67 career receptions for D.K. Metcalf
For most of the draft season, Mississippi's D.K. Metcalf has been the top receiver in the class. Once Metcalf ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, it likely secured his spot for many evaluators. However, some people also are worried about Metcalf's lack of production in college.
During his three years at Ole Miss, Metcalf totaled only 67 career receptions in 21 games. His best season ever came in 2017, when he caught 39 passes in 12 starts. On the surface, that is concerning, as players with his lack of production usually aren't drafted early. Since the NFL Draft became seven rounds long, only three receivers were selected in the first round after catching less than 70 passes in college:
2002 - Javon Walker (65)
2013 - Cordarrelle Patterson (46)
2005 - Matt Jones (0)
Patterson was mostly used as a running back in college, while Jones was exclusively a quarterback at Arkansas. Both were picked early because of their freakish athleticism. Walker went on to have the best career of the three, making the Pro Bowl in 2004. However, as you can see, players with this limited of production just aren’t selected early very often.
But none of those three players were as gifted a receiver as Metcalf, who was incredibly productive while he was on the field, averaging 18.3 yards per reception. He also was forced to share the ball in the same offense with A.J. Brown and Dawson Knox, two players also likely to be early draft picks, if not first-rounders.
But the biggest reason Metcalf lacked college production was that he dealt with injuries throughout his career. Metcalf missed the final four-plus games of the 2018 season with a neck injury. As a freshman, he only played two games as he suffered a foot injury that ended his season. Talent has never been the issue with Metcalf; it's just his sketchy injury history that makes me nervous.
In the NFL, don't expect Metcalf to be a player with high reception totals. It would be surprising if he ever had a season with more than 80 catches. Where he is going to make his money is as a down-the-field weapon that can make big plays at any given time. Expect the low reception total but high yards-per-catch average to continue in the NFL.