When Corey Coleman was entering the NFL in 2016, fans were understandably excited at the possibilities ahead. ProFootballFocus named him the top wideout in the 2016 draft, noting his special quick-twitch abilities to go along with his productive career at Baylor and desirable workout results, like a 4.37 40-yard dash at his pro day. After trading down twice, and previously having been in position to pick second overall, the Cleveland Browns selected Coleman with the 15th pick and set upon another journey of inevitable disappointment for the Cleveland Browns.
This week, the Browns completed a trade that sent Coleman to the Buffalo Bills and the compensation was merely a 2020 seventh round pick. It’s the equivalent of giving away a couch on Craigslist for free as long as you come get it and haul it away on your own.
But why such a low price for a player who just two years ago was considered as rare of a talent as Percy Harvin, according to Mike Mayock? And if he does possess attributes that make it sound insane to you that an organization that has gone 1-31 over the last two seasons would essentially give him up for free, why would they, of all teams, do that? Allow those questions to marinate with you in the rhetorical for a moment and see if this is what you settle on:
Maybe Corey Coleman is a net negative to have on the roster. And maybe it’s not about the compensation you give up in terms of the trade, but the fact that you’re now likely committing a roster spot in 2018 to a guy that the worst team in the league — a team with needs at receiver — doesn’t want anymore. A team with a new GM who may or may not finally be the person to turn around the Cleveland franchise, but who has definitely spent more than two decades in the front offices of successful organizations.
If the Browns were willing to give up Coleman for nothing, then why is there such a strong sense of jealousy that your team didn’t get the equal of “nothing”? Perhaps the Bills unlock the potential and Coleman becomes a perennial Pro Bowl receiver — this article has nothing to do with what Coleman could do and leaves open all possibilities — but I see nothing in his track record to suggest that a team is making a mistake by not adding him, even if he was a free agent.
Coleman was indeed highly productive at Baylor, but who wasn’t during the years he attended?
In 2013, Coleman’s freshman season, he put up 527 yards and two touchdowns playing in the spread offense. That team saw quarterback Bryce Petty — the most third-string NFL quarterback I can think of — throw for 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns, three interceptions, and he ran for 14 more scores. Antwan Goodley was the leading receiver, putting up 1,339 yards and 13 touchdowns; you may remember Goodley from the Seahawks training camp receiver battle in 2016, and as of today he has yet to make any team’s roster. After Goodley, Tevin Reese had 867 yards (on 22.8 yards per catch!) with eight touchdowns and Levi Norwood had 733 yards with his own eight touchdowns; I don’t need to tell you that you don’t have those guys on your fantasy team.
The next season saw Coleman emerge as Baylor’s leading receiver (1,119 yards and 11 touchdowns), ahead of K.D. Cannon (1,030, 8) and Goodley (830, 6); Cannon, who scored 27 touchdowns in three years, went undrafted in 2017 and is currently fighting to win a job with the Dallas Cowboys. Note that Cannon is 5’11, just like Coleman, and ran a 4.41, just a hair slower than Coleman. He can play, or at least he could at Baylor:
I’m not saying that Cannon is better or as good of a prospect as Coleman...but I’m also not saying he couldn’t be. “Coleman is clearly a better prospect than Cannon, because he was a first rounder and Cannon didn’t even get drafted!” I agree, but with hindsight, much like the hindsight applied to Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson, this could be example 5,000,000 of scouts getting it wrong and over-hyping certain attributes while over-looking several faults.
Not that these faults weren’t there in the scouting reports, even at times when the analysts were meant to be saying positive things about Coleman.
“He’s a dynamic playmaker. Think Percy Harvin, that’s the kind of playmaker that he is. He has a quick start and explosive speed. The only key for him is that he hasn’t run a route tree. You will have to manufacture touches for him as he learns the route tree. He’s special with the football in his hands.” -- Mike Mayock
Cleveland coaches reportedly got tired of the fact that Coleman knows next to nothing about being a receiver. Which is important when you’re playing receiver.
