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Picking the Best Draft Choices: Even an Amateur Can Do It

As the 2019 NFL draft approached, the Packers were sitting pretty, with draft picks 12, 21, 44, and 75 in the first three rounds. It was a good thing, as the Packers had some serious holes to fill in the roster. Foremost in my mind was the need to obtain a high-quality wide receiver.

I’m not a big fan of the college game, but last spring I decided to try my hand at picking which wide receiver the Packers should draft.

Methodology

I didn’t obsess over every one of hundreds of college receivers. First I reviewed what several experts were saying: I went with WalterFootball, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Drafttek.com, Bleacher Report, Sporting News.com, and Pro Football Focus.

Based solely on what those sources were saying about available receivers, I came up with a list of nine possibilities:

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside – age 22, 6’3”, 225#, Stanford

A.J. Brown – age 21, 6’, 226#, Ole Miss

Marquise Brown – age 21, 5’10”, 170#, Oklahoma

Hakeem Butler – age 22, 6’6”, 225#, Iowa State

Parris Campbell – age 23, 6’1”, 208#, Ohio State

N’Keal Harry – age 21, 6’2”, 228#, Arizona State

Andy Isabella – age 22, 5’9”, 188#, UMass

D.K. Metcalf – age 21, 6’3”, 228#, Ole Miss

Deebo Samuel – age 23, 5’11”, 214#, South Carolina

I then compiled lists of the players’ sizes, ages, and the college conferences they played in. I also explored their 40-yard dash times and other NFL Combine marks; their collegiate honors, and their body of college work (number of seasons, catches, yardages, catch averages, touchdowns).

I then quickly winnowed the candidate list down. I simply would not use a high draft pick on a receiver as small as Andy Isabella or Marquise Brown. I found the majority of these players to have college resumes that were surprisingly thin – but that was because most of them entered the draft so early.

There were wide disparities in their sizes, and some disparities in their ages (I assumed that the younger the player, the more they were bound to get even better). Almost all of them were accorded collegiate honors: All-Conference, All-American – and some in multiple years.

All this information and data is included in my post of 4/14/19: Will Brian Gutekunst Take a Chance, or Play Safe?

When it came time to choosing, I selected N’Keal Harry as my second-runner up. My first runner-up was A.J. Brown – who I also felt at the time would be the most ready for immediate stardom. My top choice, however, was Brown’s teammate at Ole Miss: D.K. Metcalf. I went on record with my choices 11 days prior to the 2019 draft.

D.K. Metcalf - Ole Miss WR

D.K. Metcalf (14) catches a touchdown pass against Kentucky Wildcats cornerback Lonnie Johnson (6) in the second half at Commonwealth Stadium. Ole Miss defeated Kentucky 37-34. Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

How Did They Do?

Here’s the sequence in which these guys were eventually drafted (overall picks), and by whom:

25 – Marquise Brown (BAL)

32 – N’Keal Harry (NE)

36 – Deebo Samuel (SF)

51 – A.J. Brown (TEN)

57 – J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (PHI)

59 – Parris Campbell (IND)

62 – Andy Isabella (ARI)

64 – D.K. Metcalf (SEA)

103 – Hakeem Butler (ARI)

Here are how the above nine players actually fared in their rookie pro regular seasons, listed in order of their total receiving yardage:

A.J. Brown (TEN) – 52 catches, 1,051 yards, 20.2 average, 8 TDs

DK Metcalf (SEA) – 58, 900, 15.5, 7 TDs

Deebo Samuel (SF) – 57, 802, 14.1, 3 TDs

Marquise Brown (BAL) – 46, 584, 12.7, 7 TDs

Andy Isabella (ARI) – 9, 189, 21.0, 1 TD

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (PHI) – 10, 169, 16.9, 1 TD

Parris Campbell (IND) – 18, 127, 7.1, 1 TD. He had a series of injuries, finally going on IR on December 9 due to a broken foot.

N’Keal Harry (NE) – 12, 105, 6.6, 2 TDs – before the season began, he went on IR, and played in only seven games.

