Corey Coleman is a bit of a contrast from the first two wide receivers I broke down for this year's draft, Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell and TCU's Josh Doctson. The latter two are both 6'2 and over 200 pounds. Coleman stands 5'11 and weighs 194 pounds, so there's definitely a difference in stature. But let's be real here; the difference between Coleman and the other two guys when you watch them play is the difference in game speed.
Coleman's speed is pretty ridiculous ... in a good way.
Don't get me wrong, I think Doctson and Treadwell both have enough speed to compete in the NFL (I do admit to a tiny bit of skepticism with Treadwell), but Coleman has that peeeeeeeeewwwn to leave DBs in the dust. His pro day 4.37-second 40 time was cool and all, but Coleman looks even faster than that when you watch him streaking down the field.
Coleman has that you-better-put-a-safety-over-the-top-of-him speed that can be invaluable for most offenses and offensive coordinators. He also has the kind of lateral quickness that can be used effectively in a variety of other ways like punt returns, when combined with his crazy straight line speed.
Yes I know it was called back, so what.
I don't know how his blocking would be (we'll get to that later), but on a couple runs between the tackles, Coleman looked like a legit third-down back prospect. I could certainly see a team using him like the Los Angeles Rams (finally) used Tavon Austin this past season, lining him up all over the damn place to create matchup nightmares. Coleman would be doing it all while being three inches taller and damn near 20 pounds heavier than Austin, and he would still ball.
I look at Coleman's speed and then some of the work he put in at the line of scrimmage to beat press coverage, and I start looking at him being one of those "can't miss" prospects at the position. In this context "can't miss" means no matter how sorry of an offensive coordinator and/or quarterback he ends up with, he is still going to be able to put up numbers for the team that takes him.
Of course that might have to be as a guy who's the "gimmick play" dude just as Austin was until last season, but even in that role I think he would still find a way to shine. Hell, get him on a few end-arounds, a couple carries at running back and a flea flicker or two and watch Coleman fill up your fucking stat sheet.
You could always just use him like a normal outside wide receiver who can also go in the slot and get busy from time to time. That's always an option.
But you do you, Mr. NFL offensive coordinator. You do you!
This kid is pretty special with the ball in his hands. My suggestion is that whatever team drafts him should definitely try to get him involved early and often no matter how they get it to him.
I know some folks have criticized Baylor's offense in general and Coleman specifically for the fact that the receivers don't run a lot of different routes in their scheme. I can totally understand the frustration. I mentioned the same thing when it came to Treadwell because he wasn't called upon to run a lot of routes at Ole Miss. But ...
I don't think it matters much this time.
Look man, are you really trying to tell me you see this kid making some of these cuts and you are still worried he might not be a good route runner?
Yeah, sure, I'd have loved to see him actually run a full route tree, but come on bruh.
You know what? He shouldn't be running much more in the NFL than he ran in college any damn way: fade routes, smoke routes, slant routes, shallow crossing routes from slot, 5-yard routes ... maybe you can sprinkle in some skinny posts, deep digs and comeback routes. The way Coleman moves when running with the football tells me he shouldn't have any problems with those latter three routes.
I'm not tripping at all. Not on that at least.
* * *
There was one thing that did bug me about Coleman: his hands. Not even really his hands, but his inconsistency with catching the ball "correctly."
I've talked about this before. I really value guys that can, yanno, actually catch. What I've found from years of playing, coaching and studying football is that the top wide receivers generally like to catch the ball with their thumbs together. Well, not always literally touching, but basically their hands form somewhat of a triangle when they catch the football.
Of course there are some exceptions when guys have to catch the ball "underhanded" (so to speak) with their pinkies together, like when the throw is a little low, ahead of them or a bit of both. Aside from those specific situations, I usually want to see my guy catching the football with the triangle because it gives receivers a much greater chance of securing the football than trying to catch it underhanded.
Now some guys grew up catching the football underhanded, so they just find a way to make it work because no matter what they do, catching with the triangle just doesn't feel natural to them. I always expect those guys to have a lot more drops than other top receivers who do use the triangle consistently.
I'm usually right, too.
Here is what is so aggravating about Coleman, however; he actually does catch the ball correctly a lot of the time. In the span of these five games, I saw him snatch the ball right out of the air several times and in impressive fashion.
So why in the fuck does he choose to try to catch the ball underhanded on so many high-point fade balls?!
Coleman did a decent job of catching some of those balls underhanded. He actually scored a touchdown or two catching the ball that way. But there were a few other times when the ball fell incomplete where I was pretty sure he would've made the catch had he had his thumbs together instead.
Even on some of the passes he did catch underhanded, the replay showed the ball would hit his chest and move around when it didn't need to.
It's like whyyyyyyyy would you do that when you know how to catch the ball the other way ... the correct way!
By the time I got to the last game I watched for this breakdown (against Kansas), Coleman catching the ball underhanded was driving me fucking nuts. He had opportunities for even more touchdowns than the obscene amount he actually caught in those games, but he let those other opportunities slip right through his fingers.
