Since the end of the Oakland Raiders’ 2018 season, the offseason plans, in large part, have centered around finding a defensive playmaker to improve the team’s ability to rush the passer. Fortunately, the 2019 NFL Draft will have a wide array of defensive linemen that to choose from, but the team also needs a wide receiver.
The decision to trade Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys at the halfway point of last year in return for a first-round pick was too good to pass up, and there’s a thought that Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock use the No. 27 pick to select a wide receiver. The wide receiver class isn’t as deep as the defensive line group per se, but there are several gifted skill players in this draft, one of them being Ole Miss wideout D.K. Metcalf.
His stats won’t make your jaw drop, but it’s his physical attributes that have NFL scouts chirping. During his three years at Ole Miss, Metcalf played in 21 games, hauled in 67 passes, totaled 1,228 receiving yards, and reached the end zone 14 times. Just looking at him, Metcalf looks more like a linebacker than a wide receiver. The man is a 6’4”, 225-pound behemoth. His physique is reminiscent of LeBron James; the two are just built differently as humans.
Gruden and Mayock have spent the last day and a half meeting with many of the Combine’s participants, and when Metcalf walked in the room it was hard for Gruden not to feel his presence.
“Everybody gets enamored with the coverage ability, the length, the speed, all that stuff, but you’ve got to be able to tackle these guys in one-on-one situations. We had a guy walk in our room last night, a receiver out of Ole Miss, his name is Metcalf, and he looked like Jim Brown,” Gruden said during his press conference Thursday morning. “I mean he’s the biggest wide out I’ve ever seen, and you got to ask yourself, ‘who’s tackling this guy?’ So, if you’re a 179-pound corner and you’re tackling a 235-pound back, or a 235-pound wide out or a tight end you got to ask yourself, ‘Is this what I want to do?’ You’ve got to find guys that can tackle big time, and sometimes I think that’s overlooked.”
When a wide receiver is Metcalf’s size, the main concern is that while he’s obviously in good shape, his physique might impact the way he plays in a negative way. David Boston, who was drafted No. 8 overall by the Arizona Cardinals in 1999, shared similar attributes as well as knocks against his game; however, Boston went on to have two highly productive seasons with the Cardinals. Not to say Metcalf will wind up becoming Boston, but Gruden didn’t seem worried when asked whether his size would hinder his game at the NFL level.
Check out behind-the-scenes photos of the Raiders at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine week in Indianapolis, Ind.
“We had pictures of him with his shirt off and it made me want to get in the weight room,” Gruden joked. “This guy is really put together, but he shows good elusiveness, good change of direction, and I think he’s healthy. He’s been cleared medically and that was the number one thing we wanted to find out.”
Whether Metcalf winds up in a Raiders uniform or not, there are a handful of players with the potential to fit in Gruden’s system. The leap from college to the pros can be difficult for players, which is why the Raiders Head Coach is anxious to see how the wide receivers perform during drills.
“We’ll see how they run. College offenses sometimes you have to use your imagination with the route trees and things like that, but there’s some speed, there’s some size, there’s some playmakers,” Gruden shared. “There’s some small packages that can really create some offense as well, so I think it’s a good group of receivers.”
Whoever it is, Gruden knows he needs to get Derek Carr some more weapons on offense.