2020 Fantasy Football: Why You Should Draft D.K. Metcalf

by Kevin Huo
2021 Fantasy Football Targets & Touches Week 14

What if I told you you could win your 2020 Fantasy Football league in the 5th round? All you have to do is draft one player who already has premium production, near-guaranteed improvement based on historical references, and an expanding role in his offense.

I'm talking about D.K. Metcalf.

You know who I mean. The swaggiest player in the NFL. The Shawn Oakman of wide receivers. Optimus Megacalf.

You might already be thinking about taking him at his currently average draft position, which is around 50. But I'm here to tell you why you should draft him much higher and why he has the potential to be a top five receiver in 2020 fantasy football.

Check out the other articles in our "Why You Should Draft" series which include Stefon Diggs, Jalen Reagor, Kenny Golladay, and Daniel Jones, as well as why you SHOULDN'T draft Lamar Jackson.

2020 Fantasy Football: Why You Should Draft D.K. Metcalf

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2019 Production

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D.K. Metcalf was drafted in the 2nd round, 64th overall of the 2019 NFL Draft. He was the ninth receiver taken, after guys like JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Andy Isabella.

You would have thought his draft stock would be through the roof after he measured in at 6"3", 228 pounds, and clocked a 4.33 40-yard dash with a 40.5 inch vertical jump. That 40-yard dash time was the fastest ever for a player weighing over 225 pounds.

However, he faced intense scrutiny post-combine as teams dissected his 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle time which were an abysmal 7.38 (27th in his WR class) and 4.5 seconds (30th). This combined with the limited route tree he ran at Ole Miss dropped his draft stock considerably.

The Seahawks took a chance on him with the last pick of the second-round and he rewarded them with a 58 catch, 900-yard season with seven touchdowns. In his first playoff game, he had the most receiving yards ever for a rookie in a playoff game with 160.

The talent is clearly there, so how will he improve?

2019 Production, Pt 2.

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Metcalf's 2019 season can be broken down into a tale of two halves. He entered the season coming off of a preseason knee scope. And with any rookie, the Seahawks took some time to learn his strengths and weaknesses and incorporate him into the offense.

This is clear in his Weeks 1-8 splits compared to his Weeks 9-16 splits:

  • Weeks 1-8: 45 targets, 23 catches, 402 yards, 4 touchdowns, 51.1% catch rate
  • Weeks 9-16: 55 targets, 35 catches, 498 yards, 3 touchdowns, 63.6% catch rate
  • Playoffs (2 games): 14 targets, 11 catches, 219 yards, 1 touchdown, 78.6% catch rate

While it's important to remember that Tyler Lockett was limited in some of the games in the second half of the season, it's clear Metcalf improved as the season went along.

While the target numbers are relatively similar, the catches, yardage, and most importantly, catch rate all went up. The catch rate is the important stat to look at here, as it informs us that 1) the Seahawks began putting him in better positions to succeed and 2) Metcalf got more comfortable with the pro game or developed more of a rapport with quarterback Russell Wilson.

Historical References

One of the best ways to predict future success for players is to compare them to historical comparisons. While the NFL has changed over the years, similar players tend to have similar levels of success.

The second-year breakout is a well-documented phenomenon among NFL wide receivers. In recent years, consider players like Courtland Sutton, DJ Chark. Kenny Golladay, Allen Robinson, and Alshon Jeffery. All of them had mediocre rookie seasons and exploded for at least WR2 production in their sophomore season.

The exciting edge Metcalf brings here is that none of these guys had the production he did his rookie season.

Below is a table of eight wide receivers in the last 20 years who have similar athletic profiles, equivalent draft stock, and equal to or more rookie production to Metcalf, and their rookie and sophomore seasons respectively:

PlayerHeightWeightDraft Pick40-Yard DashTargetsReceptionsYardsTouchdownsFantasy Points (Half PPR)
Julio Jones752201.064.3995549598170.9
Michael Thomas752122.164.57121921,1379213.7
Sammy Watkins732111.044.43128659826166.7
Mike Evans772311.074.53122681,05112211.1
Josh Gordon752254.5796508055135.5
A.J. Green762111.044.5115651,0577180.2
Dwayne Bowe742211.234.51116709955164.5
Andre Johnson742251.034.4119669764154.6

As you can see, there is marked improvement in these types of size/speed monsters in their second year. In fact, there is a 37% increase in production on average (skewed by Josh Gordon's monster sophomore year). Even using the median, we're looking at a 17% increase in fantasy points in half-PPR leagues. That would take Metcalf's production from 161 fantasy points in 2019 to 188.95 fantasy points - which would have been good for WR2 last season.

2020 Outlook

Team Offense

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Seattle remains a run-first team. That much will likely not change as long as Brian Schottenheimer remains Offensive Coordinator. However, in 2019, that number skewed upwards.

Seattle increased its pass-play percentage from 47.56% in 2018 to 54.34% in 2019. That translates to 89 more attempts for Wilson. The league average for this statistic in 2019 was 59.79%.

I'd expect the Seahawks to drift more towards that number in 2020 for a multitude of reasons. The first, and most important, is the Wilson has clamored for it publicly.

In February, he told PFT Live that he wanted to run a more up-tempo offense, citing the success of the Kansas City Chiefs. Head Coach Pete Carroll responded that there are some exciting things in the works. There's no better time than now to "Let Russ Cook" as he has arguably the best pass-catching corps of his career in Metcalf, Lockett, Josh Gordon, Greg Olsen, and a few pass-catching options out of the backfield.

Secondly, the Seahawks rushing attack may not be as prolific as it was in previous seasons. Obviously, at the beginning of Wilson's career, the offense revolved around Marshawn Lynch. However, these last two seasons the running game has centered around the two-headed rushing attack of Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny.

While those two are still on the roster, Carson is coming off of offseason hip surgery and Penny is on the PUP list with a torn ACL. The Seahawks signed Carlos Hyde to fill in the gaps, but he is a mediocre runner at best, with a career 4.1 YPC.

Metcalf's Role

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What's next for D.K. Metcalf? He should see more targets in 2020 as the Seahawks have openly spoken about moving him around the formation. This should help him immensely as according to NFL Next Gen Stats, Metcalf finished 2019 having the fifth-fewest average yards of cushion (4.9), meaning he really had to work for his yards. Moving him around the formation will allow him to catch easier passes and utilize his speed to gain yards after the catch.

And while Metcalf was an impressive rookie, he clearly has areas to improve. He dropped seven passes in 2019 and had three lost fumbles as well.

That being said, after working out with Wilson for almost a month in the offseason, Metcalf will come back having filled a lot of the holes in his game. In addition to an increasingly versatile role, he has been working on his hands and expanding his route tree.

Closing Word

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Metcalf is already the second-most highly drafted sophomore receiver at WR19 and 48th overall according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com. The question is does he have the upside to finish higher than that?

If he can improve his efficiency, secure a slightly higher target share, and tack on a few extra touchdowns, I believe he certainly does.

Draft him a round earlier than his ADP if you must. No matter where you're going to take him, he's going to blow away your expectations.

Visit the F6P Fantasy Football page for more advice, including all 32 Fantasy Football Team Previews to get you prepared for the 2020 season

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