One of the Draft's Most Talented WR Prospects Has Some Off-Field Issues, Should that Scare Away the Bears?

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One of the Draft’s Most Talented WR Prospects Has Some Off-Field Issues, Should that Scare Away the Bears?

Chicago Bears

Antonio Callaway already had some off-field issues coming into the 2018 NFL Draft, and a recent report isn’t going to silence those concerns.

In what feels like an annual occurrence, we’re learning that a player – in this case, Callaway – has tested positive for a drug of abuse. The talented Florida wide receiver who reportedly tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and that could affect his draft stock later this week.

As we noted in today’s Bullets, Callaway was a player who was already coming with red flags due to character concerns. A credit card scandal led to the suspensions of nine Florida players (including Callaway) and featured seven players (again, including Callaway) entering a pre-trial intervention program that would eventually lead to the dismissal of third-degree felony credit card charges.

On top of that, Callaway was accused of sexual assault in 2015, but was found not responsible following a Title IX hearing after his  accuser boycotted the hearing, claiming bias by the hearing officer – who happened to be a Florida athletics booster.

With everything that’s happened, Callaway’s stock is tumbling, despite immense talent that could’ve landed him among the draft’s top wideouts. Instead, Callaway is at risk of not being drafted at all. His draft profile has him going in the third or fourth round, but projects a player some believe has first-round talent dropping to the fifth.

As we have discussed throughout the offseason, the Bears have a need at receiver and it has only been amplified since the team allowed Cameron Meredith to walk away. But because Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel signed as free agents, the need isn’t as desperate as it once was earlier in the offseason.

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

It’s worth noting that Matt Nagy (referred to as a wild card entering draft weekend) has seen what it looks like when a team takes a risk on a talented player who has off-field issues. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill had red flags coming out of college stemming from past issues with domestic violence, but the Chiefs vetted him thoroughly before taking him in the fifth round (165th overall) in 2016.

Indeed, Hill was a fifth-round pick in 2016 from Division II West Alabama after being dismissed by Oklahoma State after an arrest that led to a charge (and guilty plea) to domestic abuse by strangulation of his pregnant girlfriend. Hill has since had to complete a domestic-abuse evaluation, an anger-management course, and a year-long batterer’s program as part of his sentence, according to the Kansas City Star. Further, Hill was expected to continue to receive counseling in Kansas City – which seems like an important part in why Andy Reid and the Chiefs were comfortable drafting him.

This isn’t to say Hill deserves the benefit of the doubt or should forget about his past. But if he is truly trying to change for the better, he should be encouraged to continue down that path. And taking responsibility for one’s actions is the first step toward doing that.

It’s fair to wonder if Callaway will “get it” the way Hill seems to have since being drafted. Testing positive for marijuana is just the latest occurrence that suggests he might not. There is something about a failed test when you know it’s coming, all while pitching yourself as a changed man that doesn’t vibe.

Players with off-the-field issues will always find themselves under the microscope. And at age 21, there is still time for Callaway to grow up. It’s just that now, he has put himself further behind the eight-ball than ever before.

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Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.