By Kris Norton | @CKrisNorton
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — If the 2018 season for the Indianapolis Colts was all about Andrew Luck’s return to throwing footballs, then 2019 can be expected to be about who he will be targeting.
Outside of Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton, the only wide receivers under contract for 2019 are the pair of sixth-round draft picks from last season, Deon Cain and Daurice Fountain. The future of restricted free-agent Chester Rogers could be determined soon.
“This locker room isn’t for everybody,” Colts coach Frank Reich told reporters earlier this week at the National Football League Scouting Combine. “… I think we’re a team on the rise, and I think the reason is we got the right guys in the locker room.”
The Colts will have the 26th and 34th picks in the 2019 draft. In the spirit of the build-from-within mantra of general manager Chris Ballard, here is a look at the leading wide receivers participating at the Combine:
A.J, Brown, Ole Miss
“I’m the best receiver in the draft. By far,” Brown told reporters Friday afternoon. “I play inside and outside, I run great routes, I have strong hands and I’m a man after the catch.”
The 6-foot 1-inch, 230-pound 21-year old caught 85 passes for 1,320 yards and six touchdowns in 2018. While he boasts flashy numbers, Brown has a knack for knocking around defensive backs.
“I’m a physical guy. I’m tough. I like to really bully DB’s. They’re just in the way,” Brown said. Brown confirmed he would be meeting with the Colts at the Combine.
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
The Combine has not been kind to Brown. Coming back from foot surgery, Brown measured in at 5-9 3/8 and just 166 pounds. Smaller than expected, the wide receiver prospect addressed concerns that NFL teams may ask him to play from the slot.
“I get utilized wherever,” Brown said. “I’ll play inside, I’ll play outside, wherever you need me.” When asked what aspect he would like to take from his cousin, Steeler Antonio Brown, he said, “his aggressiveness.”
Brown has accounted for 132 receptions, 2,413 yards and 17 touchdowns in the last two his seasons and projects as a Day 2 draft choice and slot receiver. Though his cousin Antonio was selected in the sixth round in 2010, Marquise is expected to come off the board in the middle rounds.
Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State
Each year the Combine features a jump-ball artist; in 2019 it’s Kelvin Harmon. Harmon prides himself on his ability to go up and reel in catches.
“If you don’t attack the ball than somebody else is going to get it from you, and that’s my strength,” Harmon said. “Those ‘50-50’ balls are really ‘90-10’ balls, my way. If I don’t catch it, it’s not going to be an interception.”
The junior was 10th in the NCAA in receiving yards last season and has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns.
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
The junior Sun Devil’s listed playing height had always been 6-4. Harry said his height was recently recorded as 6-3 3/8. Here, his height was 6-2. “A bit puzzled on that one,” he said.
However, Harry’s day ended on a positive note. Harry surprised everyone by matching the 27 225-pound bench press reps by D.K. Metcalf of Ole Miss. The next strongest wide receiver finished with 15.
D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss
With a cousin in the NFL, and both his father and grandfather as former NFL players, Metcalf may present the most impressive pedigree in the draft.
However, in the past week, he’s been better known for a shirtless photo of him that went viral. In response to questions about this photo, he confirmed his body fat percentage to be 1.9 percent. Metcalf stressed that his body isn’t what is important, his ability to come down with the ball is.
“Ninety-nine to one balls I call them,” Metcalf said as reporters chuckled. “The one percent I don’t come down with, it might be a bad ball by the quarterback.”
Metcalf has since gone viral again with his vertical jump measurement of 40.5 inches. Adding to his list, Metcalf’s unofficial time of 4.33 seconds tied for third-fastest in the 40-yard dash this year, behind Parris Campbell of Ohio State (4.31) and Andy Isabella of Massachusetts (4.31). Metcalf tested both faster and stronger than Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones in 2011, when the former Alabama receiver was timed at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash with a 38 ½-inch vertical jump and 17 225-pound bench press reps.
Metcalf recorded 26 receptions for 569 yards and five touchdowns before suffering a neck injury that ended his 2018 season in his second game. His efforts at the Combine may be enough to negate his injury history and vault him to the top of the wide receiver board.