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Rookie Spotlight - D.K. Metcalf


The Seahawks appeared to pull off a very nifty move in the 2019 NFL Draft when they traded up to the 64th pick to nab Mississippi WR D.K. Metcalf.

Widely regarded as one of the top wideouts available, there was much speculation he would be picked in the first round. When he started to drop to the end of the second, Seattle made an aggressive and admirable move to get the sizable target they needed for Russell Wilson.

Now that Metcalf has found a new home, what should fantasy football owners expect from this uber-athlete?

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An Outstanding Pedigree

Metcalf is listed at 6-3, 228 and possesses a rare blend of size, weight and speed that could make him a unique and outstanding player in the pros. He has drawn comparisons to Demaryius Thomas, Josh Gordon and even Julio Jones and Terrell Owens at best, and Dorial Green-Beckham from other perspectives. There is no disputing his athletic abilities that can make him a possible star and a fantasy standout, but there are also concerns that he is raw in some areas and injuries could be an issue as he embarks on his NFL career.

Metcalf comes from a football family, as his grandfather Terry was a well-known Cardinals RB and his father Terrance played guard for the Chicago Bears. Many current NFL fans will certainly and fondly recall his uncle, electrifying kick returner Eric Metcalf. So you would have to believe with a strong football family background, he will be ready for the pros from a mental perspective.

The skills are tantalizing when you watch Metcalf on film. For a big target, he certainly plays with the outstanding skills of a smaller, explosive playmaker. He has great separation speed and can make spectacular grabs. He can wipe out a cushion and get downfield in a hurry for big gainers. Those types of abilities should mesh ideally with Russell Wilson, who is superb on deep throws, especially off play action fakes.

 

Fitting in With the 'Hawks

Wilson really needed a big target in the passing game, it was a missing piece in his arsenal regardless of the status of Doug Baldwin. Metcalf may have been drafted anyway even if the Seahawks did not face significant questions about Baldwin’s immediate future with talk of a potential retirement. He was not drafted to replace Baldwin. He was selected to add a needed dimension to the Seattle passing game. Jimmy Graham caught 10 TD passes in 2017 but was unreliable outside the goal line area. Dabbling with has-beens such as Brandon Marshall was not the answer, either.

The Seahawks needed a sizable pass-catcher for important downs and throwing situations near the goal line. Metcalf’s other notable talents as a speed merchant made him even more of a well-rounded prospect for Seattle. Don’t be surprised to see Metcalf get frequent targets inside the 10-yard line very early in his career. Seattle has established a very effective run game near the goal line, but adding the threat of short-range TD passes to a big target makes the team even better in scoring situations. I would not be surprised to see Metcalf catch 6-8 TD passes as a rookie.

Metcalf does not come without concerns, though, and consistency could be an issue for Fantasy players if they roster him in 2019. His route running needs work, and drops have also been a problem. He could even have more scoring potential right away if positioning and some footwork fundamentals did not need polishing as well. But he does have a very positive QB situation, and Wilson should be throwing more this season after last year’s Wild Card loss at Dallas indicated Seattle needed to willingly display more offensive balance when it counted most.

 

2019 Outlook

If we take Baldwin out of the picture for 2019, Tyler Lockett figures to catch more passes and score less often than last season, but he is not a pure possession WR by any means. David Moore has sleeper potential, as Pete Carroll indicated to me last season that they like him a lot internally and now he has an opportunity to step forward. Metcalf can be a wild card as the initial third receiver and fellow rookie Gary Jennings projects as a possession type. But he cannot be asked to be a dependable target right away as he adapts to the pros.

All of Seattle’s top three projected WRs without Baldwin have significant downfield playmaking abilities, which means the deep ball, on which Wilson is so adept, could become an even bigger part of the offense in 2019. Finding a high percentage, reliable Baldwin type on key passing downs could be a challenge, though. That could lead to some ups and downs on offense if drives stall out. None of the top three WRs are types to make frequent high percentage catches.

Metcalf also suffered season-ending injuries in two college seasons, to his foot in 2016 and his neck in 2018. So, health appears to be something that fantasy players will have to keep in mind as a potential item to consider when making a draft call between Metcalf and another similarly ranked player.

Only New England’s N’Keal Harry, though, who immediately enters a prime situation as a needed immediate impact performer for Tom Brady, should be taken over Metcalf in WR rookie drafts. Metcalf has a great combination of upside and a great QB situation. He could eventually develop into a Fantasy WR1 if he polishes up his initial pro concerns and stays healthy.

As a rookie, Metcalf could have some impressive outings, but he will have his ups and downs. I initially project about 55 receptions for 850 yards with a handful of touchdowns, making him fantasy-relevant even in re-draft leagues.