The Jets’ pre-draft evaluation process is coming to an end, but there was one curious decision by the powers that be that warrants a closer look.
Why did Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway make a trip to Florham Park?
Callaway was one of the Jets’ official Top 30 visits in the run-up to the draft. The 5-11, 197-pound receiver/returner came to the team facility last week, which seems like no big deal on the surface.
Callaway made an immediate impact on the field at Florida with 35 receptions for 678 yards and four touchdowns en route to freshman All-America honors. He was the team’s leading receiver as a sophomore (54 receptions for 721 yards), including 6.9 yards after the catch (third in the SEC). He averaged 12.1 yards per punt return (on 54 returns) and 29.3 yards per kick return in two seasons.
The Jets, in case you’ve been living in a cave, desperately want to upgrade at returner.
Callaway became the first player in school history to score a touchdown in five different ways (punt return, kick return, receiving, rushing, passing). However, there are a litany of off-field red flags attached to this player that shouldn’t be marginalized.
It’s no secret that teams bring in players with “issues” during the pre-draft process, but this has been a particularly embarrassing several months for the Jets. Three players (Rashard Robinson, Robby Anderson and Dylan Donahue) have had run-ins with the law since December. (Remember: The Jets underscored the importance of creating a new “culture” last year).
Antonio Callaway made a visit to Florham Park.
(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
The brain trust has repeatedly stated that it doesn’t condone this most recent behavior from their players, so it’s fair to question why they would even entertain the idea of drafting a prospect with such a dubious track record.
Callaway was suspended for 2016 spring practices after being accused of sexual assault by a Florida student during his freshman year (December 2015). He was later found “not responsible” of the charges after a Title IX hearing that was presided over by an “independent” officer, who also happened to be a person who donated to the Florida Football Boosters.
According to records from the hearing, Callaway admitted that he was “high” on marijuana at the time of the alleged incident. His explanation for not committing sexual battery: “I was so stoned. I had no interested in having sex with anyone.”
Callaway was cited for marijuana possession in May 2017 after police stopped the driver of the car that he was in for not wearing a seatbelt. He later pled no contest for possession of paraphernalia.
Here’s the bow on Calloway’s college career: He was suspended for the entire 2017 season after his involvement in a credit card fraud scheme with Florida teammates. He ultimately reached a plea deal.
Florida fired head coach Jim McElwain after the season. The new staff evidently didn’t exactly beg Callaway to return, so he declared for the NFL draft.
Antonio Callaway makes a catch for a 53-yard touchdown against FAU defensive back Raekwon Williams.
The Browns, Bengals, Colts and Cowboys are among the teams that have shown interest in Callaway, who insists that the birth of his daughter a couple months ago has changed him for the better.
“I’m a great person,” Callaway said at his Pro Day last month. “I’m not this bad person that the media portrays. I mean, I can’t stress it enough. I’ve just got to … let my actions speak for me. They think I’m just this wild person. I ain’t no wild person. … Like I said I don’t cry over spilled milk. It happened. I wish I would have never put myself in those position, but it happened. I can’t go back and change nothing. Just move forward.”
Callaway is projected to be a Day 3 pick (Rounds 4-5), but why on Earth would the Jets even consider bringing him aboard given their supposed culture change and recent off-field transgressions? Besides, don’t they have enough on their plate in the wide receiver room with Anderson’s pending legal issues?
Callaway will likely get an opportunity to prove that he has indeed changed, but he’s way too risky for the Jets. There’s simply no reason to trust him right now.
“He’ll fail at least one drug test in the NFL,” one scout told NFL Draft Analyst Dane Brugler, who publishes an in-depth draft book for NFLDraftScout. “Put that in your guide.”
Gang Green should take a hard pass.
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