2019 NFL Draft Scouting Report: D.K. Metcalf
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Under former head coach Hugh Freeze, the Ole Miss Rebels put together a lot of strong recruiting classes that produced a lot of early-round NFL talent. Among those players were Laremy Tunsil, Evan Engram, Laquon Treadwell, Robert Nkemdiche, Breeland Speaks and more. After Freeze was fired amid scandal, some of his talented recruits who interest NFL teams remained at Ole Miss. D.K. Metcalf is one of those players, and he is favorite to be the first wide receiver selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Even though Metcalf is an incredible physical talent, he did not catch a lot of passes during his collegiate career. He played in 21 games for Ole Miss, totaling 67 receptions for 1,228 yards and 14 touchdowns. As a freshman, Metcalf played in two games, catching two passes for 13 yards and two touchdowns. The 2017 season was the only year he played in 12 games, hauling in 39 passes for 346 yards and seven scores. In 2018, Metcalf went out for the year with a neck injury after seven games. Prior to that, he was playing well, exploiting a lot of man coverage with teams focused on stopping A.J. Brown. In his final season, Metcalf totaled 26 receptions for 569 yards and five touchdowns.
The things that really set Metcalf apart are mismatch size and speed. He has excellent height and strength to be a size problem on the perimeter. That size makes him tough to tackle and a threat to make any reception as he can win 50-50 passes over defensive backs. He is a red zone-weapon who could be a point producer as a pro.
Metcalf also has freakish straight-line speed, and that was illustrated at the NFL Scouting Combine when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds. Off the line of scrimmage, Metcalf is very fast at running straight go routes down the field, and he can burn defensive backs by just running by them. He is a threat to score on any reception as once he has the ball in his hands because he can run away from the defense. Metcalf tracks the ball very well, using late hands to make receptions. He shows nice concentration and ability to make one-handed catches.
While Metcalf has a great skill set, he is not necessarily a polished wide receiver. His route-running needs to be developed because he did not run the route tree at Ole Miss. Because Metcalf is so muscle bound, he is not that agile in and out of breaks. That, along with his short-area quickness, could be problematic for him generating separation in the NFL.
Along with his route-running, it would be good to see Metcalf be more physical with defensive backs. Given his strength and size, he could be, and should be, a bully who pushes defenders around. That could really help him to be even more effective on 50-50 passes and press coverage. For a big wideout, Metcalf surprisingly does not high point the ball that well. The physicality and high pointing the ball are things that he could easily improve upon with NFL coaching.
Metcalf may end up being a shot receiver who runs down the sideline and tries to use his speed to run by defenders or his size to make catches over them. Making plays like that and doing back-shoulder receptions could make him effective enough even though his route-running and agility limit him.
Not all teams had Metcalf graded in the first round entering the NFL Scouting Combine, but his workout was so good that he looks very safe to be selected on the opening night of the 2019 NFL Draft. He may not go as high as the media hype suggests, but his mismatch size and speed should have some teams looking at him as a future No. 1 wide receiver and a top candidate for their first-round pick.
Player Comparison: Alshon Jeffery. Metcalf and Jeffery (6-3, 218) are similar receivers as size mismatches who have the speed to make plays downfield. They carry their weight differently, as Metcalf is all muscle while Jeffery has had bad-weight issues. In the NFL, I could see Metcalf being a receiver similar to Jeffery.
NFL Matches: New York Jets, Buffalo, Miami, New England, Washington, Cleveland, Baltimore, Oakland, Indianapolis, Green Bay, Arizona, San Francisco and Jacksonville
There are a lot of potential landing spots for Metcalf in the 2019 NFL Draft. In the AFC East, he could land with any team. Miami needs more receiving weapons for its offense, while the Jets have a poor receiving corps and need to give Sam Darnold more play-makers. Meanwhile, Buffalo needs a wide receiver to stretch the field for Josh Allen. Metcalf could make sense for New York or Buffalo. If the Jets trade down as expected, Metcalf could definitely be in play for them. The Patriots could use some youth at wideout as well, and Metcalf could give them an outside receiver to work with their slot players. New England would likely have to trade up for Metcalf.
The Redskins could consider adding more receiving weapons. Josh Doctson was a pick by the previous general manager and has been a disappointment. If Washington does not take a quarterback in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Metcalf could easily be the team's pick.
In the AFC North, Metcalf has a few landing spots. Cleveland could use more receiving talent for Baker Mayfield, so Metcalf could interest the organization in Round 1. Pittsburgh also might consider taking a receiver to replace Antonio Brown. The Steelers are going to need more talent around JuJu Smith-Schuster. Baltimore could use more receiving talent for Lamar Jackson, and Metcalf would bring a size/speed mismatch to the Ravens' offense.
The Raiders need some long-term weapons for Jon Gruden's offense, and Metcalf would be a nice scheme fit in Gruden's west coast system. With their pick from the Bears or Cowboys, Metcalf could make sense for the Raiders as a complement to Antonio Brown.
Elsewhere in the 20s, Indianapolis could use more receiving weapons for Andrew Luck, and Metcalf would give the team a big wideout to go with T.Y. Hilton. At the 30th pick, Metcalf could be in play for the Packers, as they could use more play-making talent for Aaron Rodgers.
Some teams picking high in the second round could trade back into the first round for Metcalf. Christian Kirk was a nice addition by the Cardinals, but they could use more receiving weapons. Adding a wideout with size would make sense for Arizona because Larry Fitzgerald is nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career.
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