Well, I have to be honest…this was the one I wasn’t looking forward to doing. Let me set the scene…
In 2016, last year about this time, I didn’t love the dynasty rookie draft prospects on offense. Loved the defensive names, and nailed it with Jatavis Brown as the #1 IDP prospect in the class. The one love that went flat fast was on offense – Corey Coleman.
I thought Corey Coleman was the ace prospect in the 2016 dynasty rookie draft. I thought Ezekiel Elliott was good, but ‘just a running back’ and his best value was to trade the pick/player in a deal for David Johnson…or Todd Gurley. Talk about two ends of the spectrum in 2016. However, Coleman – I did like. His athleticism/measurables were terrific. His college numbers were breathtaking. He was a can’t-miss prospect in our books.
…and then he played.
Those of you that have been with me for a while, you know what happens when I see a player and it hits me right in the heart. I have a fancy computer scouting model, but one of my greatest magic tricks is – I can ‘see it’. I guess watching 1,500–2,000 hours of football tape a year pays off? What is that Malcolm Gladwell rule about not being good at something until you’ve put in ‘10,000 hours’. Well, I’m good at something – watching football players for the purpose of evaluating and delineating talent levels. I feel like I’ve put in 10,000 hours per year the past 2–3 years alone.
When I see IT and proclaim it in a public setting or in private for all our clients…I’m rarely wrong. That may be arrogant, but it’s no joke. I can send you a long list of things I suck at, which is most things, but evaluating football talent is not one that would be on that list. Corey Coleman caused the opposite effect when I watched him in his first NFL play – when I first saw him work in the preseason for Cleveland…I was hit by a lightning bolt. I can recall the play. I can recall my reaction…”Oh, crap.” Coleman looked like a spaz. A simple slant and the ball ricocheted off his hands. He soon followed that with another butchering of a pass his way. Something about the way he was moving and the lack of concentration…it was jarring.
More than a few of you purposefully moved into position to rookie draft Coleman last year. How was I going to explain the crime I had committed? You never want to overact to one play or one game, a debut game…but I knew something was not right. It certainly wasn’t encouraging. I kept my cool. Not enough data/games yet. I pointed out things weren’t looking good but let’s not get too far out on a few preseason moments. Then he butchered his very first regular season target (Week 1) the same way he did in the preseason and a mild personal panic set in. I’ve never been so high on a college player, our computer has never been so high on a college player, who as soon as I saw him in the pros – he looked so ‘challenged’ right off the jump…time after time after time. I started to turn on Coleman…signaling a warning that there might be trouble.
And then in Week 2, he catches two TDs in the first quarter and I look like a genius again…and then he breaks his hand in practice the next week and we get radio silence for several weeks. He returns to ‘join forces’ with then new starting QB Cody Kessler and nothing magical occurs. The season ends with a whimper…not bad, but not ‘wow’. At the end of 2016, I was totally down on Coleman compared to my starting point. Didn’t like what I was seeing.
So, here we are. Me watching back (most) every target and snap Coleman played in 2016. Looking for sheds of evidence for hope…or to declare the body officially dead.
I’ve got some good news.
I think I overblew the Corey Coleman situation some last year.
I just watched most of his targets and catches from 2016, and it was not bad…not bad at all. The issue isn’t Coleman, per se…quite frankly, just focusing on him step by step as the season went on – he was really very good. Much better than I was prepared to see. I am relieved. There is, however, a ‘Cleveland Browns’ problem, and we’ll get to that.
First, let’s talk positively about Coleman…because I don’t feel that I’ve done that since play #1 of his 2016 preseason. What’s funny is – the first target of his regular season 2016 was the same play he started the preseason with. A simple slant, wide-open, and the ball clanks right off his hands. From that point on, as I re-watched his 2016, I really didn’t see a negative/butchering play by Coleman the rest of the season.
He didn’t do much 2016 training camp due to injury. He didn’t stand out in the 2016 preseason. But you know what he did accomplish early – as soon as he could go, he was IN the game. He started play one, snap one in 2016. Whatever you walk away from thinking about Coleman from my scouting – Hue Jackson has been all-in since the jump. You’re getting the Browns’ main target in 2017 with Coleman.
