. You can’t work in a timed passing offense if you do a dance before you run your route. I see this a lot with Metcalf; the reason he gets away from press coverage is usually his physical skills. He will need to work on footwork against press coverage in the NFL.

This next play is a wide open drop which hits him in the hands in that same Cal game that they lost by 11 points. His defender decided not to press him so he got an untouched release.

This ball is on the money; all receivers drop balls but when you have only 3 receptions a game and a catch rate of less than 50% your QB may stop throwing the ball your way. You have to make the plays that can be made in the NFL. If not you will be sitting next to the coach while someone else plays.

This next clip is of a player who decides to get physical with Metcalf. Most of the clips of his highlights Metcalf was almost untouched as he leaves the LOS.

This is the type of coverage Metcalf will see in the NFL. You can chalk this play up as a nice play by the corner. The corner is Henry Toliver who ran 4.63/40 at the combine and had a SPARQ score of 6%. He had a cup of coffee with the Colts in training camp and is bagging groceries now. He will probably make a camp this summer but he doesn’t have NFL skills to last in the league. A Calvin Johnson type player should not be handled by a much lesser talent, let alone a guy who could not make it in the NFL.

This last clip is of an LSU game that Metcalf was covered like a blanket. The corner wasn’t Greedy Williams covering Metcalf, it was Kevin Toliver.

Metcalf had 1 reception in this game for 15 yards and gave up that dropped catch for an INT. A few bad games would be OK if you had 4 years of great production but Metcalf has played in only 21 college games and has never had great production.

I really like Metcalf and think he can have a bright future in the NFL. I would still take him late in the 1st round, he is that good a talent, but you can’t miss with a #3 overall pick, that would be devastating. One thing to remember is I did a post two years ago and showed that of all the WRs drafted in the 1st round of the draft between 2000 and 2009 there were 42 1st round selections 54.7% were either a Bust or a Mega Bust

Bust) 16 = 38%

Almost a bust, almost a player) 5 = 12%

Player) 4 = 9.5%

Star) 6 = 14.3%

Mega Bust) 7 = 16.7%

Mega Star) 4 = 9.5%

You take your chances with a high 1st round WR.

Again this was not meant to burst anyone’s bubble on their favorite player in the draft. I just recommend we just pump the brakes a little before we go wild with expectations.

Let me know what you think.