D.K. Metcalf is a monster. That's the first thought that comes to mind when you see him.
But Metcalf is more than just a muscled-up football player. He's a legit wide receiver, arguably the best in this draft class, who is long on potential and in need of some refinement. But in the right system he can flourish -- he's drawn comparisons to Josh Gordon and Terrell Owens.
Metcalf played in just two games as a freshman before he was sideline with a foot injury. In those two appearances he had two catches -- both touchdowns. He played in 12 games in 2017 and logged 39 receptions for 647 yards and seven touchdowns. Metcalf was off to a hot start last season before a neck injury ended his 2018 campaign after seven games. Still, he managed 26 receptions for 569 yards (21.9 YPC) and five scores.
Among all FBS wide receivers, Metcalf ranked 11th in Pro Football Focus' deep-pass-catch-rate metric and was 18th in yards per route run. He was also 127th in drop rate.
Combine/pro day results
34 7/8 inches
9 7/8 inches
Here is Metcalf running the gauntlet drill at the NFL combine:
Strengths: Huge downfield target with an enormous catch radius. Metcalf eats up cushion against cornerbacks and despite poor shuttle and 3-cone drills at the combine, he routinely shows the ability to put the foot in the ground and get and out of breaks. He's good at creating separation with shoulder fakes and blazing speed (see that 4.33 40). He also displays soft hands when hauling in long arcing throws, can high-point the ball on fade routes and has strong hands to fight off physical cornerbacks for the ball.
Here's his one-handed grab on the first play against Alabama that resulted in a 75-yard touchdown. There's a lot to like here:
Ole Miss WR DK Metcalf @dkmetcalf14 went viral last week for being insane shape for the combine.— Jared Tokarz (@NFLDraftInsider) February 20, 2019
The physically opposing 6'4 225lb WR also runs some good looking routes. Here he gets off the line well, shakes the CB,& makes a nice outreached grab for TD vs. Alabama pic.twitter.com/c7VnPydSeA
Weaknesses: We mentioned the drops above -- are those concentration-related or indicative of a bigger issue? Metcalf also has struggled with injuries -- he played in just two games in 2016 and seven last season. Then there are the poor 3-cone and shuttle times at the combine. But here's the thing: If you watch him play, it's clear he can get off press coverage and in and out of his breaks.
I can’t believe this need clarifying again. But for those who question D.K. Metcalf’s ability to beat press coverage because of his poor short shuttle time, pay attention to the outside left WR on all of these plays.— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) March 3, 2019
He’s a dominant force through the contact window: pic.twitter.com/pVdTMH4lcK
Demaryius Thomas. Let me start by writing Metcalf has more juice than Thomas, but the latter was certainly not a plodder in his prime. Thomas began his career as a large, athletic specimen with a raw game, and it showed. His first two seasons in Denver were pedestrian at their very best. As he learned the intricacies of running routes, Thomas erupted with five-consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Even as he matured in the NFL, Thomas was best used as a bubble screen, slant, and go-route wideout, and that's precisely how Metcalf needs to be featured to tap into every ounce of his massive talent. Like Thomas too, Metcalf will have the occasional bad drop but come down with circus grabs downfield.
NFL teams in play to draft Metcalf
Bills: Is Metcalf a top-10 pick? That's what NFL teams will have to figure out before the draft. There is so much to like about his game but he's also raw; he'll need time to grow into a role. But Buffalo has the No. 9 overall pick and if they want to get Josh Allen an explosive downfield threat, Metcalf would make some sense. Complicating matters: The team signed John Brown in free agency.
Redskins: Washington needs a lot of help on offense. Case Keenum isn't the long-term answer at quarterback but he'll need somebody to throw to. And that could be Metcalf, who could be on the board at No. 15.
Giants: They traded Odell Beckham for the No. 17 pick, a third-rounder and Jabrill Peppers. If New York addresses edge rusher at No. 6, it could look for Beckham's replacement with the 17th selection. Metcalf is undoubtedly a downfield threat but he'll need time to grow into that offense, and time is one thing the Giants don't have.
Steelers: Who will step up in a post-Antonio Brown world? The team signed Donte Moncrief but Metcalf would give Roethlisberger another big deep threat.
Ravens: Baltimore's search for a legit No. 1 receiver continues. And while they're moving to a run-first offense with Lamar Jackson, he has proven capable of throwing the ball. Not only that, a deep threat like Metcalf only makes the rushing attack more formidable.