Recently, the RotoViz staff ranked Corey Coleman as the 2016 NFL Draft’s best receiver. This differs from the most recent RotoViz Scouting Index, which has him ranked third. Not only do I think Coleman is the best WR in this class, but I think he could be similar to Odell Beckham, who was a dominant “small” WR drafted in 2014. I plan on making the argument for both here today.
The Physical Profile
When we look at the physical profile of Coleman, it is easy to see some traits that could make him succesful. Though he is only 194 pounds, Coleman ran a 4.4 forty yard dash at his pro day, and shredded the jumping drills at the NFL Combine, recording a 169.5 explosion score. To put that into perspective, that is nine inches more than Beckham, who is generally considered to be a freak athlete, and more than 16 inches better than last year’s top WR, Amari Cooper.
The one item I wish we had on Coleman is his agility metrics. He declined to complete the three cone drill or the short shuttle at both at both the the combine and his pro-day, and an elite agility score would be the final piece to his athletic profile. That said, I’m not going to say Coleman doesn’t possess elite agility just because we haven’t seen it in drills. He is clearly an outstanding athlete otherwise.
When we look at the production profiles of both players based on the elements deemed most important by Kevin Cole’s regression tree analysis of what matters for WR success, Coleman and Beckham look very similar.
The pair posted near identical career market shares of receiving yards, and were reasonably close in both yards per reception and final season market share of yards.
And while Beckham may have had to compete with Jarvis Landry for targets at LSU, Coleman had to compete with a senior in Antwan Goodley, who had just gone for 1,339 yards the year before, in his sophomore season (Goodley went for just 830 yards that season). He also has had to compete with K.D. Cannon, who went for over 1,000 yards as a freshman, and is currently a top 10 WR prospect in the 2018 class, for the last two years.
I also included some rushing data, since both were involved on the ground for their respective college teams as well, and this is important for the success of smaller WRs. Both teams were also active in the return game in college, which Jon Moore has proven to have hidden value.
Room for More
What is crazy to me about Coleman’s final season is just how good it could have been if Baylor hadn’t suffered so many injuries at quarterback. He played in 12 games in 2015 before being shut down for an injury of his own, but here is how his production broke down by starting QB.
As I mentioned in the RotoViz WR Prospect Championship, Coleman would have finished 2015 with over 1,600 yards and 30 TDs (and a ridiculous .455 dominator rating) had he stayed on the pace he was at with Seth Russell for 12 games. But even with Jarrett Stidham Coleman was very impressive. It was once Stidham got hurt and the team turned to third string QB Chris Johnson (and subsequently fourth stringer/WR Lynx Hawthorne), that Coleman’s numbers took a massive hit.
Still, I think we could be talking about one of the most prolific collegiate seasons of all-time for Coleman had things not broken so wrongly for him, and he is under six feet and 200 pounds. In other words, it is possible that we would be assessing Coleman as an even better prospect than Beckham right now had he not been so unlucky.
Similar to OBJ?
I’m not alone in thinking that Coleman can be the next elite small WR. Player Profiler actually already labeled Beckham as Coleman’s best comparable.
Football Outsiders’ Playmaker Score, which was one of the few statistical methods that loved Beckham in 2014, is also ridiculously high on Coleman. In fact, only four WRs have ever posted a higher Playmaker Score than Coleman: Randy Moss, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and Larry Fitzgerald. Since Playmaker has shown to be predictive in the past, and was nails last season, I certainly won’t be taking this analysis lightly.
Comparing Coleman to one of the greatest young WRs of all time is probably going to raise some eyebrows, but we shouldn’t be afraid to make lofty comparisons if the evidence supports it. Coleman looks like the next great small WR, and a fantastic facsimile of the hyper-athletic model set forth by Beckham. I will be taking him at the 1.01 in all of my rookie drafts, and I think not doing the same will be making the same mistake most people made in 2014.