Many in the NFL looked at troubled Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway and saw too much risk. The Cleveland Browns looked at him and saw too much potential to pass up early in the fourth round of the draft Saturday.
So, on a day when many were wondering how long Callaway would have to wait to hear his name called, the Browns did not keep him waiting, selecting him with the fifth pick in the fourth round and the 105th overall pick.
“I’m very excited to get a guy of this caliber and his talent at the round we thought (would be appropriate),” Cleveland general manager John Dorsey said. “As we went through this thing, we did all types of levels of processing the information.
“We thought based on things that have happened in the past and based on the kid’s ability that the fourth round is probably right where you get a guy like this. You know you have certain resources in place that can help young men develop.”
Callaway, a junior, was the first of three Gators drafted Saturday.
Punter Johnny Townsend was selected by Oakland in the fifth round (173 overall) and safety Marcell Harris was taken by San Francisco in the sixth round (184 overall).
In all, five former Gators were drafted, led by first-round pick Taven Bryan (Jacksonville) on Thursday. Cornerback Duke Dawson was selected in the second round (New England) on Friday.
Callaway already had plenty of baggage when he declared for the draft in December. It piled up higher earlier this week when it was revealed he tested positive for marijuana at the NFL combine in March.
The positive test — added to Callaway being investigated for possible sexual assault in 2016, being cited for marijuana possession a year ago and suspended for the 2017 season for credit card fraud — turned a lot of NFL teams off. Some reportedly dropped him completely from their draft board.
The Browns did not.
“The @Browns just got the best receiver in the draft,” Callaway wrote on his Twitter account. “I can’t thank god enough and to the Cleveland Brown organization thank you for believing in me!”
Despite all the issues and the perceived risk with Callaway, Dorsey had him rated the first or second-best receiver in the draft. After waiting through the first three rounds, Dorsey swooped in and made the call at the top of the fourth round.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said the Browns picked up a player who is “as gifted as any wide receiver in the entire class.”
The big question now is will Callaway finally get his life together and become the NFL player many think he can be?
Dorsey said the Browns have the resources to make that happen.
“I just want you all to realize one thing: He’ll understand what it means to be a Cleveland Brown,” Dorsey said. “Once he understands 100 percent what it means to be a Cleveland Brown, the Cleveland Browns are 100-percent committed to make this man a football player.
“I’ve always said this: It’s not our job to have people leave as good players. It’s our job to have people leave as good people as well. That’s where it is.”
Dorsey said the Browns felt “comfortable” about taking a chance with Callaway because of the exhaustive research the team has conducted on him.
“We have done extensive, I mean extensive, background work here,” Dorsey said. “We actually have had people go down to Gainesville. We have actually had people go down to certain areas just to find out all about the specifics of the situation.
“We feel very good about where we are and where he is, and where those things you were talking about, where those are at. I feel very comfortable with where we are to make a move like this.”
Dorsey said the Browns have developed a good feel for the type of person Callaway is — and can be with some help from the Cleveland support staff.
“You sit and meet with individuals, and then you begin to understand what they are as people,” Dorsey said.
“If you sit there and understand his situations and his life story, you can see a guy who strives (to be great).
“He actually loves the game of football, but he likes structure and he likes routine. You can see that there is a degree of humility with this person. You have to do your risk tolerance and say, ‘OK, where are we here?’ And I thought that this was the appropriate level to make a move like this.”
As far as being a prospect, there’s no doubt about Callaway’s production. In his two seasons at UF, he combined to catch 89 passes for 1,399 yards and seven touchdowns, and also returned two punts for touchdowns.
Some analysts have said Callaway has first-round talent, and the Browns were able to land him in the fourth round.
“Obviously, that was an organizational decision,” Cleveland coach Hue Jackson said. “We really talked through that and walked through that. We thought in the fourth round, the value, the players, it was the right opportunity.
“We understand everything that’s been said, but we feel very comfortable that we’re in a good spot that we have the resources in place to help him first be a good person and a good teammates, and then be a really good football player.”
NOTES: Junior place-kicker Eddy Pineiro went undrafted, ending any chance of he and Townsend making history as the first punter and kicker from the same school to be selected in the same draft. But, Pineiro and Townsend will continue to be kicking together. Shortly after the conclusion of the draft, Pineiro announced on Twitter that he has signed a free agent deal with the Raiders, the team who selected Townsend in the fifth round. … Former Gainesville High and Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb agreed to a free-agent contract with the New England Patriots.
Update: Tight end DeAndre Goolsby and wide receiver Brandon Powell both signed undrafted free agent contracts with the Detroit Lions while safety Nick Washington signed a free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders.