There are no sure things in football, as Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III’s path to the NFL draft is a testament to that fact.
Metchie emerged as one of the top receivers in college football over the course of a breakout 2021 campaign. He had risen to the top of draft charts thanks to his versatility and production. Then everything changed when he tore his ACL in the SEC Championship against Georgia. That injury ended his season before Alabama’s play-off run, and his recovery precluded him from doing anything over the course of the draft process.
It also added plenty of uncertainty as teams try to evaluate him without the benefit of workouts, and try to reckon with their comfort with his injury risk.
The New York Giants could certainly use a receiver of Metchie’s caliber, and he could still wind up being the best receiver to come out of this year’s draft. But can the Giants tolerate the risk from his late-season knee injury?
Yards (YPC): 2,081 (13.4 per catch)
Yards (YPC): 1,142 (11.9 per catch)
Best: Route running, competitive toughness, quickness, agility, burst
Worst: Size, long speed, consistency, health
Projection: A starting wide receiver with position versatility, preferably in a spread or West Coast offense.
John Metchie III is a quick, agile, savvy, and competitive wide receiver prospect from the University of Alabama.
Metchie played out of a variety of alignments in Alabama’s offense. He played as a wide receiver on both sides of the formation, on the line of scrimmage and off, and as a slot receiver. He was also used as both a ball carrier and blocker for screen passes and running plays.
Metchie is a very good route runner and understands how to use all phases of the route to his advantage. He uses a good variety of release strategies, from a sudden release to run past defenders, to stutter or false steps to freeze man defenders, to using his hands to defeat jams at the line of scrimmage. He is able to get into his routes with the minimum of wasted time and motion. Metchie does a good job of varying his tempo to throw off defenders’ timing. Likewise, he shows impressive creativity in adding fakes and misdirection to his routes to get defenders to turn the wrong way. Mechie is crisp and precise in his breaks, allowing him to get good separation out of his breaks and be very effective on timing routes.
He does a good job of quickly adjusting to passes in the shallow to intermediate area of the field, as well as locating and tracking the ball in the air on vertical passes. Metchie has good body control, allowing him to make acrobatic catches or to come down in-bounds along the sideline. He is generally a “hands” catcher and does a good job of extending to maximize his catch radius.
Metchie is a dynamic player with the ball in his hands. Alabama tried to get him the ball in space, and also made good use of him as a ball carrier on screen passes. Metchie has great burst and quickness after the catch, allowing him to make defenders miss in tight quarters and generate early separation after the catch. He also shows good vision as a runner and does a good job of anticipating defenders to maximize his yards after the catch. Metchie is as creative a ball carrier as he is a route runner and does a very good job of breaking defenders’ angles or juking tackle attempts.
His competitive toughness shows up throughout his game, from a willingness to fight for the ball down the field, to lowering his shoulder and finishing his runs behind his pads, to some very good blocking. Metchie is unafraid of contact and fights to sustain blocks for his teammates.
While Metchie is quick, agile, and has “enough” speed, he isn’t truly explosive and doesn’t have great long speed. He can be caught from behind as a runner and doesn’t have the elite burst to force defenders to panic early in routes.
He is also slightly undersized and while he isn’t bullied at the catch point, longer cornerbacks might be able to play above, or around, him at the NFL level.
Metchie can be an inconsistent catcher of the football. While he’s capable of making some very tough catches and securing the ball in traffic, he can also suffer frustrating concentration drops. At times the ball can simply bounce off – or pass through – his hands in situations where he absolutely should catch it cleanly.
Metchie suffered a torn ACL on December 4th, 2021 during the SEC Championship game against Georgia. He has had surgery to repair the injury, but teams will want to pay close attention to his medical reports and his long-term prognosis. Given the timing of the injury, it’s fair to wonder how much of the off-season and pre-season program he will miss.
Overall Grade: 7.7
(Note: Grade is based purely on the tape evaluated. It doesn’t factor in the injury.)
Alabama wide receiver James Metchie projects as a starting receiver at the NFL level. He will likely be best in an offense that makes use of West Coast or Spread principles to maximize his skill set as a route runner and ability as a ball carrier in an open field.
Metchie’s precision as a route runner will mesh well with a timing-based offense, and he does a good job of tailoring his routes to the coverage he faces. He understands how to find voids in zone coverage or how to make use of traffic to create natural separation against man coverage. He also understands how to use his routes to help create separation for his teammates. Some teams might look at Metchie as purely a slot receiver, though he has plenty of experience on the outside. His exact position and role in an offense could come down to individual teams’ schemes and preferences.
Metchie is a very competitive receiver, and plays with an “alpha” mentality and some teams will likely be drawn to that play demeanor. Metchie is always willing to get after defenders as a blocker, and even finish his runs like a power running back. He certainly seems to know how to get under opponents’ skin, which could help him draw penalties at the NFL level. It’s possible that his demeanor could rub some teams the wrong way as well, which could add further volatility to his draft stock.
Metchie is slightly undersized for the position at the NFL level, and he isn’t an elite athlete. Both of those concerns do pop up in some areas of his game, though they hardly seem to be significant limitations. Of greater concern is the health of his knee, both in the near and long terms.
Teams will want to do their due diligence in their medical exams and make sure they are comfortable with his progress since surgery and his prognosis.