D.K. Metcalf might have just run himself out of reach for the Ravens on Saturday.
The Mississippi wide receiver, who entered Indianapolis as a prospect heavily linked to the Ravens’ No. 22 pick, likely established himself as the class’ top wide receiver with a show-stopping scouting combine performance.
He bench-pressed 225 pounds 27 times, tied for most among wide receivers. He jumped 40½ inches in vertical-leap testing. In the 40-yard dash, at 6 feet 3 and 228 pounds, he ran under 4.4 seconds in his two trials. Among wide receivers, only Ohio State’s Parris Campbell and Massachusetts’ Andy Isabella ran faster.
According to NFL Research, Metcalf’s 4.33-second time is the fastest at the combine of any player to weigh 225-plus pounds since official combine data has been tracked since 2003.
“I’m expecting to run fast tomorrow and shock a lot of people,” he said Friday.
Injury concerns will trail Metcalf, who was hurt twice in his three seasons with the Rebels. He broke his foot as a true freshman and suffered a season-ending neck injury midway through 2018. But in seven games last season, he averaged nearly 22 yards per catch, finishing with 569 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Metcalf wasn’t the only big receiver to run well. Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler, a Baltimore native, measured in as the combine’s tallest receiver (6-5 3/8) and had the longest arms (35¼ inches) and longest wingspan (83⅞ inches). Some analysts expected Butler to run the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds or slower.
Then he turned in a 4.48-second time.
“You put me on tape and you just see long legs eating up space,” he said Friday. “You don’t know how fast they’re moving. But if you put me next to a small guy, you’re going to see the speed. I play fast. I firmly believe I play fast. I’ve just got to show I run fast on the track, I guess.”
Butler was not as impressive in combine drills, and evaluations have dinged him for his inconsistent hands. But given his production (1,318 receiving yards last season) and measurables, he’s unlikely to last into the second round.
Cowart reckons with past
Maryland defensive lineman Byron Cowart conceded Saturday that he entered college football in 2015 assuming he’d follow a Jadeveon Clowney-type path: Establish himself as a top-ranked draft prospect, just as he’d proven himself a top-rated college prospect.
But at the NFL scouting combine, the former five-star recruit was not among the defensive linemen sitting on risers, a distinction afforded the draft’s better prospects. At a table near the crowd of reporters and cameras enveloping Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Cowart sat and answered questions about how he’d gone from Auburn to a junior college to Maryland to, now, the brink of the NFL.
“The expectations, I didn’t really understand it,” he said. “I didn’t know it came with it. I didn’t even know what adversity was. It was just, ‘Oh, I’m a good high school player. I think it transfers to college.’ I didn’t know the preparation. I didn’t know that just because we go through something in the meeting room, that don’t mean that you just turn your brain off.”
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Cowart said most teams have wanted to know why he left Auburn. He left the Tigers early in his junior season, never having established himself as a force along the defensive line. But he owned up to his stagnant development. He said he wasn't mature enough, didn't study the playbook as much as he needed to, should've asked more questions.
Cowart knew the questions were coming. He’s realized the importance of understanding his answers.
“Really, just, am I going to take ownership or am I going to point the finger at somebody else? Is it this person or that person?” he said. “In reality, it was just me. I didn’t have the IQ coming out. I was bigger and stronger than everybody. … I’m just thinking, ‘You wake up, practice a little bit and it happened in the game.’ I didn’t know the preparation that it took to be good on Saturday and Sunday.”
The 6-3, 298-pound Cowart did 26 reps on the bench press, and with his size could project as an interior defender at the next level. He said he hasn’t heard much about his draft stock. He just wants to be recognized as the potential player many expected him to become.