Sources: #Browns WR Antonio Callaway is being suspended 4 games for a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He had been appealing this ruling. This may party explain why he’s been running with the reserves.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 9, 2019
This one tweet from Ian Rapoport pretty much consigns Antonio Callaway to the Cleveland Browns dog house. No, not the Dawg Pound. They’re not going to make him sit with the fans. But for the good Callaway can do for the first quarter of the season, they might as well.
The Holywood Lifestyle
One man’s misfortune is another’s fortune however, in the zero-sum game of football. Callaway’s suspension pretty much locks Rashard “Holywood” Higgins into a starting role, as one of the Browns’ top-three wide receivers.
Callaway was portrayed as a redemption story in 2018. However, in terms of on-field production, Higgins story is one much more worthy of the telling. One writer for this site proclaimed him as the Browns WR to own early in the 2017 season, after which he delivered an underwhelming 27-312-2 line.1 In 2018, Baker Mayfield came into his life, and the effects were instantly noticeable.
Who would have thought that pairing a receiver with an above-average quarterback would benefit him?2 Higgins’ partnership with Mayfield is far and away the most fruitful of any Higgins has had since entering the NFL.
Just to further emphasize the point, it’s also the most efficient partnership of Mayfield’s still young career.
Higgins trailed Jarvis Landry and Callaway in targets in 2018, as well as Duke Johnson (now of the Houston Texans) and tight end David Njoku. But in terms of efficiency, he was far and away the best of the leading Browns pass catchers.
Projecting the Role
The Callaway news, aided by the trade of Johnson, has opened the target share for the Browns heading into 2019. 3 I used the Rotoviz Projection Machine to take a look at how these changes could benefit Higgins. The starting premise had Johnson receiving 9% of the team targets. Callaway as WR3 also enjoyed a 9% share. I went bullish and gave Higgins a 16% share, and this is what that could mean in 2019.
As impressive as these numbers look, it would still only be enough to put Higgins into WR42, at least according to our projections. Still, Higgins is entering the last year of his contract. A showing like the one above would certainly make him an attractive free agent in 2020. He appears to be an ideal late-round best ball option at present, and a player to have on the deepest of benches.
Higgins likely needs an injury to either Odell Beckham or Landry in order to push himself into serious fantasy consideration. But the lights of Holywood are shining brighter than they were a few short weeks ago.
Image Credit: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Rashard Higgins.
- The writer in question bears a striking physical resemblance to me. (back)
- Mayfield is quite a bit above average, I am fully aware. (back)
- The implications of this trade were examined by Tyler Loechner. (back)