After missing the entire 2017 season through suspension, the dynamic and versatile Antonio Callaway decided to enter the 2018 NFL Draft. With a new head coach in Dan Mullen, Callaway’s future at Florida was unclear, so he wisely made the jump.
Although Callaway’s stats with the Gators weren’t particularly special - 89 catches, 1399 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons - it was the way he got his touches that makes him an appealing prospect. Callaway has garnered Percy Harvin comparisons because of the different ways you can get him the football, his solid frame at 5-10 and 200 pounds (and because of the Florida connection). While I wouldn’t go that far, Callaway is an electric offensive weapon used in different ways.
Despite not being a particularly refined route runner, Callaway ran a wide range of patterns. He was sharp on in-breaking routes where his speed off the line and ability to separate in the open field can be maximized. Callaway was effective on intermediate routes to the sideline, although not overly crisp out of his breaks.
Callaway’s game is much more polished on deep passes. He’s given free releases because of his ability to run by defenders — and will do it anyway. When he gets a step on defenders he does an excellent job getting on top of the defensive back and not allowing them into the play.
easy speed on deep balls pic.twitter.com/YbCbTyyLy2— Alistair's Cut-ups (@alistairscutups) March 31, 2018
The throw bails Iowa out, but this is Callaway breezing past L.A. Chargers cornerback Desmond King, no slouch in college or last season as a rookie in the NFL:
Callaway plays with excellent leverage out of the slot. He maintains inside body position on defensive backs on routes over the middle of the field and is given easy receptions as a result. Further down the field and to the outside, Callaway projects his breaks and bails defensive backs out. After the catch he is quick to turn up field:
Receiving passes out of the backfield, on screens or swing passes, Callaway displayed strong hands able to pluck the ball at awkward angles. Catching the ball behind him and against his momentum, he’s consistent in securing the catch before pulling the football into his body and moving after the catch.
Callaway wins off the line of scrimmage with ease, able to get into his route and separate within steps. With refinement he could devastate on option routes, where his agility and feel for space would see him win consistently. Callaway has easy speed on deep routes, often simply running past his defender inside of 15 yards. After the catch, Callaway moves fluidly and easily in the open field.
love Callaway on screens pic.twitter.com/ucu0LT9Cz9— Alistair's Cut-ups (@alistairscutups) March 31, 2018
Running up the seam or along the sideline on deep routes, Callaway turns his body and finds the football really well. If the quarterback puts the football in front of him, he’ll reach out and grab it before hitting his stride and running away from the defender. If he’s going up the seam and there’s safety help over the top, Callaway has no problem turning himself around.
On short passes is where the Harvin comparisons are fair. Callaway contorts his body in tight spaces and bounces off tacklers after the catch. Those traits extend to the return game too, where Callaway is always dangerous.
Due to off-field issues and an unpolished game as a wide receiver, Callaway is likely to slip into the draft’s third day. As an electric playmaker capable of impacting the game in a variety of ways, he could prove to be terrific value, or a wasted draft pick if he is unable to stay out of trouble. Callaway’s talent is rare and a risk worth taking in the middle-to-late parts of the draft.