BEREA — General manager John Dorsey said Thursday he believes every man deserves a second chance.
If Dorsey thinks that man can succeed in the NFL, the number of chances multiplies.
Dorsey drafted two players Saturday with troubling backgrounds and serious character concerns.
He traded up nine spots in the fourth round to take ex-Florida receiver Antonio Callaway at No. 105. Dorsey called Callaway (5-foot-10½, 200 pounds) one of the two most talented receivers in the draft. He was still available because of a long list of transgressions that included a suspension for all of the 2017 season as part of an investigation into felony credit card fraud and continued through a failed marijuana test at the scouting combine.
With their ninth and final pick, the Browns took Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Simeon Thomas (6-3, 197) at No. 188 in the sixth round. He spent as much time in college in trouble as on the field.
Thomas, 24, was suspended four times and arrested once in five years. He didn’t play at all in 2014 and ’15.
“Character is important,” Dorsey said Saturday, a few minutes after picking Callaway. “I think it’s a case-by-case basis and you sit and meet individuals and then you begin to understand what they are as people. If you sit there and understand his situations and his life story, you can see a guy that loves the game of football, but he likes structure, he likes routine and you can see that there’s a degree of humility with this person.
“So you have to do your risk tolerance. And I thought this was the appropriate level to kind of make a move like this.”
Dorsey and coach Hue Jackson said the organization has the right systems in place to support at-risk players.
“I feel very comfortable with us taking this chance — because that’s what it is, let’s just be honest — and dealing with this because I think we have the right resources in place,” Jackson said. “Obviously there are some guys that are in this group that do have some spots on them, but trust me, we’ve done our due diligence in making sure that we vetted it all out and we feel very good about these guys in our organization.”
Callaway, 21, was suspended all of last season as part of an investigation in which police said he used a stolen credit card at the campus bookstore. He also was cited for marijuana possession in May 2017, stopped by police while riding in a car with a career criminal, and was part of a Title IX investigation in 2016 that centered on an alleged sexual battery. He testified he was high on marijuana at the time and was later found not responsible for the incident.
Dorsey sent the Patriots Nos. 114 and 150 to get No. 105.
Thomas’ issues started in high school when he was one of five Louisiana-Lafayette recruits alleged to be part of an ACT scandal. He was suspended for nine games in 2015, apparently stemming from those recruiting violations, and elected to sit out the final three games to save a season of eligibility.
He had missed all of 2014 on an academic suspension.
He was one of 13 players arrested in 2017 for stealing $2,400 worth of items from the dorm room of a teammate who was in jail on a rape charge. Thomas’ charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, and he then received a two-game academic suspension.
His only full season was 2016. For his career, he played 31 games with 90 tackles, two interceptions and 21 passes defensed.
Dorsey, in his first draft with the Browns, showed the same philosophy he had in the same role with the Chiefs. He chose to live with character issues as long as the players had sufficient potential.
He drafted receiver Tyreek Hill, cornerback Marcus Peters and tight end Travis Kelce, who’ve each made multiple Pro Bowls. Hill had committed domestic assault on his pregnant girlfriend. He hit her in the face, choked her and punched her in the stomach, according to the police report and court testimony. Dorsey drafted him in the fifth round in 2016.
“I think it’s a case-by-case basis,” Dorsey said. “Once you understand the person and the situations, then I think you can make an educated assumption of which path you want to choose.”
Callaway, a Miami native, was added to a receiver group that already had issues. Josh Gordon has been suspended multiple times for drug use, and Corey Coleman was entangled in an assault investigation and missed curfew before a game last season.
“I think the position coach will make an impact there. I do believe that,” Dorsey said of new receivers coach Adam Henry. “And I believe this guy is driven to prove people that I made a mistake but I’m excited to be a Cleveland Brown.”
Callaway is considered by many a first-round talent, and Dorsey praised his hands, long speed, run-after-the-catch ability and punt-return skills. In two years at Florida he caught 89 passes for 1,399 yards, a 15.7 average and seven touchdowns. He ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the combine.
Dorsey traded the middle of three sixth-round picks to move up for Callaway.
“I have no problem giving up a sixth-round pick to get a player of that magnitude,” Dorsey said.