Hue didn’t just have Coleman running deep routes to try to stretch the defense. Coleman saw plenty of the route tree and the full playbook. Several bubble screens…as they should do with him. There were many meticulous timing passes/stop-and-turn catches 5–10 yards away. Coleman stopped on a dime and made the catches he could…when Cody Kessler wasn’t throwing helium balloons over his head. Coleman also caught the ball in traffic. He displayed good hands and toughness, a good awareness of being a wide receiver. What I didn’t see was a true jaw-dropping athlete…like his measurables say might exist. I mean, he’s terrific…but I was expecting Superman and saw, like, Batman. Really good, but no ‘Superman’.
I’ll tell you what – if Josh McCown had stayed at QB and Coleman had played right along with him…that 2016 season would have gone a lot better. Superman may have been there. Kessler may make Coleman Clark Kent, if I may beat the Superman analogy into the ground. There were flickers of magic with McCown and Coleman…and you saw that the first time they worked in Week 2 against Baltimore when Coleman hit two TDs in the first quarter and he posted 100+ yards receiving. Sadly, McCown got hurt that very same game. And let me just share this. Anyone who says, “You know what…Cody Kessler wasn’t that bad.” – you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.
Cody Kessler is awful…I mean hideous. He has zero arm strength or confidence. He’s just dinking and dunking out of fear. Throwing wobbly, back-footed passes with no purpose…and way off the mark. Only completing medium passes in blowouts versus prevent defenses. Kessler is like Brock Osweiler, if Brock Osweiler was worse at his craft…and shorter. Honestly, Cody Kessler makes Blake Bortles look like Aaron Rodgers. Holy hell is Cody Kessler bad at quarterbacking. Expect to see Josh Freeman DeShone Kizer before long. Expect Hue Jackson to be fired for the Kessler thing.
That’s where the downside of this story comes in… Cody Kessler/DeShone Kizer/Hue Jackson. I mean, have I mentioned how bad Kessler is? Do we need more Superman parallels? I mentioned how much tape I watched earlier, right? Take strong bets against Cody Kessler…and Kizer. And that’s bad news for Corey Coleman’s fantasy outlook.
Or is it?
One of two things is going to happen: (1) Coleman has another 3-4-5 catch per game for 40–60 yards and an occasional TD snoozefest of a season because Cleveland turns back the clock on the forward pass in 2017 with total Moneyball (ha!) garbage at quarterback, or (2) Coleman is the leader of the garbage time brigade.
…and I’m starting to get tantalized by option #2 here.
Terrelle Pryor…gone, inexplicably. Josh Gordon…hanging out with Justin Blackmon and sleeping with the football fishes. It’s Coleman and Kenny Britt. Coleman works better here. You know why? With bad QBs, especially Kessler, he’ll play it safe…bubbles and no-read slants – that’s Coleman’s game more than Britt’s. Six months ago, Cleveland was on the verge of one of the most talented receiving trios football had ever seen…Gordon-Pryor-Coleman. That’s now turned into Coleman-Britt-Higgins/Louis/Payton. Not as impressive. Less criminal infractions, however. Coleman is going to be ‘the guy’ in 2017. How good Coleman can be in 2017 is marred by ‘Kessler’ and ‘Cleveland’ is up for grabs…but at worst, it might not be as bad…at best maybe it’s a poor man’s Allen Robinson circa 2015 (not 2016). In my dreams.
Last week, in a different report about a different WR, I quipped that Coleman/Britt might be the worst #1 WR of any #1 WR on any NFL team. That’s not true. Coleman has something more to offer. Slot Michael Thomas in that #32 spot. I’m not down on Coleman any longer. I shouldn’t have been as down as I got. My own personal angst, I suppose. I don’t see ‘wow’ yet, but I did see ‘hmmm’. Not too bad. Showed some Brandin Cooks/Percy Harvin action to me.
There’s hope here.
No need to dump, and not bad for cheap acquiring…but, not a priority because of the situation – and who knows when Cleveland will ever not be ‘Cleveland’.
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