In this series of articles, our resident tape wizard Greg Cosell will take an in-depth look at some of the more interesting fantasy players for the 2020 NFL season. It’s a peek behind the curtain of the film room, as these are Greg’s raw, unfiltered notes he takes as he watches a player.
It’s possible that inconsistent medical reports led to WR DK Metcalf falling to the late second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, when he was at times talked about as a potential first-round pick. It stands to reason the Seahawks are happy about it, because Metcalf showed quite a bit as a rookie to suggest he can be a meaningful part of their passing game for a long time. But does the tape also show some things he needs to work on?
Metcalf regular-season stats: 58/900/7 (15.5 YPR, 100 targets)
Metcalf postseason stats: two games, 11/219/1 (19.9 YPR, 14 targets)
Metcalf was predominantly the boundary X receiver in the Seahawks offense, in both 11 and 10 personnel. He was also the boundary X on the back side of trips (that was a staple formation for the Seahawks).
Metcalf predominantly lined up on the outside, with his two main alignments being boundary X in base and 3x1 sets, and the #1 to the field in 2x2 sets.
There were snaps in empty sets in which Metcalf aligned in the slot, both in twins and as the #2 to trips – Metcalf’s 28-yard TD versus the Steelers (his first NFL TD) came out of empty with Metcalf as the #2 to trips, he ran a fade to beat safety Terrell Edmunds.
Metcalf showed excellent short-area quickness for a big man, attacking and defeating press coverage. He also showed good separation quickness at the top of his route stem on slants.
Metcalf was featured on quick slants off of RPO concepts. He has the big body and short-area quickness to create separation
Metcalf has strong run-after-catch traits with his size, physicality, and competitiveness. He’s effective on quick slants and screens with that powerful run-after-catch.
Metcalf was featured on vertical routes from the boundary X alignment: Go routes, fades (including back shoulder — 29-yard reception versus Bucs in overtime was a great example). Overall Metcalf ran a high percentage vertical route concepts. He’s effective on fades in the high red zone and just outside the red zone.
As the season progressed, Metcalf’s route tree expanded somewhat, along with different splits. He ran more crossers (both shallow and intermediate), taking advantage of his run-after-catch.
The key with Metcalf is to get him the ball on the move with his size/stride length/speed /physicality profile.
Metcalf showed excellent body control and hands, making tough catches away from his frame and showing the ability to high-point the ball.
It was evident through the first half of the season that Metcalf ran almost all vertical stem routes, working outside the numbers. He also ran slants and speed outs.
Metcalf was featured on some double-move concepts on the outside: stutter-go and sluggo.
I started to see curl routes and stop routes in the second half of the season, routes that attacked and threatened corners vertically with speed off the line of scrimmage and through the stem.
As the season progressed, Metcalf played more snaps off the ball when he was the #1 in 1x3 and 2x2 sets, but he was still predominantly the Seahawks’ boundary X receiver.
What stood out throughout the season was Metcalf ran a high percentage of individual/isolation routes outside the numbers. He was rarely part of two- and three-man route combinations.
Metcalf is a size/stride length/speed receiver at his best running away from coverage, either over the top or on crossers
Metcalf’s game-sealing 36-yard reception versus the Eagles in the playoffs came out of trips bunch with Metcalf the point man in the bunch. It was his only target all season in that formation and location.
Metcalf faced a good amount of press man coverage throughout the season. Separating and winning versus man on intermediate and vertical routes is an area he needs to focus on and improve.
Metcalf is not loose-hipped or shifty, he is a straight-line explosive receiver with outstanding size and speed for a man that big.
My sense with Metcalf is that he will need to develop more detail and nuance as a route runner (especially versus man coverage) if he is to become a more complete NFL WR. Right now he has specific skill sets and traits that are always in high demand (the vertical dimension of the passing game) and will produce explosive plays within the context of the Seahawks offense.
The questions going forward are whether Metcalf can develop a more fully dimensional receiving skill set with more multiple locations and splits, and whether the Seahawks will build upon what he did as a rookie by asking more of him.
Given Metcalf’s overall traits profile, is it unreasonable to ask whether he can develop into a Julio Jones kind of receiver with more experience and more fully dimensional utilization?