Had Brandon Coleman declared for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season, he may well have been a first-round NFL Draft selection. Instead, the 6'6, 225-pound wide receiver opted to return to Rutgers for another year. After a drop-off in production, he finds himself projected as a mid-rounder after declaring as a junior.
Following a 718-yard, 10-touchdown campaign in 2012, Coleman dropped to 538 yards and four touchdowns in 2013. A major factor in that decline was a knee injury that hampered him much of last season, and the inconsistency of quarterback Gary Nova didn't help his cause either.
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Coleman made big strides in proving his knee was healthy at the NFL Combine, where he put on an impressive performance. Most notably, he turned out a 4.56 40-yard dash, which, for a player his size, is a strong number. Pleased with his showing in Indy, he elected to skip the measurables at his pro day.
Coleman may have been dealt a tough hand, but he says that won't slow him down in pursuing his NFL dreams. Still rated by SB Nation as the 12th best wideout in a particularly strong class, his size and ability should draw plenty of attention on draft day.
Do you regret your decision not to declare for the draft last year?
I can't live in the past. I can only learn from it and get better. That's what I've been doing, getting better. I have to keep moving forward.
You're projected as a mid-round pick by most experts. Do you think that's fair, or are you being undervalued?
I think I'm more valuable than that, but at the same time, I have to display that. My game may not have displayed that last season. I can respect that because I wasn't the same player that I was in 2012. At the same time, I'll bet on myself any day of the week.
You say you weren't the same player this past year. Was that based solely on the injury, or were there any other factors?
No, that was mainly just the injury. It limited my range of motion. It kept me from being the dynamic player that I am and being able to stretch the defense. I wasn't that same threat that I was.
How different was going through the combine compared to the pro day? I would imagine the combine is a bit more stressful.
The combine was definitely stressful. There were a lot of anxiety, a lot of nerves leading up to it just because it's so hyped and there's so much attention on it. At the same time, I've been in situations like that in games. But this is different because you only do this one time in your life. I think I handled myself pretty well but I did have nerves and I was anxious to go out there and show what I'm capable of.
There are quite a few Rutgers receivers in the league right now. Did you reach out to any of them for advice on this process?
I stayed in contact with some of the more recent ones: Mohamed Sanu, Mark Harrison. More of the recent guys, but also Tiquan Underwood. He's reached out to me over the past year and kind of gave me words of inspiration and encouragement. Pretty much all of them just said, 'go in there, be relaxed, be who you are. Because at the end of the day you put yourself in the situation to get here, now go show them why they need to draft you.'
People like to to talk about the numbers, but the team interviews during the combine are also an important part of the evaluation process. How did those go?
I think I handled those pretty well. I had a series of informal interviews and I had a decent amount of formal interviews as well. That was a chance for the teams to get to know me on a personal level. It was a chance for me to make a first impression with the teams.
Teams nowadays really want to dig into a player's background off the field before they pull the trigger. How deep did they go into your personal life?
They go far. They go as far back as they need to. I think they went as far back as my high school days, but I didn't really have anything to bring any red flags up.
The media also loves to jump into a players' personal life, and they'll really go after any type of character issue rumors. Sometimes that results in the reporting of half-truths and unsupported rumors. Do you see that as unfair?
The media has a job too. I can't fault them for trying to put a story out there. If they want to do a story a certain way, then that's their choice. I can't get involved in that too much because that's not my chosen profession.
The big-bodied receiver has been a hot commodity in the NFL in recent years. You see guys like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and more recently, Alshon Jeffery have big-time success. Do you look to those players as inspiration?
Oh definitely. I think guys like you mentioned have paved the way and continue to set the standard for younger guys like myself. That's part of the competition. You chase what's ahead of you, chase greatness.
What did opposing defenses in college do to take away that size advantage?
You get teams that want to high-low with the safety and the corner. Or get a linebacker to play underneath and a corner to play over the top. Different teams have different schemes based off their personnel.
You're starting to see some bigger cornerbacks come into the league to combat these bigger receivers. Richard Sherman comes to mind. Did you face many bigger corners in school?
I didn't face too many, except for my former teammate Marcus Cooper, who's now on the Kansas City Chiefs. He was the biggest one, but that was in practice. He was a former receiver so he had the athletic ability and knowledge of a receiver, so he knew the ins and outs of both positions.
You played in a pro-style offense at Rutgers. Do you think that gives you an advantage over guys that have been in the spread since high school?
Most definitely. I'm grateful I've been in a pro-style offense these last three years. It's helped me in the interview process and with the board work and watching film. I have a knowledge of the system and I can talk about it. They just want to see what you know and that you can explain what you know.
What do you think will be your biggest challenge in adjusting to pro ball?
Adjusting to a new offensive system. Adjusting to new coaches. Once that happens I'll be good to go. It's going to take some time to study and prepare myself and get ready for the season.
Also the speed. At each level you play, from high school to college, the speed changes. You can see it on Sundays watching TV. I'm going to adjust to that naturally. Over time, practicing with the guys that are already there, I'm going to adapt.
People talk about the SEC as the fastest conference in college football, and you got a taste of that by playing Arkansas in consecutive years. In fact, you beat Arkansas in consecutive years. Did you notice much of a difference against those guys?
Going into the game, everybody wanted to make it a big deal that we were playing an SEC team. But at the end of the day they strapped up just like we did. I knew we were the underdog and I embraced that. I'm here to win, I'm here to compete. Of course the intensity level raised and we had to go out there and take care of business.