DK Metcalf has been the talk of the town in recent weeks. Many have him pegged as the top wide receiver while others want nothing to do with him. Regardless of which side you lean, this guy is creating conversation. What conversations, you ask? Well, in recent weeks he’s been a major topic in the “Tape vs Analytics” debate.
Some think Metcalf possesses more than enough physical ability to be an elite NFL receiver. But some believe his career statistics at Ole’ Miss are more than telling of what he’ll amount to at the next level. This makes for an interesting prospect breakdown. With the public largely divided when it comes to Metcalf, its time to sort out what is what. There’s no doubt he’s gaining hype right now but is he worth being touted as the top WR in this class? I’ll let you decide.
D.K. Metcalf: All Hype Or No Substance?
- School: Ole’ Miss
- Position: Wide Receiver
- Height: 6’3
- Weight: 225 lbs
- D.O.B. 12/14/1997
DeKaylin “D.K.” Metcalf came into Ole’ Missin 2016 as a 4-star recruit out of Oxford High School, Mississippi. He didn’t exactly kick off his college career with a bang though. He only appeared in the first two games of his freshman season before suffering a season-ending foot injury. However, he did notch two TDs on his two (and only) receptions of the season. Depending on how you look at it, it’s hard to imagine things going both better or worse for him to start his college career. Ill side with the former given the injury circumstances.
Metcalf returned in 2017 and had himself a fairly productive run. He was finally able to log a full season but had a bit of trouble standing out in a jam-packed WR core that had the likes of AJ Brown, DaMarkus Lodge, and Van Jefferson. Despite going missing at some points, he did have some standout games vs Cal, Kentucky, and Arkansas over the course of the season where he became hard to ignore.
Metcalf followed up his second-year success with a strong start to his 2018 redshirt JR year. Through seven games, he appeared to be on pace for a career high in almost all statistical categories. That was until the injury bug struck again. This time, Metcalf suffered a season-ending neck injury that pushed him out of the final six games of 2018.
DK Metcalf is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds and does stuff like this:pic.twitter.com/uY5xZZSxLL
— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) September 22, 2018
By far one of Metcalf’s most valuable attributes is his ball skills. He has elite high point ability and uses his size to go up and snag balls with incredible ease. Metcalf sometimes mistimes his jumping in contested situations but overall he has a great instinct when he chooses to elevate for a catch. He boasts one of the best catch radius’ in this prospect class. Metcalf is consistent with tracking the football and uses his size and body control to make great catches in any situation.
Metcalf has very good speed for his size and weight. At times I found him to struggle off the line of scrimmage but his burst and stride allow him to create space and burn DBs vertically. Metcalf’s speed and power combination present elite problems for defenses, especially on go routes. He can be seen powering through a DB with little technique and then turn on the jets to create good separation down the field. Even on shorter routes such as curls and slants, Metcalf’s lack of technique was made up by his speed and burst while breaking.
This goes hand in hand with his previously listed attributes. As I stated, Metcalf didn’t impress me with a ton of technique off the line of scrimmage. However, what fascinated me was his ability to use his hands and strength to render DBs useless. Many times upon contact with a defender he was able to power through them and continue on his route. The same can be said in contested catch situations. His power prevented him from looking bothered by contact at the point of the ball.
🔒 Lockdown press man coverage against DK Metcalf.
Mirrors him step for step, patience and stop-start quickness ++, breaks on the ball effectively.
For someone Trevon Diggs’ size, he has real fluidity and movement skills. I’m a fan. pic.twitter.com/wOmsuyqk85
— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) December 22, 2018
Metcalf doesn’t have a lengthy injury history but the injuries he has sustained have all been season-ending. This is a concern, as is with every player, that teams and fantasy owners should take into consideration. The lack of playing time due to injury creates a ton of risk at his current valuation. His durability issues have created a production gap between him and other receivers in this class. Unfortunately, that doesn’t allow us to fully grasp what he’s capable of. Only playing 21 games in college is a huge knock. In recent years, top WR picks with injury histories like Mike Williams and John Ross have gone on to miss significant time in the NFL
Metcalf profiles as a great X receiver. But that’s about it. Outside of that, he looks one dimensional. He was mostly subject to hitch, curls, and go routes in college. The reason this is a concern is that if he cant broaden his route tree at the next level, defensive coordinators will be able to take him out of the game completely. He won’t be able to rely on just his size and speed. He will have to be more crafty with NFL DBs.
This may be a bit of a nitpick here but I have to list it as a con. For someone with his tracking and high point skills, I’d have liked to see a little bit more ball security from him. He has a knack for getting poor hand position on the ball and this causes him to not be able to finish catches. This isn’t a huge knock on him at this point but he will need to refine some technique at the next level. His hands will undoubtedly be tested by elite DB talent in the NFL.
Metcalfs college stat line is unimpressive. Looking at his numbers from his only full season cause me to raise a red flag. In his 12 games as a redshirt freshman, Metcalf only totaled 39 receptions for 646 yards and seven TDs. Sure, the seven TDs are great but the rest of his stats are underwhelming. Technically this was the year that Metcalf exceeded the 20% threshold for what’s considered as a “breakout” season for WR prospects. He had 20.7% of Ole Miss’s rec/TD market share, just barely hitting the mark. I also lean towards thinking that much of it was due to his high TD volume on such little receptions. People will argue that it’s because of AJ Brown and DeMarkus Lodge’s role in the offense. That logic further moves my point that Metcalf was just being outperformed by his counterparts.
2018 looked to be the year Metcalf would break through every statistical barrier before him. Through seven games he had a 26/569/5 stat line before suffering a season-ending injury. In that span, he garnered a 24.7% market share of Ole Miss’s receiving yards. He was on pace for a 44/975/12 stat line through 13 games. It looked like an impressive season was underway for Metcalf but it didn’t pan out that way. Given I can only go off of the data I do have of him, his outcome is extremely varied based on the numbers.
D.K. Metcalf is an extremely powerful and athletic WR prospect. What he lacks in technique and IQ he easily makes up for with pure raw strength and athletic ability. He presents all of the physical traits that teams tend to drool over. Metcalf has impressive catching abilities, speed, and strength to give defenders trouble in the NFL. He also boasts the ability to make circus-like catches from any area on the field. Despite having a fully loaded arsenal on the physical side, Metcalf presents problems in terms of durability and lack of production at the college level.
From a fantasy perspective, draft round and situation will be very important on where Metcalf should be selected in rookie drafts. His physical metrics and tape have elevated him in my rankings to current WR5 as of now. Some may say that’s too low but the risk at taking him early in rookie drafts is far too high then I believe the reward is at this point. However, if you have a later pick in the first round and he makes his way to you, I would consider him a “high ceiling-low floor” pick that has the potential to pan out in the future.
As always thank you for stopping in and reading my work! You can reach me @JesseReevesFF on Twitter. Stay tuned for my next Prospect Breakdown!