See what I did there?
I know the guy was early on that play and I know he should've been flagged. However, compared to some of Coleman's other contested catches, this one shouldn't have been that hard to corral. He didn't even give himself a chance with that underhanded bullshit.
A guy with Coleman's hands, when he catches the ball correctly, simply shouldn't have seven balls that he had a legit shot at catching fall incomplete. Period. Every single one of those incompletions came on plays when he tried to catch the ball underhanded, too.
I talked up how fast he is, but there are also faster corners in the NFL than Coleman usually faced in college. A lot more of his catches will have be made with a defender in position to make a play on the ball at the next level. If he keeps trying this underhanded crap, especially on the balls that call for him to go up and high-point them, Coleman is going to end up dropping a lot of footballs that he should catch.
Of course with some wide receivers you will tolerate drops more than some others who are less talented. *cough* Ted Ginn Jr. *cough*
Before we go overboard, I don't see Coleman dropping nearly as many as Ginn has over the course of his career. Coleman has shown he knows how to catch it correctly, so it will just be a matter of him forcing himself to be more consistent with doing it that way.
And like I said earlier, even if he does end up with a bunch of drops, you can get the ball to Coleman in more ways than just by throwing it to him. His hands shouldn't scare anybody away all that much.
I personally have Doctson ranked over Coleman after watching both play because of how well Doctson catches the ball consistently, especially those 50/50 balls, but Coleman is probably a close 1B because of his ability to do more in an offensive scheme due to the difference in speed and quickness between the two. If I was more confident in Coleman's hands, I'd have him decisively over Doctson. If a team feels like they can fix his drop issues, I honestly would understand if they took him before Doctson.
There's a good chance that the issue with his hands can be cleaned up because unlike most body catchers, Coleman actually does catch the ball correctly about half of the time. So it's only a matter of whether he can do it more consistently. It's still somewhat of a risk, so for me, Doctson is the man right now.
* * *
Now there is one last thing I want to talk about and that is to circle back to Coleman's blocking, or more accurately his lack of blocking. I gave Doctson a pass on being somewhat of a weak blocker because of how good he was at tracking the ball in the air, but when I turned on Coleman's tape I was mortified at what I saw. Not only was he not making good blocks, he wasn't trying to block at all.
I was all set to go awf about it too because it's one thing to be soft, but to not even try?
Not on my watch, bruh!
I noticed that this wasn't just a play here or a play there, it was pretty much every single play where you would expect Coleman to block, he didn't. For that matter, pretty much none of the other receivers were doing much in that department either. It occurred to me that ... *gulp* ... Coleman might actually be getting coached to not block.
If he were being coached not to block then it simply wouldn't be fair to knock him for that. I kinda thought it was ridiculous to believe that any coach would tell his players to not give effort every play, but I figured better to be safe than sorry so I asked Twitter what the deal was.
I'm glad I did.
(Thanks again to Chris B. Brown of Smart Football)
Turns out Baylor coach Art Briles prizes fresh receivers play after play in his uptempo offense over blocks by those receivers that might just turn a 5-yard run into a 50-yard run for his running backs.
I know, it's weird.
But hey, if that's what he wants then that's what Coleman has to do. I gotta say that Briles is setting his wide receivers up to look bad on some of these plays. I'm talking turrible.
You see this kinda stuff on film and I would totally understand if you just figured the kid was soft or lazy without giving it a second thought.
Taking plays off like this, especially when it wouldn't have even taken much to make these blocks, creates situations just like these where the Baylor wide receiver, in this case Coleman, ends up looking like he just doesn't want it. I don't know many coaches on either side of the ball who could look at this and not cringe.
My takeaway is that it's not Coleman's fault, but at the same time, I have no idea what kind of blocker he even could be after watching him in five games because I literally only saw him attempt a block less than a handful of times.
Let me reiterate what I said in Doctson's breakdown: if I need a blocker that bad, I will just draft a tight end. However, Coleman is going to have to give you something as a blocker on the next level, especially if you plan on playing him in the slot at all. I can't see a way that it's not a question mark right now.
Overall, Corey Coleman is one hell of a prospect. He has some minor issues with catching the football that I don't like and questions about his blocking, but when you weigh that against all he brings as a playmaker in every sense of the word, those knocks end up being relatively insignificant. My only wish is that he ends up going to a team with a creative offensive coordinator and a good quarterback so we can all actually watch him maximize his abilities.
That should be pretty fun!
Since I don't have access to all-22 for college football games, I use the next best thing for my draft profiles, Draft Breakdown. They have the TV copy of a bunch of top prospects already cut up and ready to go, and their site is compatible with the new NoHuddle app which turns your cell phone into a "cowboy clicker" which is pretty damn neat. For the purposes of this breakdown I watched former Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman play against Rice, Kansas, West Virginia, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Those represented the third, fifth, sixth, eighth and 10th games on Baylor's schedule last season, respectively.