After Onterio McCalebb dominated the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, people began to ask, "Just how can he be used in the NFL? It's not an easy question to answer.
At just 5'10", 168 pounds, McCalebb is small, and that always poses questions. Then again, there has to be some way to use someone who can run a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash, right? Auburn has produced some exciting talent in recent years, and McCalebb is yet another explosive playmaker to enter the NFL.
McCalebb's biggest strength is immediately obvious: his speed. Few players at any level are as quick to the outside as McCalebb. It is nearly impossible to get the angle on the speedy Auburn product. His pure speed leads to many defenders over-pursuing, allowing McCalebb to easily make them miss. McCalebb's burst is also obvious, and he explodes from the snap. He is also sudden in his movements and quick enough to make most defenders miss. When catching the ball, McCalebb uses his hands and rarely drops routine passes. McCalebb is a potentially elite kick returner, and he could have a huge impact on special teams.
McCalebb has limited experience at wide receiver. He spent the majority of his time at Auburn running the ball out of the backfield, and his route-running is raw. His hands aren't the best, and he struggles to reel in passes that aren't thrown right to him. Though he does consistently use his hands to catch the ball, his hands don't appear to be particularly strong, and that could lead to drops. McCalebb's lack of size and strength are also concerning, and he could struggle to beat the press and stay healthy.
McCalebb's pure speed and burst are rare assets. Defenders will struggle to keep up with him, regardless of where he lines up. His size and lack of strength are both concerning, however. McCalebb is easily overpowered, and he almost never uses his strength to win battles. It's also possible that McCalebb's lack of size will lead to injuries in the NFL.
McCalebb was arrested in May of 2011 for driving an unregistered vehicle and being unable to provide a valid driver's license. Besides this lone issue, McCalebb has been clean off the field and has stayed out of trouble.
Auburn used McCalebb in a variety of ways. The team would line him up in the backfield, giving him the ball on handoffs, screens, swing patterns and option plays. At times, McCalebb would also line up in the slot as a receiver, either going out on a pass pattern or optioning into the backfield for a handoff or swing pass. McCalebb also started as a kick returner at Auburn.
This is a projection. McCalebb rarely had to demonstrate this skill at Auburn, and he will have to develop the ability to beat the press in the NFL. McCalebb's burst and quickness will serve him well in getting around cornerbacks trying to jam him at the line.
McCalebb has limited experience in running routes. He primarily played running back at Auburn, and the majority of his receptions came on screens, swing passes and other plays designed to get him the ball in space. McCalebb shows great burst and quickness when running routes, but he needs to be more disciplined. He will need practice in order to work as a traditional slot receiver.
When the ball is thrown right at McCalebb, he will usually catch it. He does a good job of extending his hands and not using his body to bring the ball in. However, McCalebb's hands aren't overly strong, and this could lead to drops. He never looks totally comfortable reaching for a pass.
This is where McCalebb really needs to improve. He struggles when reaching and adjusting for passes not thrown directly to him. He isn't great with his body control, and he struggles to go up for the ball. McCalebb can catch the balls thrown right at him, but he struggles when he has to adjust and make a play on the ball.
Run After Catch
As a receiver, this is easily McCalebb's biggest strength. His speed helps him get around the edge and break angles. It is nearly impossible to catch McCalebb from behind, and over-pursuing is also a concern. Though he isn't as sudden with open-field moves as one might expect, McCalebb is still elusive and is excellent when changing direction. He combines his speed and burst with great open-field vision. McCalebb is quick to turn his head upfield after catching the ball, and he is always looking for ways to get more yards, whether it's a cutback lane or complete reversal of the field.
McCalebb rarely blocked at Auburn, but when he did, the results weren't pretty. He isn't strong enough to take on most defenders, and his technique is also faulty. Any team relying on McCalebb to get a push in the run game or protect the quarterback is going to be sorely disappointed, both with the results and effort shown.
Scheme Versatility/Future Role
In the NFL, McCalebb's biggest value will probably come as a return man. His burst and speed are both incredibly valuable there, and McCalebb displays great vision in finding and accelerating through holes in kick coverage. On offense, McCalebb should be used in a variety of ways. Teams should line him up in the slot and the backfield. Essentially, they should try to give him the ball in space where he can use his speed to make plays.