D.K. Metcalf‘s fall to the end of the second round was one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 NFL Draft. Early in the offseason, he was projected to be one of the first wide receivers off the board in late April, but concerns about his route-running versatility and agility caused his stock to tumble. In a touching YouTube video posted by the Seahawks that showed Metcalf getting the call from the team, the Ole Miss product tearfully asked Pete Carroll why they waited so long to draft him.
A few months later, Metcalf didn’t wait very long to make his mark in the pros, torching the Bengals for 89 yards on four receptions in his first career game. He didn’t stop there and finished his rookie season with 58 catches for 900 yards and seven touchdowns, making defenders — and opposing GMs — look silly in the process.
Among rookie WRs who played six or more games, Metcalf ranked:
- Third in targets per game
- Sixth in receptions per game
- Fourth in receiving yards per game
- Fourth in fantasy points per game
- Third in expected points per game (reEP)
- Seventh in per-game efficiency (reFPOE)
He finished the season with 21.5 reFPOE, a fantastic sign for his career outlook given what Blair Andrews has shown about the importance of rookie-year efficiency at WR.
Going into Year 2, fantasy players are expecting Metcalf to build on what he accomplished in his rookie campaign, as he is being drafted as the WR21 in early best ball drafts — 14 spots ahead of his WR35 finish by PPG in 2019.
Are we getting too excited about a guy who might not even be the WR1 on his own (low-volume) offense, or is Metcalf on the verge of a sophomore breakout?
Using inputs of volume, production, efficiency, age, draft position, size, and games played, I used the RotoViz Screener to identify players who looked similar to Metcalf after their rookie season.
I’m going to have to ask you to sit down before I show you this, because it’s pretty wild.
On that list, you’ve got two likely Hall of Famers in Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald and one of the more dominant WRs of the last decade in Dez Bryant. Jordan Matthews and Torrey Smith are obviously nowhere near those other three names, but both of them have posted multiple fantasy-relevant seasons. I don’t think you could realistically ask for a more impressive list of comps.
Braylon Edwards, Calvin Johnson, and Dwayne Bowe are the next three names on the list. Put simply, Metcalf’s rookie season places him right up there with some of the best WRs of the last 20 years.
That’s great and all, but we’re more interested in how Metcalf is going to perform next year. His comps should have you drooling over his career prospects, but how were they in Year 2?
How Did They Do in Year 2?
Outstanding. Smith had the worst season out of his top-five comps, and he still finished with a 49/855/8 line and 11.5 fantasy points per game, good for a WR25 finish in PPR that year. Think about that: The worst of Metcalf’s top-five comps still finished as the WR25. His other four comps all averaged at least 14.0 PPG, and Fitzgerald had one of the best sophomore seasons ever en route to an overall WR2 finish. On the whole, these five averaged 4.8 receptions, 67.4 yards, and 14.7 fantasy points per game. Those numbers would have been good for the WR22 on a per-game basis in 2019, and you’re probably a pretty happy camper if Metcalf goes out and does that next year.
What to Expect from Metcalf in 2020
Metcalf and teammate Tyler Lockett are currently being picked right next to each other in early best ball drafts, but the former’s comps indicate he could be on the verge of something truly special. While Seattle is one of the most run-heavy teams in the league, Russell Wilson ensures that his WRs will finish the year with more fantasy points than their volume would suggest; in fact, the Seahawks have finished in the top-eight in team WR Fantasy Points Over Expectation Per Attempt (reFPOEPA) in four of the last five seasons, including two first-place finishes. That, combined with the research Blair has done about the importance of rookie-year efficiency, makes it seem likely that Metcalf will continue to post above-average efficiency, and said efficiency should lead to an increase in volume as well. Long story short, Metcalf possesses absolutely massive upside in the fifth round of fantasy football drafts.