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Was Last Season a Fluke or a Sign of a Breakout?

DK Metcalf had an unbelievable start to the 2019 NFL combine. He measured in at 6’3 228 pounds of pure muscle and had a 4.33 forty yard dash time which ranked in the 99th percentile of runners. He put up 27 reps on the bench press as well which is a ridiculously impressive number for a wide receiver. Metcalf was very quickly emerging as a potential first round prospect. He looked like the best wide receiver in the class to some. Then the three cone drill happened. He ran a 7.38 second time which, to put it into perspective, was slower than Tom Brady’s combine number. The drill tends to show how agile a prospect is which is an important aspect of route running. Metcalf was already known as a raw route runner and this number seemingly limited his ceiling. It didn’t help that his calculated agility score after the combine was in the 4th percentile of players. That is an awful number especially for a wide receiver. Despite having a speed and burst score in the 99th percentile, a catch radius in the 91st percentile and a breakout age of 19.7 (72nd percentile) Metcalf’s agility drills tanked his draft stock completely.

Metcalf fell all the way to the second round of the NFL draft to the Seattle Seahawks. Rookies tend to have up-and-down seasons in their transitions to the pros and wide receivers specifically always have a ton of difficulty adapting at first. However, Metcalf had a very notable season getting 58 receptions for 900 yards and 7 touchdowns. He ranked 14th in red zone targets and had a target share of 29.41% which ranked 26th in the entire NFL. Metcalf was emerging as a very solid receiving option despite his very limited route tree. He was able to accrue 900 receiving yards without really being a complete wide receiver. His draft stock for this season has risen immensely as a result. He is being drafted just in front of teammate Tyler Lockett as the WR23. Metcalf finished as the WR33 last season so it isn’t the biggest jump ever if you think about it that way.

I am a little skeptical of the fact that Metcalf will, indeed, make this huge expected jump. For instance, Metcalf only had 1.34 yards of separation per route in 2019 which ranked 80th in the league. He had eight drops which was sixth in the league. Fortunately, he had a high contested catch percentage at 47.6% which was 14th in the NFL. Metcalf relies on his speed and physical advantages to get receptions. He is not, and may never be, a good route runner. One offseason is not going to turn a very below average route runner into an elite one. That is expecting far too much. It does not help Metcalf at all that he plays for the Seahawks who ran the ball the sixth most in 2019 at 45.66%. It is not a pass heavy team in the slightest.

So what should we expect for Metcalf in 2020? Well I think he has the potential to be a WR2 in 2020 but I would prefer to draft him as the third wide receiver on my team. Considering his lack of route running, teams will adapt to how he plays given that there is now a full year of tape on him. His development of skill as a receiver can and will determine whether Metcalf takes the jump we are all hoping he can take this year. Will this weird, COVID-19 filled offseason have an impact on Metcalf’s development? No one can be sure and the risk he carries this season could be somewhat high given his ADP. Can you trust him as your WR2? Maybe but I would suggest getting a guy like Boyd or Landry after him to ensure that you can absorb if Metcalf busts in 2020.



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