Imagine thinking a Cleveland Brown who was out of football for non-injury reasons (insert Josh Gordon joke here) is a good idea? Sure this seemed like a crazy idea as recently as one week ago, but Baker Mayfield changed everything. Today we explore whether adding Antonio Callaway to your team makes sense or not.
The Tyreek Hill comparisons are endless; right down to the guy that drafted both of them, John Dorsey. They are of comparable size, Callaway has him by a couple of inches and about ten pounds. Hill is arguably the fastest player in football, Callaway reached a speed on a route vs. New Orleans that has only been bested by Hill. And both were first round talents that fell to the draft’s third day because of lengthy rap sheets that allegedly had them removed all together from some draft boards. As one scout put it – “if you take him off his 2016 tape, he’s a top 20 pick.” But as another scout said to NFL Draft Analyst Dane Brugler, “He’ll fail at least one drug test in the NFL. Put that in your guide.” While the bust rate is high for profiles like them (Maurice Clarett immediately comes to mind) there’s good reason why gambles are taken on them — talent. Ultimately, that’s all you really need to know when it comes to the end of your bench and who you choose to occupy that space.
It was unclear in July exactly how much the Browns would rely on Callaway this season. The aforementioned Gordon was on track to join the team in training camp, Jarvis Landry was the big offseason acquisition, and former first round pick Corey Coleman stood in front of him on the depth chart. It sure looked like he was slated for limited snaps on offense with a chance at a return specialist position. As you know Coleman was quickly demoted then traded upon request and that was only after Josh Gordon ditched camp with no disclosed return date. As it turns out maybe we should have paid more attention to this exchange between Todd Haley and Landry during Hard Knocks – “Hey. You need to take that kid on. I don’t care if he’s f—ing living at your house. We can’t have him f— up. You’ve got all this passion … Larry Fitzgerald would.” Pardon the censored language, but – quotes are quotes. The point is Haley was growing aware that the team would need Callaway this season; the team couldn’t sit on him and see if he could learn to be a pro, as planned.
Need certainly doesn’t always lead to production, but it must be emphasized again – talent is not a question with Callaway. He’s difficult to jam at the line and if his defender doesn’t not correctly anticipate what route he will run he consistently creates separation on all levels of the field. He’s not just a track star; his game speed translates. It’s there on returns, in the short and intermediate game, after the catch, and down field. While all of that is important take special note of the last one as it’s already been displayed in a game situation. At first it looks like an overthrown in-completion, but then Callaway finds the extra gear to go get the ball; you can’t coach that. A similar play probably would have been on tape Week 3 vs. the Jets, but Taylor was late releasing the ball and let it hang in the air too long. Taylor easily under-threw him by 20 yards on that play just by being a little too slow in getting the ball out and not putting it on a line.
That mistake is why you may have a buying opportunity on Callaway instead of him being this week’s #1 waiver player. His new quarterback isn’t going to repeat such a mistake. Urgency in delivering the ball quickly was readily apparent throughout his relief appearance in Week 3’s comeback win. To be successful throwing deep to a weapon like Callaway you need to get the ball out fast; both in timing and in velocity. While that’s not Taylor’s game it is Mayfield’s. This topic is a whole lot different if he has 5 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown a week after 81 yards and a touchdown rather than just 4 catches for 20 yards. Since it was the former you may not need waiver priority to get him, but he’s your top priority anyway. His expanding role is noted in both his snap count (81% week 2, 90% week 3) and targets (4 in week 2, 10 in week 3). Inconsistencies are to expected, but this is the time of year to take a chance on a player like this. A piece with this sort of weekly ceiling is more useful during the bye weeks. Once they’ve come and gone you’ll have sufficient information available to decide what to do with him from there. If he’s equally or more volatile, then it’s time to set your sights on alternatives as you near the stretch run. If he’s able to tighten up his game though…this is the sort of piece that could vault you to a title.
This week’s Flavor of the Week is: A bag of hot peppers.
Some are hotter than others, some are better than others, some may nearly kill you, they all look very similar, and you have no idea which one you picked until it hits your tongue. But I have good news – if you pick the Guatemalan Insanity Pepper you have a few weeks to get right again before it really matters.