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Why Antonio Callaway might actually be the second best option in Cleveland

For the first time in a long time, it’s an exciting time to be a Cleveland Browns fan. Baker Mayfield is a leader on and off the field and looks to finally be the answer at quarterback. John Dorsey sat back and continued to upgrade the offense bringing in highly touted Odell Beckham Jr. to play along with his best friend since high school in Jarvis Landry. Landry was the lead receiver last year, a guy who while having a good fantasy year struggled to produce some on the outside. Which brings us to now second-year wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Drafted in the fourth round in 2018 by the Cleveland Browns, many thought Callaway had the skill set to be a top-flight wide receiver in the NFL. Off the field issues being the only thing that caused his stock to drop when it came to the draft, something Dorsey hasn’t been afraid to overlook if the talent is there. Let me tell you, the talent is there for sure. While Callaway was forced into the second role at receiver last year he struggled early on with drops. While he started off with Tyrod Taylor as his quarterback, Baker Mayfield took over in game three and never looked back. Yet it still took Callaway till the second half of the season to really show his merit. Let’s take a look back at his 2018 season so we can get an idea of what to expect from him in 2019.

First eight games

Callaway struggled out the gate. While learning a new offense that wasn’t exactly touted with the in house fighting of Todd Haley and Hue Jackson. Callaway had 21 receptions-on- 45 targets for a 46% catch rate. He was able to rack up 236 yards and two touchdowns. Here is probably his most memorable touchdown in that time against the New Orleans Saints.

Regular Season Table
Receiving Rushing Kick Returns Punt Returns Scoring Fumbles
Rk Date G# Age Tm Opp Result GS Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD Ctch% Y/Tgt Att Yds Y/A TD Rt Yds Y/Rt TD Ret Yds Y/R TD 2PM TD Pts Fmb FF FR Yds TD
12018-09-09121.243CLEPITT 21-2110000.0%0.00000188.0000000000000
22018-09-16221.250CLE@NORL 18-21*438127.00175.0%20.25273.5000000001600000
32018-09-20321.254CLENYJW 21-17*114205.00036.4%1.820000000000000000
42018-09-30421.264CLE@OAKL 42-45*935418.00033.3%6.0000012424.000199.0000000000
52018-10-07521.271CLEBALW 12-953227.33060.0%4.400000000000000000
62018-10-14621.278CLELACL 14-38*7294.50028.6%1.2900011818.00000010200000
72018-10-21721.285CLE@TAML 23-26*211414.00050.0%7.000000000000000000
82018-10-28821.292CLE@PITL 18-33*65367.20183.3%6.000000000001600000
16 Games7-8-1794358613.63554.4%7.42273.500814317.88056112.200153210000
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/1/2019.

Last eight games

Going into Kansas City now head coach Freddie Kitchens was promoted to Offensive coordinator from the running backs coach, after the firing of Haley and Jackson. Kitchens came in and immediately showed he had a more aggressive play-calling style. It seemed with this increase in aggressiveness, Callaway got an increase in targets and did more with them. Cleveland’s offense turned around and became a high powered offense, one on par with the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams. All of this coincided with an increase in performance for Callaway as well. He finished off the year with 22 receptions-on-34 targets for a 64% catch rate. which was an increase of 18%. He also scored three touchdowns in this time as well as racking up 350 yards. Most notably in some of their biggest games for the Browns last season Callaway showed up especially against Denver and Baltimore.

Regular Season Table
Receiving Rushing Kick Returns Punt Returns Scoring Fumbles
Rk Date G# Age Tm Opp Result GS Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD Ctch% Y/Tgt Att Yds Y/A TD Rt Yds Y/Rt TD Ret Yds Y/R TD 2PM TD Pts Fmb FF FR Yds TD
92018-11-04921.299CLEKANL 21-37*535117.00060.0%10.200000000000000000
102018-11-111021.306CLEATLW 28-16*223919.500100.0%19.500000000000000000
112018-11-251121.320CLE@CINW 35-20*546215.50180.0%12.40000188.000166.0001600000
122018-12-021221.327CLE@HOUL 13-29638428.00050.0%14.000000000000010000
132018-12-091321.334CLECARW 26-201100.000100.0%0.000000000000000000
142018-12-151421.340CLE@DENW 17-16*75357.00171.4%5.000000000001600000
152018-12-231521.348CLECINW 26-1810000.0%0.00000166.0000000000000
162018-12-301621.355CLE@BALL 24-26*747919.75157.1%11.2900037926.33034615.3301600000
16 Games7-8-1794358613.63554.4%7.42273.500814317.88056112.200153210000
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/1/2019.

2019 outlook

It’s fair to say right now that both Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are likely more feared by defenses and have more clout than Callaway at this point. However, going back and looking at what Callaway did in 2018 could change his narrative. Out of 440 pass routes run last year, 61 were out of the slot. That will likely change this year now with OBJ in the mix, Landry will move to his more natural position in the slot. Which should move Callaway almost full time on the outside. This move should benefit him greatly. Last year in 17 games he was matched up with top 60 corners in 8 of those games. Most of those matchups coming in the second half of the season, where again he produced a 64% catch rate. Having OBJ and Landry should allow him the much better matchup now. Looking at most teams depth charts, their best cornerback is going to lineup against Beckham on the outside. While most second best cornerbacks or even some of the teams best are covering the slot wide receiver, in this case, that would be Landry. This now puts the third best corner up against Callaway, which for most teams immediately gives him the advantage. Being able to beat the corner and “if” there is a Saftey over the top, is something Callaway thrives at. Which will, in turn, make him a prime target for Baker Mayfield.

Baker, unlike Odell and Jarvis previous quarterbacks, doesn’t force the ball to his wide receivers going all the way back to his Oklahoma days. He looks for the open man, anticipates the throw and lets it loose. Last year Baker ranked fourth in the NFL with deep ball attempts at 75 (5.4 attempts a game) while also being one of the most accurate as well, finishing as the ninth-ranked QB with 41.3%. Callaway while only slightly faster then Beckham will likely serve as the teams deep threat. With his resurgence in the second half of last season, he finished the year as the 42nd ranked WR, 20 points behind Jarvis. However, Jarvis at the time was playing mostly on the outside with Higgins in the slot. This allowed Jarvis to rack up two 100 yard receiving games and 10 more receptions. Now with Jarvis mainly in the slot those targets will likely dissipate some for Landry and move to Callaway. While I have no doubt Landry will still get his fair share of looks as will Beckham, likely in key situations and third downs. Baker extends the play and looks for the open man. Callaway now getting the likely better matchups on most snaps with his explosiveness and ability to get down the field, makes him a prime candidate to jump up in fantasy production in 2019. We saw his increase in work pay off in the second half of last season, and I contend adding Beckham actually helps his outlook.

With the increase of targets and better matchups, Callaway should finish as the second-best receiver in Cleveland. His current ADP is 210 the 73rd WR off the board, ( not a bad price to pay for an up and coming star in a budding NFL offense.

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