Each and every year Ohio State is one of the leaders in total players drafted to the NFL. In this series, I am going to be profiling the former Ohio State Buckeyes who have declared for the NFL Draft.
Ohio State hosted their Pro Day this week, and Demario McCall was a man with an opportunity to show scouts his natural athletic ability. After an up-and-down career, McCall left on a high note with his leadership making a lasting impact on the Buckeyes’ program, and brings a maturity that came late in his career to the draft process.
After being recruited by the Urban Meyer coaching staff, he never found his footing as he was tried at a variety of offensive positions. McCall played the H-back, slot receiver, running back, and in his final season he even ended up transitioning to the defensive side of the ball by playing corner. This versatility provides value as he plans to transition to the professional level, but it also creates a long list of questions. The advantage to his situation is he is an experienced special team contributor and tested extremely well at his Pro Day.
Today we’re going to look at why McCall will get an opportunity at the next level, and the skills he bring that can lead to potential success in the NFL.
Demario McCall Draft Round Projection: UDFA
When it comes to evaluating players with little tape, the key is looking at testing numbers and beginning to translate it to the limited opportunities that player had on the field. McCall played a wide variety of positions, but his main playing time came as a kick returner. This gives him a potential immediate role at the next level. With his experience on offense and defense, teams can begin to evaluate the maximum value he potentially brings to their roster. His versatility can potentially give him a leg up, but overall the question marks lead to the reality being a camp invite at best.
In his career, McCall returned punts and kicks. This skill brings immediate value to the next level with his athleticism. The first few years of his career he was penciled in as the kick returner and returned the occasional punt.
In the first play we’re going to look at, we see McCall (No. 30) back as the punt returner against Nebraska. This is a standard punt return, but McCall shows his burst in this example. After catching the punt, he makes the initial coverage defenders miss and rips off a nice return. This is a skill that teams will see and take into consideration versus other prospects in a similar situation.
Sometimes positional versatility is not a choice, and in McCall’s case he never really found a consistent role despite his ability as an all around offensive weapon. Those questions on why come down to the old proverb of jack of all trades but master of none. As a running back, he brought great receiving ability. As a receiver, he brought great run after the catch ability, but this led to him getting lost in the shuffle at both positions.
In the play below, we see him catch a pass out of the backfield. This is a standard check down, but being able to catch out of the backfield is an incredibly important trait in the modern game of football. This example shows an easy check down, but his ability after the catch is on display. He gains a nice amount of yardage and shows that given the opportunity he can make something happen.
In his final season, McCall made the move to the defensive side of the ball in an attempt to find some more consistent playing time. He ended up playing in mostly mop up duty, but he was able to put some plays on tape as a cornerback.
In the play below, we get to take a look at him in man coverage, and he does not look out of place given his experience level. McCall is in press coverage, and Akron runs a a hard play action looking to get single coverage on the outside. McCall stays in phase and closes the passing window. He is able to break up the pass and show he is not a liability on the defensive side of the ball. His future may not be on defense, but the potential and value of a player who has played both sides is something NFL teams will be intrigued by.
Scheme and Team Fits
With a player like McCall, the most important fit is a fit of opportunity. At the next level he probably won’t get much opportunity as a rotation player immediately, which means he will need to show out in camp and provide ample value on the special teams side of the ball. When we look at teams, two things that might help McCall find a fit are potential need at the positions he’s played or a history of drafting Ohio State players.
Pittsburgh Steelers (UDFA): The Steelers have a mix of former Buckeyes and are a team that looks for versatility in their potential undrafted player signings. With some former Buckeyes on the roster, we can see that Mike Tomlin and the Rooney family respect Ohio State, and this can be a potential opportunity for McCall.
Tennessee Titans (OTA Invite): Tennessee is led by a former Buckeye and a camp opportunity wouldn’t be out of the picture for McCall for the Titans. Overall, I think finding a home with Ohio State in the back ground would be ideal for him extending his opportunity. Playing for Mike Vrabel might do just that,
Carolina Panthers (UDFA): Matt Rhule and the Panthers gave a chance to former Ohio State Buckeye C.J. Saunders, and as a good friend of Ryan Day, Rhule could give another opportunity out to a talented Buckeye. McCall would bring value to the receiving room and return game in Charlotte.
Demetric Felton (Cleveland Browns): Felton had a late surge in his career as a do it all back for UCLA. McCall doesn’t have the same production, but his athletic profile is even better than Felton’s as he approaches the next level. If he finds the right landing spot, he can take a roster spot and provide the team he’s on with a similar skillset as Felton.
Deonte Harris (New Orleans Saints: An undersized athlete, Harris has found his niche as a special teams and gadget player on the offensive side of the ball. He is a little bit more explosive than McCall, but has a role that McCall could thrive in if given the opportunity.
Demario McCall was everyone’s favorite “what if” player on the Ohio State roster until time just wasn’t on his side anymore. He never complained about the lack of opportunity, and his effort to make his situation work at all times won’t go unnoticed. Despite not playing a significant role on either side of the ball, he never wavered when it came to being a leader on the team.
In his college career he did a little bit of everything, which NFL teams will be excited by. This gives him ample opportunity to find a role on a team at the next level. Playing defense, returning kicks, and having some explosive moments as an offensive contributor gives NFL teams a player who can provide great value on the practice squad. If given the opportunity, McCall will probably find at least a practice squad shot, and that would be a great place to start given how his career went.
The NFL is always looking for versatility, and McCall might have been too versatile for his own good at Ohio State. The former Buckeye everyman can be a good fit in a franchise looking for player to fill those final roster spots. Even though he is unlikley to be drafted, expect to see McCall on an NFL roster or practice squad come the 2022 season.