Many places across the Internet describe the 2016 crop of wide receiver draft prospects as "weak." In comparison to the last two years' spoiling we were treated to, it's a fair critique. However, it feels more a complaint bore out by a wealth of receivers that project as quality contributors and complementary assets, rather tan a class boasting the "sex appeal" of several potential a No. 1 wideouts. If there is an answer to the cries for something a little more exciting to cling on to, it comes in the form of Baylor's Corey Coleman.
» Best player, not just receiver, with the ball in his hands in this class
» Elite lower body movement to separate from defenders
» Aggressive player who doesn't shy away from contested situations
» Underrated intelligence and nuance as a player
The explosiveness and athletic ability is evident the second you turn on a Corey Coleman game. He backed it up with a dynamic performance in his pre-draft workouts. At 5-foot-11 and 194 pounds, Coleman's broad jump was in the 91st percentile, while his vertical jump was in the 93rd percentile among prospects tested since 1999 per Mockdraftable.com. He went on to rip off a 4.37 40-yard dash at Baylor's pro day. Those numbers only serve to boldly underscore everything Coleman shows on film.
When Coleman gets into open space, he uses his athletic ability to make defenders look foolish. He finds a crease and instantly accelerates through it, leaving defenders grasping at air as he slips away. There's also an underrated aggressiveness to his game that many fail to see while caught up in lazy narratives constructed by misunderstanding the offense he played in. While he uses that tenacity to create after the catch, it also reveals itself at the catch point. Despite a lack of ideal size, Coleman does show a willingness to fight for the ball in contested situations, even if he doesn't consistently win them just yet.
Let's go ahead and circle back to some of those narratives perpetuated by Coleman's use in the Baylor offense. When you see him just trot down the sideline on a pass play where the throw is not headed his direction that is not a signal of "taking plays off." Due to the volume of plays they run, Baylor's coaching staff instructs their players to do this, in order to conserve themselves to go full throttle when the target comes their way. Additionally, one of the benefits so rarely brought up from playing in that offense is how much pressure gets placed on the wide receivers to read and diagnose coverages. You see this show up in his strong work against zone defenses, knowing when and where to sit down.
Truly watch Coleman's game with a clear mindset and you see a player who routinely separates on the routes he runs at full speed. He has the hip flexibility, feet and timing of a receiver who can develop into a route-to-route executioner at the NFL level. He already made plenty of defenders pay in college.
» Ball skills can come and go; needs better hand timing at the catch point
» Will need to tighten up his route running
» Lapses in concentration show up with some routine drops.
You'll often hear "he doesn't run the full route tree" leveled as a weakness against college prospects. Coleman seems to be the pick of that litter this draft season. It's a fair footnote to attach to his scouting report. In six games charted for Reception Perception, 70.2 percent of Coleman's routes were either screen, curl or go-routes. That proves one of the most unbalanced ratios in this class.
Of course, it's important to note that in player evaluations, you're projecting the player and their ability, not grading the environment they played in. Coleman consistently earned separation on the routes and plays he was assigned. Also keep in mind that some of the NFL's best and most athletic receivers don't run the full route tree, either. Coleman needs seasoning and experience in running more routes, but that is true with many of these prospects.
The area Coleman needs to improve the most is his ball skills. There were a few too many plays he left on the field. Similar receivers of his archetype who go on to become stars, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham, not only perfect the craft of route running, but dominate at the catch point. Coleman shows flashes of that ability, but also severely misplays those situations at times. He needs to tighten up the timing with which he uses his hands. Developing "late hands" is a great way to keep the advantage on your side as a receiver, and consistently win in contested situations. These issues aren't fatal, and could easily be fixed, but his technique as a catcher and lapses in concentration could just as easily plague him throughout his career while limiting his ceiling.
Ideal NFL fantasy fits
The Lions added Marvin Jones in free agency, but neither he nor Golden Tate fill their need for a true No. 1 receiver. Coleman wouldn't assume that role right away, but has the highest pure ceiling of any pass catcher in this draft. Houston made a big move at quarterback in sinking a ton of cash into Brock Osweiler, and acquired Lamar Miller to serve as a feature back. DeAndre Hopkins is the linchpin of their offensive attack, but there's no clear No. 2 on the roster. Coleman would look great as a finishing touch-type of addition there.
Martavis Bryant's suspension saps a significant amount of big plays from one of the best offenses in the league. Rotoworld's Josh Norris and I recently hypothesized that Coleman's early career usage could look quite similar to Bryant's. Perhaps Pittsburgh looks to add to their strength and takes Coleman late in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Corey Coleman would be something of a luxury for the Carolina Panthers, but brings an element to their offense that they lack. He could replace Ted Ginn as the vertical threat, and add the speed and ability after the catch none of their current receivers bring on a constant basis. That pick feels unlikely for several reasons, but it's a fun one to consider.
Should Coleman's flaws cause a drop to the second round, the two NFC East teams with dire needs at their No. 2 receiver spots would be happy to scoop him up. The Giants have nothing on the roster outside of Odell Beckham. Being in the same meeting room as Beckham, a similarly-built player who maximizes his ability, would be good for Coleman. The Cowboys need more offensive firepower aside from Dez Bryant if they want to maximize a rapidly shrinking championship window with Tony Romo. Please don't do yourself the injustice of comparing Coleman to another former Baylor receiver, and current Cowboys disappointment Terrance Williams.
Early fantasy draft projection
As it stands today, Corey Coleman looks like either a mid to late first-round selection, or early second-rounder. There's a need to weigh some bad in with the good that Coleman brings as a prospect. However, considering the potential for game-changing plays, both in the vertical game and in space, and the hope of further development, the positive effects far outweigh the negative.
Coleman has the type of skillset to matter early and often in fantasy football, especially if he lands on a good offense. In the right situation, Coleman could produce in a specialized role as a rookie while continuing to craft his game to earn more consistent targets. You could see some sporadic production for redraft leagues this year.
In dynasty drafts, Coleman should be one of the first four receivers off the board at worst. He has the type of league-winning upside fantasy players crave at the wide receiver position. He also has the ability to develop into a regular contributor to a consistent offense. One way or another, Coleman insures it will be a fun ride to watch.