With the 2020 NFL Draft less than a week away, it’s crunch time for NFL GMs, coaches, and scouts to figure out who they want and how their draft board stands. Fans are already well-acquainted with the big names in this year’s draft class, but sometimes it’s the players who aren’t talked about as much who end up having a greater impact down the line.
A couple analysts believe Tennessee wide receiver Marquez Callaway could be one such player.
Dan Wolken of USA Today Sports and analysts at 247Sports both released a list of 11 “overlooked” players in the 2020 NFL Draft class. These players are ones both Wolken and 247Sports believe won’t be taken in the first three rounds but could end up making a big impact down the line.
“In every draft, there are some players picked in late rounds that end up making a name for themselves,” Riley Gates of 247Sports writes. “A few years down the line, some of these unknown names in the 2020 NFL Draft could emerge as elite NFL players and really improve some franchise’s futures. While it’s not a guarantee to happen, it’s nice to be ahead of the curve and know the names beforehand.”
So why does Marquez Callaway fit this description? Because he’s not gotten a ton of buzz, but he’s proven to be explosive as a jump-ball threat.
“Yardage and touchdown numbers don’t jump off the page for Callaway, but his average per catch is astounding,” writes 247Sports. “He never averaged less than 16 yards per catch when catching multiple passes in a season, and had a career-high 21.2 yards per catch this past year. If you need a big play receiver, Callaway might be your guy.”
Callaway was second on Tennessee’s roster in 2019 in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, totaling 635 yards and six touchdowns on only 30 catches. His 21.2 yards per catch ranked fourth in the FBS and was tied for the best average in the SEC. He finished his Vol career with 92 receptions for 1,646 yards and 13 touchdowns.
What makes those numbers even more impressive is that Callaway never had truly elite quarterback play in his four years as a Vol. According to Dan Wolken, giving Callaway a stable environment in the NFL and a stellar quarterback could really unlock his potential.
“If you’re willing to make a straight-up talent play for someone who dealt with uneven circumstances in his college career, he’s worth a roll of the dice,” Wolken writes. “Between the coaching changes at Tennessee and the fact he never played with a great quarterback, maybe putting him with a stable franchise and surrounding him with professionalism will get the most out of him.”
From a pure athleticism standpoint, Callaway has plenty to boast. His broad jump and vertical leap at the 2020 NFL Combine were both ranked inside the top-11 at his position, and his 4.55-second 40-yard dash wasn’t too shabby.
Callaway’s production on the field, however, was somewhat boom-or-bust.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound wideout had five games of 100-plus receiving yards as a Vol, but he also totaled 15 games of 30 or fewer receiving yards in his time in the orange and white.
As Wolken points out, a lot of that also had to do with inconsistent quarterback play during Callaway’s Tennessee career, but scouts have wondered just how much that really played into it. Fortunately for Callaway, he also proved to be a dangerous punt returner during his UT career, giving him another tool at his disposal.
Callaway finished fourth in school history in punt return average with 13.6 yards per return in his career. His three punt return touchdowns finished tied for second all-time in a Tennessee career, and he returned a punt for a touchdown in three of his four seasons with the Vols.
Linebacker Darrell Taylor, wide receiver Jauan Jennings, and Callaway have been the three Vols most consistently showing up in seven-round mock drafts. But linebacker Daniel Bituli and safety Nigel Warrior also have chances of being drafted, and tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson has impressive physical attributes and could be a late-round flyer.
The 2020 NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 23rd and runs through Saturday, April 25th. The first round will be on Thursday, the second and third rounds on Friday, and the fourth through seventh rounds on Sunday.