By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — He’s too big! He can’t run routes! He’s a body builder, not an athlete! He won’t be able to get himself open against NFL defensive backs!
These were just some of the many critiques hurled at the hulking wide receiver known as D.K. Metcalf during NFL draft season last spring. A player who went viral for being humongous, the critics were not difficult to find with regard to the Ole Miss product’s potential as an NFL wide receiver. And when he went to the combine and looked less agile than your standard coffee table, the story of Metcalf had officially been written.
Huge dude. Can’t move. Not. Gonna. Work.
And so, when draft weekend rolled around, the Ravens and Patriots used first-round picks on wide receivers; neither opted for Metcalf. The Niners, Titans, Chiefs, Eagles, Colts and Cardinals all picked receivers in the second round; none were named D.K. Metcalf.
Finally, at the very end of that round, the unconventional Seahawks, led by a 67-year-old Pete Carroll who ripped off his own shirt when meeting with Metcalf, picked the receiver they felt could be a difference-maker.
Metcalf was the ninth receiver taken in the draft. As he gets ready to head to Green Bay next weekend, it’s likely he and the team are both quite happy with the way things worked out.
On the flip side, most of the teams who picked other wide receiver might be regretting their choice to pass up on the 6-foot-4, 229-pound Metcalf. Or, as Marshawn Lynch recently described him: “A big-ass dude that can move.”
Metcalf caught four passes for 89 yards in his NFL debut. He had three for 61 and a touchdown the next week. By the end of the year, he’d finish the season with 58 receptions for 900 yards and seven touchdowns.
That all set the stage for his playoff debut on Sunday in Philadelphia, when he was simply unstoppable.
In a game where offense was hard to come by, Metcalf was the savior for Russell Wilson and Seattle. He was targeted nine times, catching seven of them for 160 yards.
Metcalf scored Seattle’s lone airborne touchdown of the game, and he also secured the game-sealing 36-yard catch on a third-and-10 in the final minutes.
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) January 6, 2020
This is what a game-winning play looks like:
He had a 24-yard grab to help set up a field goal, and he had a 26-yard catch on a Seattle touchdown drive. His touchdown was a 53-yard bomb, where Metcalf had the awareness to pop off the turf and lunge for the end zone.
D.K. Metcalf… He's just not fair.
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) January 5, 2020
As a result of that tour de force, the spotlight was turned on the rest of the NFL for passing up on Metcalf once or twice in last year’s draft. The light shone extra bright on most of the teams who picked other receivers instead of Metcalf.
In some cases — like Baltimore and Tennessee — the picks were more than fine. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown caught 46 passes for 584 yards and seven touchdowns as part of Baltimore’s relentless offense. A.J. Brown caught 52 passes for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns for the Titans. Those two teams will be meeting in the divisional round next weekend.
Likewise, San Francisco feels good about Deebo Samuel, whom they drafted at No. 36 overall. He caught 57 passes for 802 yards and three touchdowns as part of the top-seeded Niners.
Mecole Hardman’s numbers were slightly muted — compared to the others — in Kansas City, but he was still an impact player, catching 26 passes for 538 yards and six touchdowns. His 20.7-yard reception average was best in the NFL among players with at least 10 receptions. He also returned punts and kicks, breaking a 104-yard kick return for a touchdown in Week 17.
The rest of the pack? Well … it’s not very spectacular.
N’Keal Harry, Patriots, No. 32 overall
7 games played
12 receptions, 105 yards, 2 TDs
5 rushes, 49 yards
Playoffs: 2 receptions, 21 yards
JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Eagles, No. 57 overall
16 games playd
10 receptions, 169 yards, 1 TD
Playoffs: Zero receptions, zero targets, 12 snaps
Parris Campbell, Colts, No. 59 overall
7 games played
18 receptions, 127 yards, 1 TD
4 rushes, 34 yards, 1 TD
Andy Isabella, Cardinals, No. 62 overall
15 games played
9 receptions, 189 yards, 1 TD
4 rushes, 15 yards
If you combine the stats of all four of those players drafted before Metcalf, you get 49 receptions, you get 590 yards, and you get five touchdowns. Those four players account for 66 percent of Metcalf’s yardage and 56 percent of his touchdowns.
Of course, each player was put into a different system and given different opportunities. Some dealt with injuries, some had better quarterbacks than others, etc., etc., etc. In the case of the Patriots, it’s fair to surmise that Metcalf’s stats would not have gotten quite so bloated in New England, on account of the steep learning curve that tends to serve as a massive hurdle for basically every rookie receiver in this era.
And with Metcalf’s season continuing into next week against a mediocre Packers passing defense, it’s likely that he’s going to make those teams — plus all the other teams who passed on him while not drafting a wide receiver — feel some regret with their choices from last April.
“I think falling to the second round was the best thing that happened to me,” Metcalf said in his postgame on-field interview Sunday, “because I have a chip on my shoulder every time I play.”