“He’s my top receiver. Now this is for what we do so he’s going to be tops for me. He can do a lot of things and I’m not worried about those simple routes because he’s got some gifts to work with. Like him a lot more than (Laquon) Treadwell or the Notre Dame guy (Will Fuller)” -- AFC wide receivers coach
Comparing him perhaps to someone like Tavon Austin, who went eighth overall and isn’t someone you’d necessarily want to give a roster spot to either, Coleman may only be a fit for certain organizations. “Now this is for what we do...” Yes, this is true for all prospects, you have to fit a system, but it seems so early in the quote to be like, “Yeah, I really like this guy! But honestly many people probably won’t, so I want to protect myself from looking bad for perhaps when, not if, he fails!”
And liking him more than Laquon Treadwell ends up not being a compliment, so much as it is a statement that applies to most of us.
At 5’11, can you play Coleman on the outside? With his issues regarding drops and not knowing how to run a route, do you place him in the slot? Where exactly does Coleman fit on an offense in general? Better yet, for you Seattle fans out there: Where does Coleman fit on an offense with Doug Baldwin in the slot, and with a favoritism towards receivers who have sure hands? He has not shown success in the NFL as any type of receiver anyhow.
In 19 games, Coleman has caught 56 of 131 targets, a remarkably low percentage of 42.7%.
Since 2000, I could find 35 players who had between 100 and 200 targets with a catch percentage below 50%, using Pro-Football-Reference. You may or may not be surprised to find that this is a long list of receivers who are, as I would put it, “decidedly not good.”
The cream of the crop: current Arizona Cardinals receiver J.J. Nelson, whose draft profile doesn’t really read as being worse than Coleman’s now with the benefit of hindsight; in NFL draft terms, hindsight really does often make you think, “Wait, why did people love that guy so much?” Nelson is undersized (5’10, 156 lbs), much like Coleman, but was also considerably faster with a 4.28 40-yard dash. His vertical and broad jumps were close to Coleman’s. And over the last two seasons, with an offense that has also had significant struggles at quarterback, here’s how Nelson has compared:
Nelson: 135 targets, 63 catches, 1,076 yards, 17.1 Y/R, eight touchdowns
Coleman: 131 targets, 56 catches, 718 yards, 12.8 Y/R, five touchdowns
If the Bills traded a 2020 seventh round pick to the Cardinals for J.J. Nelson, would you flip the F out?
Another sub 6’ receiver on this list is Aldrick Robinson. Other names you’d recognize include Dorial Green-Beckham, Justin Hunter, Tiquan Underwood, Devin Aromashadu, Kenbrell Thompkins, Stephen Hill, Deon Butler, Kris Durham, and Breshad Perriman. Of course, Perriman is another recent example of a first round receiver who should not significantly intrigue anyone at this point if he gets cut by the Baltimore Ravens. At least not intriguing in the sense of, “That’s a starting receiver that a team would be stupid not to get!”
Perriman may have been the worst receiver in the NFL last season and even if you do want to give players like that more opportunities, at least do the right thing: Give up your hold on the value of draft status. If you continue to hold onto draft status, you might as well keep it in your mind that Russell Wilson was a third round pick, and forget all the evidence we have —at the pro level — that he should have gone right at the top.
All the evidence we have at the pro level is that Corey Coleman should be fighting for a job on a 53-man roster, not praised as a high-end pickup for a low, low cost: he was traded for a 2020 seventh round pick because that’s the value of Coleman apparently.
“But it was the quartebacks’s faults’s.”
If you actually watch Corey Coleman’s 19 games and don’t see a guy who can produce, then you’re lost. Check the targets - check each one....he can play. QB issues were massive.— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) August 6, 2018
I can accept injury history & off-field issues we don’t know about, but the football player can play.
There is plenty of evidence that Coleman was working with some of the worst quarterbacks in the league:
31 percent of balls directed at Corey Coleman were "off target" last season. That was third-highest among 84 wide receivers with 50+ targets. #Bills— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) August 6, 2018
But that does not mean that there’s any evidence that Coleman was good. The absence of quality play on one end does not even imply that there is a muting of potential on the other end. You want to find a much longer list of WR-to-Poor-QB-Play, check out Brandon Marshall’s career history. Arizona had awful QB play last season, giving little support to Nelson and Larry Fitzgerald, who put up another 100-catch year.
When playing with Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams had five touchdowns and Rodgers had a rating of 111 when throwing to him.
