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DK Metcalf is in a special place among NFL greats

The company he keeps after 20 games? Whew

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins
tackle me? i don’t think so, no
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

DK Metcalf is not the best receiver in the NFL, despite what his fanboy quarterback says.

If Metcalf were the league’s best, he would have performed like the Hall of Famers who came before him at the wide receiver position. Guys like Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens... you know, those guys. Players who were once called the best in the world, and people nodded instead of raising eyebrows.

If Metcalf were truly special, he would stand up to his most illustrious predecessors in a straight-up statistical comparison of their first 20 games.

If Metcalf were about to contend for All-Pro honors, he would be scoring touchdowns like a young Marvin Harrison and gobbling up yards like a young Larry Fitzgerald. He’d be the next incarnation of Julio Jones, Steve Smith, and/or Andre Johnson.

I’m very glad you mentioned all of them.

Here’s how Metcalf blew out of the water some of the household names and Hall of Famers already named above.

Faster than these legends

Player Rec-Yards-TD Targets Catch%
Player Rec-Yards-TD Targets Catch%
Metcalf 74-1303-10 128 57.8
A. Brown 64-874-1 105 61
B. Marshall 25-361-3 45 61.1
T. Owens 42-686-5 79 53.2
S. Smith 28-460-1 49 57.1
R. Wayne 34-450-1 60 56.7

But they were the slow starters. (Yes, even Antonio Brown and T.O.!) Seven other wide receivers who have been All-Pros since the year 2000 look just like Metcalf after 20 games. And let’s throw in Amari Cooper, who for whatever reason doesn’t get enough love.

Elite company for DK

Player Rec-yards-TD Targets Catch% Yards/tgt
Player Rec-yards-TD Targets Catch% Yards/tgt
Metcalf 74-1303-10 128 57.8 10.2
A. Boldin 121-1520-8 206(!) 58.7 7.4
D. Bryant 77-1078-11 126 61.1 8.6
A. Cooper 92-1388-6 165 55.8 8.4
L. Fitzgerald 85-1148-10 152 55.9 7.6
M. Harrison 87-1058-9 157 55.4 6.7
T. Holt 71-1275-8 123 57.7 10.4
D. Hopkins 70-1093-5 116 60.3 9.4
A. Johnson 83-1331-6 153 54.2 8.7
C. Johnson 67-1048-6 131 51.1 8

It’s more than fair to classify Metcalf as a more efficient young Megatron, a bigger young Fitz, a more explosive Boldin, or the love child of Torry Holt and Dez Bryant. The first two will be in Canton and the rest of them are in the conversation.

Sinking in?

Only three proven WRs from the last quarter century manage to seriously outclass Metcalf in their first 20 games: Moss, Jones, and Michael Thomas.

DK: A man among men

Player Rec-Yards-TD Targets Catch%
Player Rec-Yards-TD Targets Catch%
Metcalf 74-1303-10 128 57.8
Jones 89-1458-13 154 57.8
Thomas 120-1458-11 164 73.2
Moss 82-1556-20 148 55.4

It’s crazy to look back on how quickly Moss took over the league, and long he sustained his peak. That’s who Metcalf is chasing on the stat sheet. Well, Moss, plus currently the league’s best in Thomas, and the guy down in Atlanta who’s been lighting it up all decade long.

Ah, but with one sleight-of-hand trick illusion, I can turn Metcalf and Jones into twins. Look at Jones’s lead in targets. It’s 20 percent higher than Metcalf’s. What if we evened those out? The 2011 Falcons passed the ball 77 times more than the 2019 Seahawks, after all. It’s only fair. Let’s give them both 154 targets and see what happens.


Player Rec-Yards-TD Targets Catch%
Player Rec-Yards-TD Targets Catch%
Metcalf 89-1568-12 154 57.8
Jones 89-1458-13 154 57.8

DK is Julio. Who just so happens to own the most prolific 20-game start between Moss and Thomas. Present and future gold jacket wearers — that’s the company DeKaylin Zecharius Metcalf is keeping so far, in his young, stunning career.

“Best in the world at what he does?” Russell Wilson isn’t right. But he isn’t wrong yet, either.