If prospective NFL players were judged solely on what they can provide a team on gameday, it would be hard to talk about the top wide receivers in the 2018 NFL Draft without mentioning Antonio Callaway.
"Antonio Callaway, on talent, is a first-round draft choice," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said last week, according to SEC Country.
However, there's more for NFL owners to consider than just talent when it comes to making draft selections.
That will likely work against Callaway when the three-day NFL Draft gets underway on Thursday.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Instead of being talked about for his top-end speed or his ability to be a vertical threat in the passing game, much of the discussion over the past few months surrounding Callaway — a Miami native and former Booker T. Washington standout — have revolved around his off-field troubles during his time at Florida that immediately throw up red flags.
He was one of nine Florida players suspended before the 2017 season opener while being investigated for credit card fraud. He accepted a pre-trial intervention, which will scrub the felony charges from his record.
A year earlier, he faced sexual assault allegations and a subsequent Title IX hearing. Callaway was found “not responsible” in that hearing — which was overseen by a judge who also happened to be a booster for the Florida athletics program.
Callaway was also cited in May for marijuana possession during a traffic stop while in the car with a man who has a lengthy rap sheet.He pleaded no contest to possession of paraphernalia and accepted a fine.
"He entered the year as one of the elite 15 best players at any position, possibly, that were draft eligible. So, the off-field concerns are what’s going to be impacting him," said Kiper, who added that he likely wouldn't consider drafting Callaway until the fourth or fifth round because of his baggage. "We saw what happened with some players over the years that get pushed down, and once the light goes on, they mature and they put that in the past and they move on. They can evolve and develop.”
If Callaway can turn his life around and prove he's a changed man, an NFL team could potentially score a top-flight wide receiver for relatively cheap.
In his two-year Florida career, Callaway caught 89 passes for 1,399 yards and seven touchdowns. Of those 89 catches, 12 went for at least 30 yards. He also returned two punts for touchdowns as a freshman. He’s the only player in Gators history to score a touchdown five different ways (receiving, rushing, passing, kickoff return and punt return).
Callaway said at Florida’s Pro Day last month that he has learned from his off-field mistakes and hopes an NFL team — any team — takes a chance on him.
“I’m a great person. I’m not this bad person that the media portrays. I mean, I can’t stress it enough,” he said. “I just gotta … let my actions speak for me.”