Hakeem Butler – suffered a broken hand, and was placed on injured reserve August 25, causing him to miss the entire season

How Did the Robster Do?

My pick, super-athlete D.K. Metcalf, ranked second overall among all NFL rookies with 900 yards of regular-season receptions; this constituted the 34th best receiving yardage in the league. Counting the postseason, however, his stats were: 69 catches, 1,119 yards, 16.2 average, and 8 touchdowns – best among all rookie receivers. Metcalf just kept getting better in postseason play, though in a playoff loss to the Packers, he was held to 4 of 5 catches for 59 yards.

My runner-up, A.J. Brown, in the regular season ran up 1,051 yards, 24th best in the league. Brown got to play in three postseason games, ending up with overall stats of 57, 1,115, 19.6, and 8 TDs.

My second runner-up, N’keal Harry, was sidelined due to an injury for most of the season.

Two rookie receivers not on my 9-player list had fine seasons in 2019. The Redskins’ Terry McLaurin, the 76th overall pick, had regular season marks of 58, 919, 15.8, and 7 TDs. The Chiefs’ Mercole Hardman, the 56th overall pick, had numbers of 26, 538, 20.7, and 6 TDs.

We can but wonder how the Packers would have finished had they used their 44th pick on Metcalf or Brown. Clearly, either ought to have started right away for the talent-starved Packers, and gotten 400 to 500 more than those who the Packers instead fielded behind Davante Adams.

There were of course a few players who performed beyond my expectations. It surprised me that speedster Marquise Brown was the first rookie receiver chosen, and even more that he was quite productive for the Ravens. Long term, we’ll see how long a 170-pounder (166 at the Combine) can hold up in a land of giants.

The biggest shock, however, was to see my man Metcalf go undrafted until the final pick of Round 2. That’s crazy.

Where I was way off target was in hazarding a guess that GM Gutekunst, aware that the team was in desperate need of quality receivers, would be drawn to Metcalf’s tremendous athleticism and potential and draft him. After both Metcalf and A.J. Brown were, incredibly, still available at draft pick #44, I was flummoxed to see Gutekunst pass on both of them.

Gutekunst then outdid himself even more, by failing to draft a receiver in any round. Many other general managers who had need of a good receiver were just as stupid – not ignorant, as Metcalf’s abilities were impossible to overlook, but flat-out stupid. Brian didn’t take a chance or play safe – he just played dumb.

Conclusion

All of my research and weighing of the most relevant factors took maybe six hours. Without the benefit of interviews, individual tryouts, or film study, I was able to pick out the top two rookie receivers of the draft class of 2019!

Can you blame me for thinking this scouting stuff isn’t as hard as it’s made out to be? Who was it that keeps saying: “Athleticism is important in athletic pursuits?” Oh, that would be me.

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Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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9 Comments

  1. Howard April 14, 2020

    Good work last year Rob. I still believe the reason Metcalf dropped with NFL teams, and not with the Born scouting agency, is the injuries Metcalf had in 2017 and 2018.
    Metcalf broke his foot in 2017. The foot break may not have made NFL teams wary of Metcalf. The 2018 neck injury probably peaked several NFL teams interest. The surgery on the neck injury probably dropped Metcalf on multiple teams draft boards. Some teams such as the Packers, whom are very conservative with neck injuries may have even taken Metcalf off their draft boards.
    I don’t know if Metcalf had vertebrae fused in his neck. Metcalf’s college coach only acknowledged Metcalf had neck surgery. NFL teams would know if the neck surgery, that was confirmed by Metcalf’s college coach included fusion of neck Vertebrae. I think Metcalf’s drop in the draft strongly hints that Metcalf had some type of neck vertebrae surgery/fusion.

  2. Mitch Anthony April 14, 2020

    The interesting thing Rob, is that you were able to pick some prospects who very quickly developed a tru……. I mean a synergy with their QB. Being how that is of supreme importance, you have about one week to make your pick(s) for the Pack. I have faith in you.

