D.K. Metcalf has emerged as the best big-play receiver in football since entering the league in 2019, even though the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver has become more valuable to the offense in his breakout season of 2020. Metcalf has averaged over 15.5 yards a catch in each of the five games he’s played this year and in six of his last seven games overall, including his breakout postseason from his rookie campaign. The 2019 second-round pick made his presence known in the NFL with his seven-catch, 160-yard performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC wild-card playoffs last year — still Metcalf’s career-high in receptions and yards. 

Not only has Metcalf has established himself as one of the most valuable players in Seattle’s offense, but he’s become one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, delivering one of the best starts to a career for a wide receiver this century. In this week’s “By The Numbers,” we take a dive into Metcalf’s incredible start with the Seahawks and where he ranks amongst the best deep-threat wide receivers through 21 career games. 

Historical leaderboards

Highest yards per catch average through 21 career games

  1. Randy Moss (1998-1999) — 18.64
  2. Victor Cruz (2010-2011) — 17.91
  3. D.K. Metcalf (2019-2020) — 17.45
  4. Julio Jones (2011-2012) — 16.88
  5. John Jefferson (1979-1980) — 16.8

*Minimum 80 receptions, post AFL-NFL merger  

Most touchdown receptions through 21 career games (since 2000)

  1. Odell Beckham Jr. — 19
  2. Hakeem Nicks — 14
  3. Kelvin Benjamin — 13
  4. Marques Colston — 13
  5. Mike Evans — 13
  6. A.J. Green — 13
  7. Julio Jones — 13
  8. Calvin Ridley — 13
  9. D.K. Metcalf — 12

*Dez Bryant, Austin Collie and Mike Williams are tied with Metcalf at 12. 

Highest receiving yards per target through 21 career games (since 1993)

  1. Victor Cruz — 11.33
  2. Randy Moss — 10.55
  3. JuJu Smith-Schuster — 10.21
  4. D.K. Metcalf — 10.04 
  5. Julio Jones — 9.92

*Minimum 80 receptions 

Metcalf is in some pretty impressive company through 21 games, as Moss became a first-ballot Hall of Famer and Jones is well on his way toward accomplishing that goal. What has made Metcalf’s feat more impressive regarding the receivers that have caught 80-plus passes through 21 career games is that he’s 21st in receiving yards (1,396) despite being one of 90 wide receivers to reach that mark since the merger. The Seahawks are 16-5 in Metcalf’s 21 career games, and that .762 win percentage is eighth all-time for players that have 80-plus career catches through 21 games (Metcalf is tied with Al Toon, Cris Collinsworth and Edgerrin James). 

Now, let’s take a look at where Metcalf ranks amongst the wide receivers in 2020.

2020 leaderboards

Receiving yards

  1. DeAndre Hopkins — 528
  2. Stefon Diggs — 509
  3. D.K. Metcalf — 496
  4. Robby Anderson — 489
  5. Calvin Ridley — 485

Yards per catch

  1. D.K. Metcalf — 22.5
  2. Michael Gallup — 20.5
  3. Chase Claypool — 20.1
  4. Justin Jefferson — 19.5
  5. Allan Lazard — 19.5

Receiving touchdowns

  1. Adam Thielen — 6
  2. Mike Evans — 6
  3. D.K. Metcalf — 5
  4. Jonnu Smith — 5
  5. Mark Andrews — 5
  6. Robert Tonyan — 5

Metcalf is among the league leaders in several categories and ranks in the top 10 in yards per target, third amongst players with more than 20 targets. While Metcalf only has a catch rate of 56.4%, that can be attributed to his yards per target and all the deep balls Russell Wilson throws his way. 

Metcalf also has eight catches of 20-plus yards this season, which is third in the NFL behind Calvin Ridley and CeeDee Lamb.

Where does the Seahawks wide receiver rank amongst the best pass catchers in franchise history through 21 games?

Seahawks all-time leaderboards

Most receiving yards through 21 career games

  1. D.K. Metcalf — 1,396
  2. Joey Galloway — 1,275
  3. Steve Largent — 1,096
  4. Brian Blades — 1,056
  5. Daryl Turner — 1,017

Most receiving TDs through 21 career games

  1. Daryl Turner — 17
  2. D.K. Metcalf — 12
  3. Brian Blades — 10
  4. Steve Largent — 10
  5. Joey Galloway — 7

Most receptions through 21 career games

  1. Joey Galloway — 82
  2. D.K. Metcalf — 80
  3. John Carlson — 77
  4. Steve Largent — 74
  5. Darrell Jackson — 72

The Seahawks certainly received a gift when Metcalf was still on the board at No. 64 overall, where they made him the ninth wide receiver taken in the 2019 draft. Imagine how the Philadelphia Eagles feel taking J.J. Arcega-Whiteside at No. 57, the Indianapolis Colts taking Parris Campbell at No. 59, or the Arizona Cardinals taking Andy Isabella at No. 62. Metcalf has more career catches, yards and touchdowns than all three of those players combined. Metcalf also leads all players in the 2019 draft class in yards and receiving touchdowns, while ranking third in receptions.

The Seahawks found a diamond in the rough in Metcalf — and the NFL’s next elite wide receiver in the process. 

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