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2019 NFL Draft Prospect: D.K. Metcalf

D.K. Metcalf could be the biggest mystery in the entire 2019 wide receiver class. At 6 feet 4 inches, 230 pounds, he has the prototypical frame that NFL scouts envision when searching for the next dominant outside wide receiver. But a string of injuries has severely limited his college production. Should dynasty owners be willing to spend an early first-round rookie pick this summer on Metcalf?

THE EARLY YEARS

As one of the top-ranked high school WRs in the 2016 recruiting class, Metcalf had offers from several Power Five schools, eventually enrolling at Ole Miss in June of 2016. As a true freshman he caught a touchdown in each of his first two games before a foot injury ended his season. He was granted a medical redshirt from the NCAA but it was a disappointing end to a promising first season.

2017 AND BEYOND

Metcalf’s production increased in 2017 but it was uneven at times. He had seven games with less than 50 yards receiving with four of his seven TDs coming in just two games. Despite finishing third in yards receiving (646) behind A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge it was good to see Metcalf make it through an entire season healthy.

With at least 80 yards receiving and a TD in each of his first four games in 2018, Metcalf appeared destined for a monster redshirt sophomore season. But a neck injury in Week 7 against Arkansas cut yet another season short. In seven games prior to his injury, Metcalf accounted for 23 percent of Mississippi’s receiving yards and TDs and was on pace for a 70-1,040-10 season-long receiving line.

DRAFT PROSPECT

Metcalf’s substantial injury history makes his evaluation problematic right off the bat. Those solely focused on counting stats will be no doubt be disappointed. But we do have methods that add context and nuance when faced with this type of analysis. Anthony Amico discussed the importance of breakout age and how it relates to future fantasy production. Without a breakout season to his name, Metcalf obviously misses the first threshold on Amico’s regression tree. But the combination of his career per-game TD production and yards per reception metrics land him in the best possible cohort considering his lack of dominance:

AB07611C-3BAE-4AA3-8A24-79C40A77B627

Historical prospects with similar profiles have produced at least one WR2 or better finish in their first three NFL seasons 33 percent of the time. Metcalf’s final-year age (21) is another reason to like him as a prospect. Blair Andrews showed that WRs who enter the league at a younger age have an advantage over their older counterparts:

9766D5AF-AAE4-4737-B128-A9FF30B144D5

Draft position is another crucial aspect that needs to be addressed. If Metcalf does get drafted early, as some mock drafts have suggested could be the case, it would significantly improve his outlook based on historical data:

RoundWRs DraftedAgeCareer Catches/gameCareer Yards/gameCareer TD/gameCareer PPR/game16 game PPR pace
13921.643.8453.660.3511.33181.35
24221.813.0540.280.258.61137.76
35222.422.4031.580.206.75107.93
44622.521.9224.860.125.1282.00
53822.451.5720.930.114.3469.51
64822.492.0325.870.155.5087.93
75722.751.3816.560.093.5857.30

The red flags surrounding Metcalf are obvious. An extensive injury history and poor production profile are enough to make me question his long-term outlook. But his age and potential draft position make him difficult to write off entirely. All that said, I’ll probably have Metcalf ranked lower than the general consensus and let another owner pay a premium for unknown upside.

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