In the event you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf has been taking the football world by storm since his shirtless pics hit the internet. There was wild speculation regarding the numbers he might put up at the NFL Scouting Combine. Internet prop bets had his 40-yard dash time with an over/under at 4.5 seconds, which considering his 6’3” and 228-pound frame would have been an excellent time. Others speculated about his jumping ability and strength. I’ll go into greater detail, but blowing some measurables out of the water would be an understatement. Although he may have the greatest athletic upside as any player in history, I’m pumping the brakes for right now, and I’ll tell you why you might want to too.
“Freak” “Alien” “Monster” “Beast” are just a few of the adjectives used to describe Metcalf’s combine performance. A quick look at his numbers courtesy of playerprofiler.com, and you’ll see he finished with a 99th percentile 40-yard dash, speed score, and SPARQ-x score. Metcalf also damn near has a 99th percentile burst score, catch radius, and college YPR too.
Taking a look at the numbers from mockdraftable.com, you’ll notice Metcalf also was in the mid-to-upper 90th percentile for weight, wingspan, arm length, vertical jump, broad jump, and bench press. Even his height and hands were in the 80th percentile. It’s all quite absurd really. There is absolutely no doubt that he is one of the greatest athletes to ever grace the combine and all of the fans’ collective eyeballs.
Despite what was an otherworldly performance at the combine, he didn’t crush every event. I’ll give him credit where it is due. Several other receivers opted out of doing every drill, so he gets an A for effort, but his 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle scores were just plain bad. Again, courtesy of mockdraftable.com, take a look at Metcalf’s spider graph. After I noticed that almost every measurable was maxed out, my eyes were drawn to the odd resemblance of Pac-Man. What is that all about? What that is about is that as outstanding as he was in the explosive and speed drills, he was equally awful when he needed to change directions.
The poor showing in the change-of-direction drills isn’t a death blow for his future, but it certainly raises some red flags. Maybe his future NFL team will only ask him to run fades, corners, posts, and slants. Even though he may excel given his size and speed, opposing corners would love to know they only have to guard against a few select routes. To put his 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle scores into an athletic perspective, Tom Brady’s often laughable combine performance included 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle scores that topped Metcalf’s. Brady ran a 7.2 second 3-cone and a 4.38 second shuttle, beating Metcalf by .18 and .12 seconds, respectively.
I was lucky enough to get access to player measurables going back 30 years. Heading into it, I assumed that a handful of other top receivers had to have scored low on the shuttle and 3-cone drill, right? Wrong. Well, wrong at least for the players who ran the drills. Over the past 30 years, only 49 wide receivers ran a slower 3-cone drill. With the only recognizable names being Geronimo Allison, Joe Jurevicius and Ricky Seals-Jones (who tested as a WR but converted to TE).
That’s not good company. Looking at historical 20-yard shuttle times, only 24 receivers have done worse than Metcalf. The best names I could find were Travin Dural and Darreus Rogers. That is significantly awful. No wide receiver has ever done so poorly in those two tests combined, and no one who scored so poorly in either has ever had any meaningful success in the NFL. To be fair, nobody was banging out 99th percentile scores in everything else either.
Show me the Production
In three seasons at Ole Miss, Metcalf only played in 21 games thanks to injury. A broken foot sidelined him in 2016, and a neck injury requiring surgery took him off the field in 2018. In those 21 games played, he registered 67 receptions for 1,228 yards and tallied an additional 14 touchdowns. On a per game average, that’s three catches, 58 yards, and .66 scores. He may be a physical specimen to behold, but the college production wasn’t there.
There’s no DK in Team
Metcalf fever seems to have struck most in the dynasty fantasy football community. I say “most” because it certainly isn’t all. One of the concerns is that statistically, Metcalf wasn’t even the best receiver on his college team, in this very draft class. RotoViz’s Jacob Rickrode had a great tweet pointing out just that concern, and he provided a nice little chart to illustrate his point too.
Was D.K. Metcalf ever dominant in 2018?
He scored a 75yd TD in 1st min of AL. Only 1 other game, Kent State, was he the best WR on his own team. He’s a talented athlete but “dominant WR” is debatable. pic.twitter.com/pzfKweQkpH
— Jacob Rickrode (@ClutchFantasy) February 26, 2019
With the exception of two games (out of 21), even in his best games, Metcalf wasn’t even the best receiver on his team. That is, at the very least, a little concerning heading into the NFL.
Metcalf’s Ole Miss teammates and fellow 2019 combine participants A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge also played three years for the Rebels. Brown amassed 189 receptions, 2,984 yards, and 19 scores while Lodge had 57 catches, 913 yards, and ten touchdowns. On a per game basis, they registered 5.5/87/.55 and 2.5/41/.45, respectively. Brown was the most productive of the three and to be honest, numbers-wise, Lodge isn’t too far behind. Metcalf’s propensity for the big play shows itself in his number of touchdowns, but that might be a little too much boom/bust outside of best ball formats.
When discussing Metcalf with one of the sharpest devy minds in the industry Cody Garrett, he mentioned to me that the offensive system Ole Miss runs dictated that AJ Brown got more targets more targets and, obviously more receptions. Brown lined up in the slot while Metcalf lined up on the opposite hash in a scheme designed to get Brown the ball.
I don’t watch a ton of college football, but Cody and the Devy Watch team do, so I’ll have to take his word for it. Speaking of… go and pick yourself up a copy of the Devy Watch if you want to get better at fantasy and life. They had Metcalf highly ranked years ago, so everyone else is late to the party. Armed with this newfound knowledge of the Ole Miss offense, I wanted to see if maybe Ole Miss simply didn’t have a high enough volume passing attack to support multiple receivers. Whelp, in Metcalf’s three seasons, the Rebels finished 13th, 11th, and 5th out of 130 FCS teams in passing yardage. The passing game was there; the Ole Miss coaches just chose to filter the touches through other players.
C’mon Rookie Draft Season
There’s more than one way to skin a cat (where did that saying come from anyway? Who is out there skinning multiple cats? I found the answer, but I digress), so when it comes to drafting rookies, many people have varying philosophies. If you draft players based solely on upside, low floors be damned, I can’t fault you for taking Metcalf at 1.01. He brings rare, elite athleticism that stands out in a crowd of rare, elite athletes.
I, however, am far more risk-averse, especially early in my rookie drafts. Give me the high floor guy every time to begin my drafts, and I’ll swing for the fences in the later rounds (Hello, 2016 Tyreek Hill!). I’m not saying Metcalf is going to be a bust, but I can’t rank him as high as everyone else based on the risks we know. A bigger bodied wide receiver with previous foot and neck injuries, who was outproduced in college by his teammates on a pass-happy squad, who is a SPARQ freak, but can’t change direction and runs a limited route tree. I’ll take some of the safer options at the position.