When playing with Brett Hundley, Adams had five touchdowns and Hundley had a 111.4 rating when throwing to him.
I realize that nobody is arguing that Corey Coleman is at the level of Larry Fitzgerald and Davante Adams, but we can at least point out that it is possible for a good receiver to produce even with the absence of a good quarterback; in fact, isn’t that how it’s worked for decades? The NFL has had hundreds upon hundreds of bad quarterbacks. DeShone Kizer is not a trendsetter of terrible. Among those 34 other receivers I talked about above, not a single one ended up being a regret to let go of or a beacon of light for a team that signed them off the waiver wire or gave up a seventh rounder to acquire.
Granted, that list had a limit on targets and there are examples of receivers who started poorly and got better — again, this article does not intend to tell you what Coleman will do, only what he has (or hasn’t) done — but give me the evidence at the pro level that Coleman is absolutely good enough to use a roster spot on right now. A 5’11 outside receiver who doesn’t know how to run a route.
The Seahawks currently have Baldwin and Tyler Lockett slated for starting roles. They have Jaron Brown signed to a two-year deal and he’s been getting praised in camp, which at least gives Seattle less of a reason to panic pre-preseason about their situation with the 1-2-3 spots going into Week 1. Brandon Marshall gives the Seahawks a different look at receiver and there’s little reason at this point for the staff to not give him every opportunity to win a job with the team. They acquired Marcus Johnson in trade and he’s also been running with the 1s at times and so far looking capable of being a reliable target in the future. Those five receivers also share a locker room with 2017 draft picks Amara Darboh and David Moore, both of whom I’m sure the Seattle coaches would like to see continue to develop and hopefully — especially with Darboh because he has a much lower chance of making it to the practice squad if released — can do enough to secure a spot on the 53.
If you added Coleman, even at the cost of “nothing,” where is he fitting into that? He’d now be the eighth receiver when lumped in with that group (forgoing mention of Tanner McEvoy, Damore’ea Stringfellow, Keenan Reynolds, Cyril Grayson, and so on), looking to be, what, the number five receiver? “Yeah, it doesn’t matter, he’s a former first round pick so you just add him to the competition and let him compete.” So now you want the Seahawks to give up draft picks in early August for receivers looking to win the number five receiver spot? “No, he’s competing to start!” So Seattle’s starting trio of receivers are 5’11, 5’11, and 5’10? “Yeah!” Even though Coleman’s never proven, not even at Baylor, that he’s a capable outside receiver? “You got it, dude!”
A seventh round pick is a seventh round pick but last year the Seahawks used a seventh round pick on Justin Coleman. That was a player they desperately needed and they acquired him just before the season, when better prospects are available because teams are at the 11th hour of cutting them anyway because they just realized they don’t have the room to keep all the players they want. In fact, I’d even give it a non-zero chance that Coleman doesn’t make Buffalo’s final roster. I just don’t see how the desired business model of the Seattle Seahawks is now: just move all the picks necessary when you want to take swings on players with all potential and no product.
Weren’t we just lamenting the fact that the Seahawks were playing it too fast and loose with future draft picks?
By no stretch of football knowledge has Corey Coleman been a good NFL player. He was a highly-productive college receiver in a spread offense that really failed to produce professional talent in the Art Briles era, outside of one rookie season by Robert Griffin III and a few notable games by Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams. He’s the size of a slot receiver but he can’t play in the slot. He doesn’t know how to run routes. His coaches with the Browns reportedly called him “not a receiver.” He’s missed 13 of 32 games due to injury. Some have suggested he not coachable and not a good locker room presence.
You have to allow for the possibility that Coleman was traded for so little either because so little is expected, or because Cleveland couldn’t stand to wait another day. Maybe they did just make another bad move — because it’s the Browns after all — but among all their terrible first round mistakes, from Johnny Manziel to Justin Gilbert to Trent Richardson to Brandon Weeden to Barkevious Mingo to Cam Erving, do you see a single example of a guy who they gave up on too soon? The jury is out on Danny Shelton — and Coleman — but so far the jury should be leaning heavily towards, “there’s been nothing to see here.”
There is no place on the Seahawks for Coleman. He still has to prove that there’s a place for him in the NFL.