As D.K. Metcalf's draft stock soars following his epic Combine showing, keep these things in mind
In case you haven’t heard, D.K. Metcalf was created in a lab to play in the NFL.
We’ve been getting reminders of that throughout the pre-draft process, and especially over the weekend when Metcalf flipped the NFL Combine on its head. The numbers were beyond freakish. They were superhuman.
At 228 pounds, he recorded an absurd 4.33-second 40-yard dash, a vertical jump of 40.5 inches, 27 bench press reps and a broad jump of 11-2. Just for good measure, he recorded the biggest wingspan ever at the Combine. It was the type of performance that took someone with major first-round potential and moved them into the Top 10 pick discussion.
That was at least the case for industry experts like Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., who gushed over Metcalf’s showing in Indianapolis:
We can probably cement DK Metcalf as the first WR drafted. Don't know if that's top 5 due to QBs and great EDGE class, but it'll be early.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 2, 2019
My thinking on D.K. Metcalf's day. Short version: Top 10 in play. Longer… pic.twitter.com/iQL5SjR1nq
— Mel Kiper Jr. (@MelKiperESPN) March 3, 2019
It was as head-turning as anything or anyone over the weekend. The viral photo of Metcalf that showed off his reported 1.6 percent body fat was essentially confirmed via his own off-the-charts testing.
So now, everyone is trying to figure out what to make of Metcalf.
Here are some things I know to be true about the man amongst boys in Indianapolis:
For everyone saying he’s on steroids …
There were plenty of people who, when upon seeing this viral photo, immediately assumed that there’s no way Metcalf could get to his ridiculous physical build without some illegal help.
— Kaden Humphrey (@KadenHumphrey1) March 2, 2019
So yeah, about that.
To get to that kind of physique, one needs to have some incredible genetics (his love of strawberry milk probably didn’t hurt). Metcalf, of course, is the son of former Ole Miss All-American Terrence Metcalf. He has been training with his dad in preparation for the NFL for, well, a very long time. Like, they’ve been doing sit-ups and pushups together since D.K. was 5 years old. The kid was bench-pressing 100 pounds before first grade.
Call me crazy, but that sounds like the ideal way to become a freak athlete. The prep All-American has always been that.
In other words, don’t assume what you saw over the weekend was some dude who just hasn’t been busted for steroids yet. If I was going to draw up the perfect mix of genetics and work ethic, Metcalf would be it.
For everyone wondering if he can catch …
I get it. You see the Combine results and you think to yourself, wait a minute, where’s the production? Why are these his annual numbers so underwhelming if he’s such a freak? Doesn’t that mean he can’t catch?
- 2016: 2 catches, 13 yards, 2 TDs
- 2017: 39 catches, 646 yards, 7 TDs
- 2018: 26 catches, 569 yards, 5 TDs
I’ll circle back to the production in a second, but the assumption that Metcalf cannot catch is just simply not true. In fact, I actually wrote in the middle of the 2017 season about why Metcalf was more than just the spectacular catches he became known for.
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) October 14, 2017
D.K. Metcalf is not of this world pic.twitter.com/CIHibt5pIC
— Ben Garrett (@SpiritBen) September 22, 2018
The guy is a highlight-reel machine, no questions asked. Looking at his production and assuming he has rocks for hands wasn’t a very smart connection made by some on NFL Draft Twitter.
Wait, but what about that production?
See, I told you I’d get back to that. The lack of that banner season was a mix of a few things, some are more important than others. One was that he dealt with injuries throughout his college career. The neck injury — which he worked his way back from to train for the combine — and the broken foot that ended his true freshman season essentially ate half of his college career.
There were other contributing factors as to why Metcalf’s career average receiving yards (58.5) and catches (3.2) per game were not of the typical No. 1 receiver variety. One was that he played with a position group loaded with talent (Nasty Wide Outs was one of the more appropriate nicknames ever). A.J. Brown, DaMarkus Lodge and Van Jefferson (who transferred to Florida in 2018) certainly made it difficult for Metcalf to put up video game numbers.
By now, you’re probably thinking that I’m just making excuses for Metcalf. I’m not. And to show that, here’s some real talk.
What Metcalf has in strength, speed and athleticism, he lacks in craftiness and lateral quickness. As Miller and CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli pointed out, the numbers Metcalf put up in the 3-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle left plenty to be desired:
As much as we talked about DK Metcalf's amazing 40, vert and weigh-in we also have to talk about his fail level short shuttle and 3-cone.
A frame that big and that tight cannot bend or change direction–which is an important part of playing wide receiver.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 3, 2019
DK Metcalf’s percentile rankings from the combine are hilarious. He’s the greatest athletic freak on earth….as long as he doesn’t have to change direction. pic.twitter.com/oIw7Upd7o1
— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) March 3, 2019
And that’s why this guy isn’t being considered a top 3 pick. Well, in my opinion, he shouldn’t be.
Metcalf, despite all of those physical tools, is indeed a risk that high in the draft. He didn’t play in an offense where he was the No. 1 option, which if you’re drafted in the top 10, you’re expected to become just that. The perceived lack of mobility is a legitimate concern. Anybody who takes Metcalf is banking on the belief that his route-running will improve as he’s able to stay on the field longer, and that he can do more than just make the spectacular play.
Then how high will he go?
That’s a fascinating question. Every receiver picked in the top 10 in the past 7 drafts had at least 1 season of 1,000 receiving yards (the last one who didn’t was A.J. Green in 2011, but he had 3 seasons of at least 800 yards). That even includes Kevin White.
Metcalf might get some comparisons to the oft-injured receiver out of West Virginia. Each is a physical freak who essentially had 2 seasons worth of college ball before wowing scouts during the pre-draft process. That’s not the comp right now, though. Instead, Metcalf’s Combine numbers at his size are being compared to Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones, both of whom were picked in the top 6 before beginning their All-Pro careers.
The jury is still out on where Metcalf fits in with those comparisons. He’s instantly one of the most intriguing draft prospects in this year’s class, and perhaps even this decade. It’s not a heat-of-the-moment take to say that we’ll remember his Combine performance for years to come. It’s a heat-of-the-moment take to say that he should definitely be picked in the top 3, given all the flaws listed.
But I tend to agree with Kiper that Metcalf will be picked in the top 10. Shoot, John Ross set the 40-yard dash record and got picked No. 9 overall. That was just one drill.
Metcalf treated the Combine like he was the kid with the sketchy birth certificate who struck out every player in Little League. The difference of course being that Metcalf just turned 21 and was actually one of the youngest prospects in Indianapolis. That, plus his work ethic, will certainly work in his favor as the dust settles on his record-setting weekend.
Whoever takes Metcalf will do extensive homework on him, and they’ll know everything I just mentioned about his strengths and weaknesses.
What might be news to them/you? Metcalf also wants to run his own restaurant one day called “Cheesy Goodness,” where “cheese is king and put it on everything.”
There. Now you know all the Metcalf essentials.