- A pass-happy NFL is awfully happy with how the wide receiver draft class is shaping up, from D.K. Metcalf’s headlining combine performance to the quiet emergence of second-tier stars like N’Keal Harry. And it was a rough combine week for free agent wideouts hoping to get paid.
On the Monday Morning NFL Podcast, Jenny Vrentas and Gary Gramling analyzed the overlooked wide receiver class including the good and bad of D.K. Metcalf, some potential Day 2 stars, and why it’s all bad news for free-agent wideouts…
GARY: One thing Andy and I talk on the show a lot about—and I forget who told him this—but the quote was like, “The offensive linemen can’t block the pass rushers and the defensive backs can’t guard the receivers and that’s what you have to build your scheme around.” We see all the pass rushers coming in, but the receiver class—we heard a lot during the fall that the receiver class wasn’t going to be great but it seems so deep and it seems to have so many guys who you’d look at and say, “If this guy does pan out, he’s going to be a No. 1 receiver.” So you figure you’re going to end up with a handful of really good playmakers coming out of this class.
JENNY: I thought the same thing, Gary. It does seem to be very deep. The talk leading up was that, “Oh, well it depends on what style you want. Are there going to be enough good guys at the top?” But I think if you need a receiver, you do have a lot of options. There were seven guys who ran sub-4.4s which is crazy. There’s slot guys, there’s big physical guys. Style-wise, you’ve got Metcalf and then you’ve got Hollywood Brown, which are like opposite ends of the spectrum style-wise, but both equally fast. I do think there are some decent options at receiver. It doesn’t look like the strongest class at the top, but it’s not a bad year to need one.
GARY: And you mention the seven sub-4.4 40s, and Marquise Brown didn’t run because of the foot surgery so that probably would’ve been eight. D.K. Metcalf stole the show. He looks like Popeye immediately after he eats the spinach and crazy things are going on with his body, but that’s how his body is permanently. He was really good in the straight-line stuff, really good in the explosive stuff. He actually performed quite poorly in the short shuttle and cone drill, the change of direction, short-area quickness stuff. I don’t know how well-rounded he has a chance to become at the next level. Andy and I did a show last week about how you define a No. 1 receiver at this point in the league—I don’t know if Metcalf is going to have a full route tree at any point. But, obviously, when you run like that and you’re as powerful as he is, there’s a spot for you to be a major threat in this league.
JENNY: That’s a great point. There are routes he’s not going to run. He’s not quite as comprehensive in that regard. I think another question with him is how comfortable you are with the medical. Obviously he’s been cleared, but do you have any reservations about the neck injury that ended his season? Really, you’re working off of one full season in college of really good productivity. What Jon Gruden said is what a lot of coaches see is this guy’s going to be hard to tackle. Remember John Ross, right? Blazing fast and that obviously has not turned out, but I think Metcalf’s different. Think about Metcalf running toward you and trying to bring him down, which is what Gruden said. He compared him to Jim Brown, which is absurd because it’s such a lofty comparison.
GARY: At the very least—and I know Metcalf didn’t have return experience at Ole Miss—but it’s a Cordarrelle Patterson thing. It’s a very large, very fast man coming at you.
JENNY: One thing I’ll say is: I do not believe the body fat is actually below 2%. I asked around a little bit and I think it’s medically not possible. Obviously he’s incredibly fit and I’m not trying to take away from that. They test these guys using these “Bod Pods” which apparently have a couple percentage points of error in them so it’s most likely not below 2.
GARY: I was going to say, I didn’t think he could possibly be alive with what, a 1.6?
JENNY: Which he later corrected to a 1.9, but I’m going to say it’s around 3. That’s my guess.
GARY: Which is embarrassing.
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GARY: There was a report from Terez Paylor at Yahoo! earlier in the week that Golden Tate and Adam Humphries were looking for $10 million-plus annually on the open market as free agents. This had to be a horrible weekend for them to see these receivers working out. If you’re looking for slot guys—and Tate’s not purely slot but he falls into that slot/gadget type role—but you look around at Day 2 slot guys, Mecole Hardman out of Georgia, Andy Isabella out of UMass, A.J. Brown is a big slot, Parris Campbell is maybe more of a gadget guy at this point in his career, but there are guys you can basically get for a tenth of that free-agent price if you get them in the draft. This was not a great week to be a free agent receiver.
JENNY: Talking to people leaving the workouts, you encounter some people that have a franchise quarterback so they weren’t looking at quarterbacks, only the receivers. The people that I talked to were really excited by what they saw from the receivers. You mentioned Campbell, one of many Ohio State receivers that performed well, and I think N’Keal Harry really impressed at the combine. There was one absurd catch that he had, one-handed bounced off the turf, you could hear some audible reactions to the things he did.
GARY: I did want to mention N’Keal Harry. Our Jonathan Jones had written about him and he has a nice backstory, and I don’t want to get carried away because a nice backstory doesn’t affect how good you are as a player. When I watched him at Arizona State—not that he’s going to be this guy—but I always thought DeAndre Hopkins when I watched him. He really doesn’t separate but he’s so acrobatic and his hands are so strong and he’s so competitive. It’s tough. It’s such a fine line for contested-catch specialists like this going from the college level to the NFL level, but I feel he has such an incredible understanding of how to leverage defensive backs at the catch point and basically, just overall, his ability to play with someone on his back. Then he went out and ran a 4.53. A lot of people thought he was going to run in the 4.6s. I kind of feel like he ran himself back into the first-round conversation. I hate getting carried away with the, “He ran this and therefore he really raised his stock,” but it was a red flag for him and I think if he ran a 4.65 or 4.7, you would’ve seen him Day 2, but I think he’s back in the Day 1 conversation.
JENNY: Absolutely. That 40 time was exactly what he needed and you don’t want to put too much stock into it, but teams like him because of his ball skills and the plays he’s able to make and then to additionally add that speed to it was a huge plus for him.
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