It was a cruel case of déjà vu.
Alabama receivers John Metchie and Jameson Williams suffered eerily similar noncontact ACL tears in back-to-back games last season.
Crimson Tide fans first watched in horror as Metchie went down in the SEC championship-game victory over Georgia. The faithful then were aghast as Williams crumpled to the turf early in the national title game loss to the Bulldogs.
Despite the significant injuries, the man who was first on the scene said the prognoses for Metchie and Williams are positive. Both are still expected to be early picks in the NFL Draft later this month.
“Both had very similar injuries mechanism-wise, and also structure-wise,” said Lyle Cain, an orthopedic surgeon at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center and Alabama’s team doctor. “Both tore their ACL about a month apart, planting to cut, noncontact.
“In some cases, ACLs, the ones where you get hit in the knee and it kind of blows the knee up, those tend to be a little worse. The noncontact ACLs we see in snow skiing, and sometimes in sports, tend to have less corollary damage, less meniscus damage. And that was true for both of them. Both of them basically got away with essentially just an ACL tear, with no other big damage.”
Cain said one of the interesting similarities of the injuries was that Metchie and Williams felt good after getting hurt and thought they’d be able to continue in the game. Neither had to be carted off.
“In fact, both players I think, without medical care being at the field, probably would’ve kept playing,” Cain said. “They felt like they could run and cut, run around and do what they needed to in the game. We knew from multiple exams that they had done some damage.”
Cain said Metchie and Williams have been rehabbing together and should return to 100 percent as soon as this summer.
“My expectation is that both will be ready, when they go to camp, to participate and perform,” he said. “Some teams, just by nature, tend to be very conservative with the return from ACL. Some teams like to wait for nine months to a year before they bring them back.
“So, depending on which team drafts each of the guys, they may or may not play their first year. But I think they’ll be ready to, from a functional standpoint.”
Though neither was able to perform physical drills at the NFL Combine, both attended to meet with teams and doctors.
Williams and Metchie would appear to be nice fits in New England, playing with fellow former Alabama standout Mac Jones. Though Williams was at Ohio State when Jones was the Tide’s QB, Metchie had an outstanding connection with Jones in 2020, catching 55 passes for 916 yards and 6 TDs.
Metchie said he remains close with Jones and “we have a lot of chemistry back there.”
Reminded of the success Joe Burrow and JaMarr Chase experienced at LSU and with the Bengals, Metchie believes another reunion would work well.
“If me and Mac-10 got back together, it would be cool, for sure,” he said. “It’s definitely something I’ve heard and seen, the trend of teams liking to unite quarterbacks and receivers or former teammates together. I think Mac-10 and I would be special for sure.”
The 5-foot-11-inch, 187-pound Metchie doesn’t have imposing size or intimidating speed (even prior to the injury) but he is among the most polished route runners in this class.
Metchie, who said he had a “good interview” with the Patriots in Indianapolis, has excellent athleticism developed during his youth when he also played soccer and lacrosse. His footwork is impeccable, and he knows how to set up defenders and get open.
The reasons for success for Metchie, who had 155 catches for 2,081 yards at Alabama, are simple to Nick Saban.
“He gets open, he makes catches, he makes plays, and he never complains,” the coach said in December. “This guy is the epitome of what you look for in a wide receiver.”
Williams burst onto the scene last season in Tuscaloosa after transferring from Ohio State, where he was buried on the depth chart for two years. The 6-1, 179-pounder has game-breaking speed and collected 79 catches for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2021.
His suddenness and ability to smoothly execute double moves often leave defenders defenseless and flat-footed.
Like Metchie, Williams met with the Patriots at the combine.
“It was watching film and just going over defense and going over plays,” he said. “Just really casual. We watched a couple of games.”
One other Alabama name to remember is Slade Bolden, who projects as a slot receiver at the NFL level and was once Jones’s roommate in Tuscaloosa.
The top wide receivers available in the April 28-30 NFL Draft, with name (position), college, height, weight, and projected round.
Drake London, Southern Cal, 6-4, 219, 1
Love the Drake. London possesses exceptional length and athleticism, and he actually earned a spot on the Trojan basketball team, though he only played only one season. Naturally, he’s gifted at high pointing the ball, and few can outjump him for contested passes. Caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards and 7 TDs last season despite missing the final four games (ankle). London is tough and physical and will block unprepared defenders into submission.
Garrett Wilson, Ohio State, 6-0, 183, 1
Explosive release allows him to beat corners from the get-go, and few have the chops or speed to make up for the separation he creates. He has the versatility teams covet. Played out of the slot in 2020 and on the outside in 2021. Finished Buckeye days with 143 catches for 2,213 yards and 23 TDs. Wilson has exquisite body control. Will need to put on a few pounds of muscle, but that won’t be a problem.
Chris Olave, Ohio State, 6-0, 187, 1
Tremendously productive player caught 176 passes for 2,711 yards (a 15.4-yard average, ho hum!) and 35 TDs in 47 games in Columbus. Is a smooth runner with impressive acceleration, route-running skills, and reliable hands. Has the speed and twitchiness to blow the top off defenses. He’s muscular but he’ll get bigger and that will lead to more effective downfield blocking.
Jameson Williams, Alabama, 6-1, 179, 1
Would be at the top of this list if not for a torn ACL suffered in the national championship game. Is on track for a full recovery. Started his career at Ohio State and it’s no wonder why he left. Caught 79 balls for 1,572 yards and 15 TDs at Alabama in his only season as a starter. Blazing speed and uncanny body control allow him to adjust and make all the catches. Dangerous at all three levels and could develop into a Tyreek Hill-like weapon.
Treylon Burks, Arkansas, 6-2, 225, 1
A big-bodied, big-time playmaker, Burks played 32 games for the Razorbacks, collecting 146 catches for 2,399 yards and 18 TDs. He’s a wide receiver thriving in a tight end’s body. Burks has a nice first step, nifty acceleration, and excellent vision and moves after the catch. Most of his college snaps came out of the slot, but he can play anywhere. He plays with power and will fight through would-be tacklers and is a downfield blocking beast.
Best of the rest: Christian Watson, North Dakota State (6-4, 208); pounds); Jahan Dotson, Penn State (5-11, 178); John Metchie, Alabama (5-11, 187); George Pickens, Georgia (6-3, 195); Skyy Moore, Western Michigan (5-10, 195); Alec Pierce, Cincinnati (6-3, 211); Wan’Dale Robinson, Kentucky (5-8, 178); Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama (6-1, 194); David Bell, Purdue (6-0, 212); Bo Melton, Rutgers (5-11, 189); Romeo Doubs, Nevada (6-2, 201).