The biggest athletic freak in the 2019 wide receiver draft class is out for the season with a neck injury.
Ole Miss' D.K. Metcalf hurt his neck in the team's 37-33 win over Arkansas, and head coach Matt Luke announced Monday the 6-foot-4, 230-pound wideout would miss the remainder of the year, per The Clarion-Ledger.
Luke stated that although the injury would require surgery, "long-term, he's going to be fine."
Metcalf has rare ability for his size. His large, muscular frame is reminiscent of most slower, possession receivers, but he's the exact opposite of that type of wideout.
Overview and comparison
In his two seasons as a regular contributor for Ole Miss, Metcalf recorded 67 receptions for 1,228 yards -- good for a hefty 18.3 yards-per-catch average -- with 12 touchdowns. He averaged more than 20 yards per grab in eight of the 19 contests he played for the Rebels since the start of 2017.
Metcalf was essentially Ole Miss' only offense in the blowout loss to Alabama this year, as he shook a Crimson Tide corner at the line and caught a 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.
Also, the large receiver has seven catches of 50-plus yards over the past two seasons.
Metcalf is undoubtedly one of college football's most intimidating downfield threats. He's not only a burner. Metcalf has consistently showcased impressive wiggle in the open field and plus contact balance when absorbing hits in the open field. Unsurprisingly, he's a capable high-pointer as well.
My comparison for Metcalf is Josh Gordon, another tall, physical receiver with impressive athleticism and serious speed to take the top off any defense.
Should he stay or should he go?
As of last week, I had Metcalf asin the 2019 Draft class. Because of his ridiculous size-athleticism combination and production, I've had him as the first receiver off the board in my last three mock drafts.
Another year at Ole Miss would probably lock Metcalf into the Round 1 of the 2020 Draft, when he'd be 22.3 years old, around the normal age for a rookie in the NFL. But I don't think it's totally out of the question for him to go within the first 32 selections in the 2019 Draft. Of course that'll hinge on the severity of his injury, and how he checks out with independent and team doctors during the pre-draft process. If healthy enough to participate, he'll have a huge combine.
Beyond the medicals, some clubs will be skeptical of Metcalf due to his lack of experience, as he appeared in only 19 games in a sizable role for the Rebels.
Could the fallout from the injury and inexperience lead to him landing in Round 2 or even Round 3? Absolutely. And being the last pick in Round 1 compared to being the last pick in Round 3 is the difference of a little more than $6 million over the life of a four-year NFL rookie contract. Metcalf's coach stating the receiver be fine in the long-term is tremendous news. Remember, the football playing career of Miami's star wideout Ahmmon Richards ended just over a week ago due to a neck injury.
Totally ignoring the fact that I'll never fault a prospect for going pro for money purposes, if Metcalf isn't cleared for the combine -- or even his pro day -- I don't think returning to Ole Miss would be the worst idea. And if he has a similar season in 2019 to the one he was having in 2018, he'd likely battle Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr. to be the first receiver taken in the 2020 Draft.
Impact on the 2019 receiver draft class
Even if Metcalf decides to return to Ole Miss for another season, with his teammate A.J. Brown, Arizona State's N'Keal Harry, NC State's Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers, Stanford's JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Buffalo's Anthony Johnson, Oklahoma's Marquise Brown among a few other sleepers, the 2019 receiver draft class would still be loaded.
It's the most stacked wideout class since the epic collection in 2014 that featured Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Davante Adams, Jarvis Landry, John Brown, and Martavis Bryant.
In fact, despite Metcalf's towering presence, the 2019 receiver draft class will likely feature a plethora of tall, matchup nightmares. Harry, Harmon, Arcega-Whiteside, Johnson along with Texas' Collin Johnson and Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Iowa State's Hakeem Butler, Penn State's Juwan Johnson, and West Virginia's David Sills are all listed at 6-2 or taller.
However, none are as chiseled as Metcalf and only a few seemingly possess as much natural athleticism as the Ole Miss pass-catcher.