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Concerns about D.K. Metcalf’s NFL readiness overblown

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Mississippi v Texas Tech Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

As Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft wore on, Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf continued the slide that had seen him fall out of the first day of the draft. Many analysts and observers opined that it was due to his poor 3-cone and 20-yard shuttle at the NFL Combine, combined with injury concerns. The front office of the Seattle Seahawks, however, could not sit back and resist the temptation to make the moves necessary to add the intriguing prospect to the roster.

While the injury concerns for Metcalf remain unchanged following the draft, the simple fact is that the Seahawks added a player whose skills and abilities are a near perfect match for the offense the Hawks run. Anyone who has been a regular reader knows my disdain for the simplicity of the offense Seattle ran in 2018, but there are two things that can overcome simplicity: execution and outperformance.

One can argue all day about the ability of a team to execute consistently in the face of NFL level competition, but there is no debating the fact that certain weapons for which defenses do not have an answer can be unstoppable. Doug Baldwin’s ability to gain a free release off the line of scrimmage, Tyler Lockett’s ability to find the open space on a scramble drill and the ability of receivers like Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson to present mismatches nearly anywhere on the field.

That all said, the thing about the Hawks adding Metcalf is that the routes he runs well - go routes and curls - are the routes that he will be asked to run the most while playing on the outside in Brian Schottenheimer’s offense. The amount of NFL tracking data available on David Moore’s 2018 season is fairly limited, but there is some through the NFL Next Gen Stats page. Even with the limited amount of data available on Moore’s 2018 routes, it’s not difficult to see that Metcalf’s shortcomings in change of direction and lack of experience running the full route tree should not be a major issue in the Seattle offense.

Basically, there’s not a lot of sharp change of direction in many of those routes, and this is the role that Metcalf will be asked to fill. However, in the videos that were released of the first day of rookie mini camp Friday, it’s easy to see how much better Metcalf’s change of direction is compared to some others.

Specifically, in watching the video, pay attention to Metcalf, who is the first receiver to run through the drill, and then compare his footwork to that of the fifth and final receiver, Jazz Ferguson. Ferguson is a 6’5”, 228 pound undrafted free agent out of Northwestern State, a Division I FCS program where he posted 66 catches for 1,117 yards and 13 touchdowns during the 2018 season.

Compared to a polished NFL receiver like Doug Baldwin, Metcalf’s footwook still needs work, but when contrasted with that of Ferguson, it’s readily apparent how much more NFL ready Metcalf is compared to Ferguson.

Of course, as noted, any deficiency in Metcalf’s route running as a rookie can largely be hidden by the combination of facts that the Hawks outside receivers are not asked to run a highly complex route tree, and Metcalf’s insane physical build and abilities.

In short, the Seahawks may have had to trade up to the 64th pick in order to acquire Metcalf, but it still could end up as the steal of the draft, simply because of the threat he presents on the field immediately.