Draftwatch has taken a good look at the defensive side of the ball over the last couple of weeks so it's time to flip to the offensive side of things. I have only covered one receiver in this series (Josh Doctson) but that is about to change. This week's focus is one of the most aggressive and explosive playmakers in the entire nation. As an added bonus, he's already used to playing for the Bears...
Corey Coleman, Wide Receiver, Baylor
Watching Corey Coleman's game tape is like watching an action movie. He is always blowing up something and (spoiler alert) it is usually the scoreboard. Coleman's play at Baylor this year was like a big stick of dynamite with a very short fuse. He was always primed to go off, and usually did. This explosive nature was evident in the fact that Corey had the highest yards per route run figure in the entire nation (per PFF College Stats). Before an injury took out Baylor's starting QB at midseason, Coleman was absolutely laying waste to the offensive record books. He was simply of force of nature on the football field that Baylor's opponents could not withstand.
Coleman is 5'10" tall and 190 pounds of solid muscle. His compact build is brimming with both speed and power, and he uses every watt of it to earn more yards. Coleman has an attacking style that led his coach at Baylor (Art Briles) to fondly label him a "vicious athlete". From the very first minute of watching film, that approach is apparent. Corey attacks everything and is not fond of giving up. He attacks the ball and he attacks defenders after he has it. It's not just effort, it is effort mixed with aggression and it serves him very well in his role as primary playmaker in Baylor's high octane offense.
Corey possesses physical skills that allow him to play with almost reckless abandon. He has a 45" vertical leap, runs a 4.3 second 40 yard dash and is very strong for his size. He's unafraid of initiating contact and fond of telling defenders how badly he burned them on the last play. When I said Coleman attacks I meant in every facet of the game, and trashtalking is no exception. The combination of physical domination and the will to win make his performance on the field overtly powerful and a ton of fun to watch.
It is obvious that Coleman is a superior athlete but if you dig deeper you'll find he is also a very solid football player. As a WR he is a strong hands catcher and will fight for contested balls across the middle of the field. He uses his hands well at the line to beat the jam and has ample speed to destroy even large cushions given to him DB's. Only the fastest CB's are willing to let him really run without help over the top. Rightly so, because with Coleman's speed if he gets on top of the defender a big gain will follow. Baylor didn't ask him to run the entire route tree, but he has at least 5 routes in his arsenal that he sells well enough to get open with. I believe that with minimal coaching he could be a full route tree runner in short order.
Blocking is something you see very little of on Baylor WR's tapes, because they are not asked to do it. In fact if you watch Art Briles' offense the WR's often do nothing more than stand up out of their stances when they are not the primary target. You might think this is lazy but they are actually coached not to run. The offense is predicated on tempo, volume of plays and quick 2-3 options reads. The Baylor coaches believe their player's presence in the alignment alone is enough to draw the defense to the proper spots for the offense to work. Running the "decoy" routes is unnecessary in their eyes, so they have their players conserve the energy instead of wasting it. It's a different approach but it works. Coleman has both the physical tools and the mental makeup to be an excellent blocker. With proper coaching I think he could be proficient at it quickly and eventually become a force as a blocker in the run game.
Speaking of the run game, Baylor also lined Coleman up in the backfield as a running back to get additional touches. His uncanny agility, balance and strength made him very capable in this role and often saw him breaking tackles for a good gain or a key 1st down. Add in his time on special teams and some team will be getting not only one of the most productive wideouts in the nation but also a versatile chess piece who can play in 2 of the 3 phases of the game. That is an incredible value on an NFL roster that has limited active slots on gameday.
The limitations in Coleman's game are based largely on his strengths. He so often wins with his ample athleticism that he'll need to polish his routes at the pro level to continue to dominate against far more athletic defenders. His routes are not bad now, but they are not on the level of someone like Amari Cooper or Tyler Lockett from last year's class. He can suffer from the occasional concentration drop when he takes his eye off the ball. That too is coachable as he has regularly demonstrated very good hands even on tough catches. The last thing he really needs to focus on will be his mental game. When he is beating his defender, scoring and winning the day he is unstoppable. However, if he starts to get stymied or his QB misses him on consecutive plays, he can get frustrated and sloppy. Finding the mental grit to continue to be able to deliver his tough, aggressive play all the time (even when things are not going his way) will be a big step for this young player.
Coleman has all the tools to succeed and thrive in the NFL. He is a specimen as an athlete and had unmatched production at his position. Any team that selects him will benefit from his ability and his infectious style of play. Baylor WR's have taken a bit longer to acclimate to the pro game in the last few years (Kendall Wright, Josh Gordon, Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese), but once they do they have had success. Corey is certainly capable of continuing the recent positive trend of Bear WR's having an impact in the NFL.