The 2015 college football bowl season is underway. On Tuesday, December 29, we will see the Russell Athletic Bowl, which features North Carolina (11-2) and Baylor (9-3). The most intriguing draft-eligible player on either of these teams is Baylor redshirt junior wide receiver Corey Coleman. Unfortunately, Coleman has had a surgery to repair a sports hernia and will not play in this game.
After four years at Baylor, Coleman has confirmed that he intends to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft. Coleman is currently the No. 4 wide receiver in the 2016 RotoViz Scouting Index, but he could easily be the second receiver selected in the draft. He recently won the 2015 Fred Biletnikoff Award, which honors the nation’s best college wide receiver — and he truly might be the best receiver in the draft.
For the past two seasons, the 21-year-old Coleman has been one of the most productive receivers in college football. Since 2014, he leads the Football Bowl Subdivision with 31 touchdowns receiving and is fifth with 2,482 yards receiving — but he has been so much more impressive than his numbers indicate.
Most of his two-year production has been accumulated this season, in which he has played with quarterbacks Seth Russell (a first-year starter), Jarrett Stidham (a true freshman backup), Chris Johnson (a third-string redshirt sophomore who played some snaps earlier in the year at wide receiver), and Lynx Hawthorne (a redshirt junior wide receiver who had never attempted a pass in college until he was forced to take snaps as an emergency quarterback). That Coleman was able to improve upon his 2014 numbers and win the Biletnikoff with these guys throwing him the ball is amazing.
Here are the numbers for Coleman’s three collegiate seasons:
Coleman’s 2014 numbers are stellar, and as unreal as his 2015 numbers look they are even better than they seem. In the first eight games of the season (before Coleman was forced to try to catch passes from third- and fourth-string quarterbacks), he scored all 20 of his touchdowns — the most touchdowns receiving in the first eight games of a season since at least 2000, just ahead of Michael Crabtree’s 17 and Larry Fitzgerald’s 16.
Also notable is Coleman’s versatility. In 2015, he was fairly productive as a runner, accumulating over 100 yards on the ground. In 2014, he managed a rushing score. And in 2013, his only year as Baylor’s primary kick returner, he scored a touchdown as a return man. Coleman could’ve done little more in college to distinguish himself as a legitimate NFL prospect.
The Physical Profile
Baylor lists Coleman at five feet 11 inches, and 190 pounds — so, just being honest, there’s a real chance that he turns out to be Kendall Wright v.2.0 or maybe even Stedman Bailey, which excites absolutely no one. In other words, unless you want to count on a smaller receiver turning into Antonio Brown (a total outlier), Coleman will need to display good athleticism in his pre-draft workouts to give dynasty players a reason to believe that he can be a difference maker in the NFL.
On the one hand, Baylor’s strength program (supposedly) does a great job of enhancing its athletes’ abilities. On the other hand, that’s anecdotal bullsh*t that gets mentioned every year right before Baylor athletes such as Tevin Reese (a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at 163 pounds) and Lache Seastrunk (a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at 201 pounds) underperform high expectations at the combine.
So when Coleman’s Baylor profile says that he timed a team-best 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash, I want to get excited — and I’m not saying that Coleman isn’t that fast, because I think that he is — but I’ll believe it when he does it in his pre-draft workouts.
Phrased differently: I don’t put any stock in Baylor’s statement that its star wide receiver is fast. I find it much more significant that Rivals.com attributed a 4.30-second 40 time to Coleman years ago as a college recruit. That actually means something.
The Baylor hose job notwithstanding, I’m optimistic that Coleman will test well at the combine, and when that happens he will likely be a first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and a top-six selection in dynasty rookie drafts.
Basically, Coleman is probably this year’s Brandin Cooks. That might not get you excited, but with one game left to play Cooks has a 79-1,116-9 receiving stat line on his way to a low-end WR1 campaign in only his second season.
There are likely to be far worse players you could acquire with a first-round rookie pick in 2016.
Matthew Freedman is a football writer for RotoViz, Pro Football Focus Fantasy, Fantasy Insiders, and DraftKings Playbook. He is (not) the inspiration for the character in The League who shares his name. He hosts the various RotoViz podcasts and PFF Radio’s College Daily Slant. He is the creator of the Workhorse Metric. You can follow him on Twitter @MattFtheOracle — but I don’t know why you would.