    1. Robster April 14, 2020

      For the foreseeable future, I’ve sworn off the impossible task of trying to divine what gets in Gutekunst’s head when draft time rolls around – at other times he seems lucid. I had just mostly recovered from the Ted Thompson era, but then living through Gutey’s second draft a year ago left me with some permanent scars. Lazard does appear to be synergizing with Rodgers. It’s early to speculate re Sternberger. Maybe Begelton will? I fear the 2018 triumvirate (J’Mon, Marquez, EQ – and you can throw in Kumerow) have failed the test.

  3. gp April 14, 2020

    The Packers were without a slot receiver last year. Deebo would have been an ideal pick at 30. So, with needs in mind, here is a potential 2020 draft:
    R1: Best Slot Receiver available—Jalen Reagor.
    R2 DT who can stop the run. Rashad Lawrence, LSU—did you seem him stuff the Ohio State line in the BCS? Justin Madubuike, A&M, another prototype at his position.
    R3 Need an interior linebacker who is strong, fast and tough. Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech . Excellent at reading run lanes, strong, good lateral speed. I would trade up for him if necessary.
    R4 Need to trade picks to get two in this round. An imperative pick is OT Alex Taylor, S Carolina State. He will have a seasoned line to learn from and will be outstanding in years to come.
    R4 (2) Lamical Perine, RB, Florida. Remember how effective the offense was with Aaron Taylor catching the ball on downfield routes. This is the guy for that.
    Round 7: Jay Jay Wilson, FB, Auburn, SF showed how integral this position is to an offense. JJ is a blocking machine who is a good check down receiver. Don’t let him go to undrafted rookie signing status.
    Take players by position need, talent appraisal and production in senior year.

  4. Kato April 16, 2020

    I mean, they did get arguably the best rookie interior lineman at that pick, so I can’t hate too much. Protecting your aging quarterback is sort of important.

  5. PF4L April 16, 2020

    Robster…who did you have the Packers slotted to pick at #12 last year?…if anyone.

  6. PF4L April 16, 2020

    Well…if Rob can pick with that kind of success i propose naming Rob Senior Executive Advisor to the GM.

    Wait….don’t we already have one of those? Well fuck me Charissa Thompson……Ol Teddy is still on the payroll. (Nice work Mark)
    Maybe having Ted around as an advisor to Gute led to the great success of the 2018 draft and free agency. (Take a bow Ted) and Mark.

    Sorry Rob…i tried, the position is taken.

    1. PF4L April 16, 2020

      When i say…”having Ted around” …..that meant, in the Country, Texas to be exact.

  7. Steve April 20, 2020

    Don’t forget that Matt LeFleur came with a new set of plans for these receivers. They started with a damn good coach in Mike McCarthy, a man with a good offensive mind. Last year was again like a rookie year for these boys, if you think about it.
    We have depth, and a good possibility exists that we have the players we need here, as we speak. Sure there was a couple of failures, J’Mon Moore, and Davis were let go, and Jimmy Graham again failed to produce much at all. To start a couple of new receivers may take time as well in the Matt LaFleur system. Let’s not sell every one of our players off just yet. Having the new playbook in hand, studying the past performance and players we faced, could bring these guys a long ways closer to being what they need to be to succeed.
    I hope the fans also realize that LaFleur was in his first year as a head coach as well, Aaron Rodgers was learning a new system, after playing 10 years and more under McCarthy. To unlearn a system and learn a new one, had to be taxing on this entire offensive team. We narrowly lost a couple of games, and still look how we finished. As a fan, I can’t say how proud I am of this team. Aaron needs a couple of players to step forward, and Mike Pettine could use a few more healthy players, as well as a toy or two for his defense. I don’t discredit Gutekunst because some of his players we on the bench and not in the game. I think there is a lot of room for optimism in Green Bay, things are looking bright, and as opposed to scrutiny, I would hope the fans offer pride, and a lot of due encouragement.
    Go Pack Go ! … 🏈
    Cheese Is Good ! …🐀🧀