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Underrated Suspension Loser: Corey Coleman

I’ve done a few drafts over the past month where I had my eye on Corey Coleman, hoping to take him with my next pick, and then had him sniped from me by another owner. It basically got to the point where I had to ask myself how much I actually like Coleman.

I considered him to be the top rookie to target in this class and yet I was basically oh-fer in terms of owning him in any dynasty or re-draft league. Proving the mantra that it’s better to be lucky than good, Josh Gordon was recently reinstated which makes Coleman a lot less attractive to own now.

Whereas before the potential knocks against Coleman were:

  • Rookie with really wide range of outcomes, including low floor
  • Most likely catching passes from a terrible QB for the entire season

His knocks now also include the addition of the fact that he has to compete for targets with Josh Gordon who averaged 10.8 targets per game during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Maybe Gordon won’t be the target hog that he was in 2013 and 2014, when he likely captured so many targets because there was little competition in the Cleveland receiving corps. But he’s going to get some targets.

The other thing that I’m frankly worried about related to the Browns is that they will not pursue an optimal tanking strategy. I think if they were going to pursue the strategy that would give them the best long term value they would start RGIII for as long as it takes to figure out whether he can be salvaged at all, and then if they eventually see that he can’t be salvaged, they should move to Cody Kessler and see if there’s any chance he could be an NFL starter. But in both cases the team should run lots of plays, play DGAF football, and optimize for seeing what they have in their QBs (basically optimize for both giving their QBs lots of chances to display a hint of competence, and also optimize for turning the ball over a lot and ensuring defeat each week). They should not optimize for trying to grind out a few wins. I’m worried they’ll be tempted to slow things down, run the ball a lot, try to reduce turnovers, and see if they can win some games this year. I’m worried they’ll do that because I think it would be very difficult for any human to go out for 16 weeks and just straight up tank. It would be embarrassing.

The reason any of this matters for Coleman is that the number of attempts the team throws matters. If they played DGAF football and threw the ball around 650 times, there would easily be enough targets for Gordon and Coleman. And they would be playing against soft prevent defenses enough that both could probably score a lot of fantasy points. But I’m worried that in trying to minimize embarrassment the team will pursue a slower pace with only as much passing as can be justified by their competence in that part of the game. That strategy is probably the best one for Hue Jackson to show that he can make something out of very little and thus prove he’s the coach for the future. So while the optimal for the team is to tank and get that first pick in 2017, the optimal for the coach is slightly different.

Anyway, if my fears are correct then the Browns would end up closer to the 540 pass attempt number, instead of the 600+ number they could see with DGAF football. When Gordon is back and Coleman is competing for targets with the players in the table below, I think Coleman’s target ceiling is likely to take a hit.download

In my most recent projection I estimated Coleman at 19 percent of the Browns 2016 pass attempts. If I’m right then he’ll start the season off with relatively more targets while Gordon is suspended and then when Gordon comes back Coleman will be the WR2 on the team. I actually have Gordon and Coleman projected for similar numbers on the season, with Gordon doing all of his damage in 12 games or fewer.

Capture

So how could this outlook go wrong? Here are a few ways:

  • Gordon suffers a training injury because he’s been away from football for so long
  • The team trades Gordon sometime in August
  • Gordon tests positive for THC while I’m typing this article
  • Gary Barnidge returns to being Gary Barnidge and isn’t target competition at all
  • Coleman actually stinks as some rookie do, and can’t capture the fairly lofty target share I have him projected for

I wanted to add those caveats, not to cover my ass – it’s fully exposed – but to simply illustrate that even when we make our most likely football predictions they probably occupy a fairly small chunk of the probability distribution anyway. I think the Browns receiving corps is likely to shake out in such a way that Gordon comes back and is relevant, but not dominant, and yet when you add up all of the other potential outcomes they probably outpace that outcome by a decent amount.

Oh yeah, one more thing – the title of this article is about how Coleman is a loser of the Gordon reinstatement. But it could actually turn out that I now get to own Coleman if his price drops enough. Even though the outcome I projected above is in my mind the most likely, I also think that Coleman has a fairly wide range of outcomes so if he falls into the WR50 range I’ll be trying to grab him.

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