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DK Metcalf (and Tyler Lockett’s) ranking in ESPN’s survey of NFL execs may surprise you

Tyler Lockett is not in the top-10 of wide receivers, but DK Metcalf is.

Carolina Panthers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

We’ve reached the end of ESPN’s survey of NFL executives, coaches, and scouts for the top-10 players at each offensive and defensive position. The Seattle Seahawks had no ranked players on defense, and none on offense prior to Tuesday’s unveiling of the best wide receivers.

Unsurprisingly, Justin Jefferson and Davante Adams are the top two receivers, although some official inexplicably gave Jefferson a 7th place ranking and Adams a 9th place mark. We do get Seahawks representation in this year’s top-10 and it’s not Tyler Lockett, but DK Metcalf. In fact, Metcalf received a bump up from 10th in 2022 to 8th in 2023.

From the ESPN+ article:

8. DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

Highest ranking: 4 | Lowest ranking: Unranked

Age: 25 | Last year’s ranking: 10

Evaluators are a bit torn on Metcalf, who, despite his obvious and massive talent, has surpassed 1,050 receiving yards only once in four seasons.

“I haven’t seen enough,” a high-ranking NFL exec said. “I’m waiting for him to take this step where he consistently plays as good as he looks. To me, not quite there.”

But Metcalf vaulted two spots year over year because of everything he brings to the table. He can break just about any play for 80 yards with his ability to outrun or outmuscle defenders.

And he has produced in the playoffs. Metcalf joins Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss as the only players in postseason history with 450 receiving yards and five touchdowns over their first four playoff games.

“He has improved as a route runner — he doesn’t run the entire route tree, but the routes he does run he’s really good and can rip off a big play at any time,” a veteran NFL defensive coach said. “Really hard to tackle.”

Metcalf is behind his former Ole Miss teammate A.J. Brown, and rounding out the list are Terry McLaurin and CeeDee Lamb, neither of whom were in last year’s top-10.

I should note that all of these rankings are supposed to be on “the best players right now for 2023” and not their potential years down the line or what they’ve accomplished in the past. And yet, Tyler Lockett is not even an honorable mention. He got an “also receiving votes” but the honorable mentions went to Deebo Samuel, Garrett Wilson, Tee Higgins, Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and Mike Evans.

It’s a fascinating debate independent of ESPN’s survey because as good as Metcalf has been, I do not feel like he’s a top-10 receiver yet, and Lockett should definitely be getting more respect than he’s received. As you can tell, the wide receiver position is truly stacked such that I don’t think it’s a must to put Lockett in the top-10, but he has been one of the game’s most efficient and consistent targets. Seattle not being a very high-volume passing attack has, in some respects, hurt Lockett in terms of gaudy 100+ catch statistics, but he’s thrived as a No. 3, No. 2, and No. 1 option throughout his time in the league and his catch rate is nearly 72 percent.

As for DK, I hope the Seahawks can use him more in space than we’ve seen in the past two seasons. His average depth of target has dropped every year of his career, and 2022 was his worst first downs-to-catch rate (52.2%) to date. Getting Metcalf on the move and in areas where his elite speed can be put to great use should be a priority in this year’s offense, and if Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s arrival can take some of the heat off of Metcalf (and Lockett), we could see DK justify his top-10 status and ascend to new heights.