Leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, which starts April 25, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down 10 at a time, followed by profiles on our top 30 overall players.
Previous entries: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30. Drew Lock | 29. Deandre Baker | 28. Taylor Rapp | 27. Garrett Bradbury | 26. Dexter Lawrence | 25. Jerry Tillery | 24. Josh Jacobs | 23. Christian Wilkins | 22. Cody Ford | 21. Noah Fant | 20. Andre Dillard | 19. Greedy Williams | 18. Dwayne Haskins | 17. Rashan Gary
16. Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf
6-foot-3, 228 pounds
Key stat: Metcalf caught 26 passes in an injury-shortened 2018 season, but nine of those catches went for 30 yards or longer.
The skinny: DeKaylin "D.K." Metcalf was a top-100, four-star recruit who received offers from all over the country but chose to attend hometown Ole Miss, where his father played. Metcalf found the field right away in 2016, scoring touchdowns in each of his first two college games (his only two catches, for 13 yards) before suffering a broken foot vs. Wofford. He missed the final 10 games of the season and was awarded a medical hardship as a freshman.
As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Metcalf earned All-Freshman honors in the SEC in starting all 12 games and catching 39 passes for 646 yards and seven touchdowns. He was off to another strong start in 2018, catching 26 passes for 569 yards and five TDs in seven starts before suffering a season-ending neck injury.
Metcalf, who turns 22 in December, declared early for the 2019 NFL draft. He worked out fully at the NFL scouting combine (skipping only the 60-yard shuttle) and performed at Ole Miss’ pro day.
Upside: Outstanding dimensions – nearly 35-inch arms, ripped physique, broad frame. Looks impossibly chiseled. Elite straight-line speed for his size (or any size) and terrific strength to win individual matchups and even pose problems for bracket coverage. Most corners will be at a major size/strength disadvantage in single coverage. Absurd catch radius to pluck low, high and off-target throws. High-points the ball beautifully and is almost impossible to defeat in the air. Can make one-handed grabs (see Mississippi State game in 2017) and other circus catches (2017 vs. Vanderbilt).
Very difficult to jam off the line. Strength and burst are too good, and he uses his big, strong hands to swat away corners’ hands.
Explosive speed is visible off the snap – 10-yard split at the NFL scouting combine (1.48 seconds) was the best at the event and historically rare. Gears up quickly and stresses defenses to take away the deep stuff. Still averaged 18.7 yards per catch in the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined, and 21.9 in 2018. Excellent deep-ball tracker.
Difficult to slow down after the catch – a bear to tackle and long strider who can separate quickly. Has the potential to be a quality blocker when the mood strikes. Profiles as a red-zone monster. Adjusts well to balls in the air with great timing, reach and body control.
Terrific NFL bloodlines – father is former Ole Miss and Chicago Bears offensive guard Terrance Metcalf; uncle is former Pro Bowl returner Eric Metcalf; grandfather is former St. Louis Cardinals running back Terry Metcalf. Football has been in his life since birth and he handles himself like a pro already. Good student at Ole Miss.
Downside: Unpolished and unrefined. Relies too heavily on his rare gifts, which worked most of the time even in the SEC, but he’ll need to add more to be dominant in the NFL. Second-best receiver on his college team (behind A.J. Brown) and maybe the third-best route runner (behind Brown and possibly DaMarkus Lodge). Lateral quickness is an issue. Turned in shockingly slow 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle drill times – in the bottom fifth percentile among all combine receivers over the past 20 years in both.
Rare gifts with unpolished skills give off a scary Kevin White vibe. Metcalf to date has been a bit of a one-trick pony. Played almost exclusively as an outside-the-hashes receiver on the left side. Has run a very simple, limited route tree – mostly go routes, hitches, comebacks, curls, slants and posts. Never used on end-arounds and carries little or no special-teams value. Not much versatility to his game.
Hasn’t learned how to set up defensive backs, disguise routes and get in and out of his breaks fluidly. Rigid, right-angle route runner who is mechanical and stiff in the hips at the stem – gears down and loses steam. Hit or miss with sideline and field awareness. Needs to learn to work back to the quarterback better and developing chemistry could take time with his next passer. Drops remain an issue – concentration issues and will body-catch some passes, too. Blocking needs to be improved, both in terms of consistent effort and execution.
Potential medical red flags with injury-littered career. Suffered season-ending broken left foot in 2016 and neck injury (non-spinal) in October 2018, which required season-ending surgery. Some teams might take him off their boards completely if they don’t like what they saw during combine medical evals. Shockingly low body-fat percentage could make him more susceptible to wear and tear – almost too chiseled. Played only 23 of a possible 36 games at Ole Miss.
Best-suited destination: A high-ceiling prospect whose game needs polish, Metcalf will be a fascinating gamble for a team high in the draft. Even with question marks surrounding his health and his lateral quickness, he’s just too gifted not to be one of the first receivers selected. Among the teams that could be especially interested in his services include the Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts.
Fun fact: A hospitality management major, Metcalf has said he wants to attend culinary school and own a restaurant – and he already has the name picked out.
“Cheesy Goodness,” Metcalf said, “where cheese is king and put it on everything.”
They said it: “He looked like Jim Brown. I mean, he’s the biggest wideout I’ve ever seen, and you [have] got to ask yourself, ‘Who’s tackling this guy?’ So, if you’re a 179-pound corner, and you’re tackling a 235-pound back – or a 235-pound wideout or a tight end – you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘Is this what I want to do?’ …
“We had pictures of [Metcalf] with his shirt off, and it made me want to get into the weight room. This guy is really put together, but he shows good elusiveness, good change of direction and I think he is healthy. I think he has been cleared medically, which is the number one thing we wanted to find out.”
— Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden
Player comp: Has the size and explosiveness of Josh Gordon (minus the off-field concerns) and the field-stretching ability of Martavis Bryant
Expected draft range: First round
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