Further thoughts on Brandon Coleman

Yesterday I mocked Brandon Coleman to the Seahawks late in the first round. I’ve written about Coleman before, but this was the first time I’d paired him with the Seahawks. For me he’s a unique prospect. And one of the things we’ve learnt about Seattle’s front office is ‘unique’ isn’t considered a bad thing.

Physically there’s a lot to like. He’s 6-6 with a 220lbs frame. Despite being so tall, he’s shown the ability to run away from defensive backs (see this 85-yard touchdown against Louisville). You don’t see many Brandon Coleman’s in the NFL.

So how come I have him falling to #26 overall in a mock draft? Simple really. He’s had only one year as a permanent starter with limited production in terms of yardage. We’ve come to celebrate receivers like Marqise Lee, Justin Blackmon and Michael Crabtree – putting up insane numbers on the road to Biletnikoff awards. All playing in high-power passing offenses with capable quarterbacks. That’s just what you’re expected to do these days. Despite the obvious potential with Coleman, some teams are going to be put off when they see 39 catches for the 2012 season and just 663 yards. He had only two 100-yard games for Rutgers this year – the second aided by that 85 yard touchdown I linked to earlier.

No other position in college football is impacted by scheme quite as much as the receiver position. Play for an air raid attack, reach 1200-1800 yards and ten scores? You’re likely to receive a nice boost to your draft stock. It’s helped players like Jacksonville’s Blackmon who – although talented – didn’t flash incredible physical qualities like Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones.

A lack of elite production is something Coleman’s aware of:

“You look at other schools across the country and it doesn’t seem like it’s a lot (his production). Look at West Virginia and what their two guys (Stedman Bailey, who has 23 touchdown catches, and Tavon Austin, who has 12) have done this year. One of them had four (touchdown receptions) in a game, and they had a couple of three-touchdown games. I guess it depends on where you play. So I’m not sure if I can compare it to anything.”

He’s right. There’s no point comparing stats. Although there’s no doubt some teams will. Demaryius Thomas is a good example of a player with superb physical qualities. However, he featured in Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense and questions were raised over his ability to work in a conventional system. He only had one year of big production. In the end he fell to the #22 overall pick in 2010 despite having physical qualities matching a top-fifteen pick (6-3, 224lbs, 4.50 forty yard dash). Give him a quarterback in Denver and suddenly he’s a top-ten receiver in the NFL. Seattle won’t have to wait to find their quarterback, and there’s no reason why Coleman can’t have similar success.

The question is – if Coleman does declare for the 2013 draft – which team is going to see beyond a lack of production and experience? Who is going to look past what a player hasn’t done or can’t do, and concentrate on what he can?

I found this quote from NFL.com’s Albert Breer pretty interesting, when discussing the Seahawks approach to scouting:

You have, in short, a roster whose beauty lies in how different it is. This also makes the Seahawks one difficult team to prepare for on Sundays.

“If you wanna point to the height of the corners or the quarterback, it goes to what we’ve looked for, and that really goes back to SC,” said Carroll, who coached the USC Trojans for nine years. “We’re looking for uniqueness in our players — the quality that separates them.”

That plays out in how the scouts and coaches are trained to think by the Seahawks. They’re told to break the football man’s natural inclination to find what a player can’t do well rather than what he can or does do well. It’s born there, in the Seahawks’ goal of identifying players by thinking outside the box — for instance, while (Bruce) Irvin’s troubled teenage years raised a fire-engine red flag for some teams, the Seahawks were amazed that he’d found his way out — and it’s nurtured in a system that accentuates the strengths of the incoming guys.

The Seahawks are constantly looking for unique qualities, and it wouldn’t get much more unique than a gangly 6-6 receiver whose best football is yet to come. As Breer testifies, they concentrate on what a player ‘can’ do. So what can Brandon Coleman do? He’s 6-6, so he’s capable of winning a lot of jump balls – something the Seahawks use a lot in their quick-strike offense. He can out-run much smaller defensive backs. He’s a hands catcher capable of pulling the ball out of the air. And more than anything else – he scores touchdowns. His ten scores this year equalled a school record. He can break that record when he takes on Virginia Tech tomorrow in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

This doesn’t mean you ignore some of the issues. For such a big player he could be more physical. There’s a level of consistency you’d like to see him reach (has the occasional drop). He’s not running a big route-tree in college. Even so – these are aspects you can work on. You can’t expect perfect receivers to be around in the late first round.

In many ways he looks ideal for the Seahawks offense. He’d offer a new dimension – a receiver with different skills to both Sidney Rice and Golden Tate. Coleman would offer a red zone threat and be a great target on those play action downfield passes into single coverage. I contest that the Seahawks aren’t necessarily looking for 1500 yard seasons from their wideouts. They’ll spread things around, run the football. The receivers might get two catches in a game, both for big plays. That’s the nature of the quick strike attack. And the two eligible players capable of adding to that quick-strike mentality in the draft will be Coleman and Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson.

Pete Carroll appears to be switched on when it comes to trends in the league. He helped develop the move to bigger cornerbacks. He studied the use of the read-option in Washington and how that helped Robert Griffin III have such an early impact for the Redskins. At a time when the league was all about big yardage in the passing game, Carroll concentrated on the run – just as several other teams followed this example. Ever since he took over in 2010, the Seahawks have seemingly been ahead of the curve.

Having helped develop the big cornerback trend, he may have to come up with an answer on offense too. Facing 6-3 cornerbacks these days? Perhaps the answer is to draft a 6-6 receiver who can run a 4.5 and win jump balls?

Going back to the yardage issue, here’s a few numbers to consider when judging Coleman. A.J. Green never had double figure touchdowns in a season (highest he had was nine in 2010). Green also never topped 1000 yards at Georgia in a single season. In Julio Jones’ second season as a starter in Alabama, he had 596 yards and four touchdowns. Jones also never reached double figures for touchdowns in a single season. It took Calvin Johnson until his final year at Georgia Tech to top 1000 yards and double figures for touchdowns. In Johnson’s first two years as a starter, he averaged 6.5 touchdowns a year and just over 800 yards.

Suddenly, a ten touchdown season with a game to go doesn’t appear so bad for Coleman given this is his first full year as a starter.

Will he declare? He recently commented he was leaning towards returning to college. Considering most people weren’t even sure he was undecided, this is perhaps a greater development for those hoping to see him in the NFL. It had been assumed he’d return for further seasoning. It appears he’s leaving the door open – and so he should. A big bowl performance could move him towards the NFL.

There are benefits to returning – namely further experience on the field as a starter. However, he’ll need to decide whether he’s just delaying the inevitable. It may be that he has to play in a pro-offense with pro-coaching before he truly takes the next step. There’s no guarantee that staying at Rutgers will automatically mean improved numbers or consistency next year. It’s not like the Scarlet Knights are suddenly going to become an up-tempo passing team. If his main priority is to improve as a player rather than success in college, he might be better off in the NFL.

Finding a tall, explosive receiver to add to the offense is arguably the teams biggest need after an upgrade at the three technique. If Brandon Coleman does turn pro, there’s a good chance he’ll be on this teams radar.


  1. Don

    Coleman and Patterson are intriguing but I would do whatever it takes to get in a position to draft Sheldon Richardson and turn a top 3 defense into the undisputed best defense in the NFL.

    • Rob Staton

      Hard to argue with that.

    • Dan

      I love that there isn’t a high value in the top picks this year. The teams at the top of the draft have questions at QB, and there isn’t a QB that warrants of a top 5 pick… We could trade up for once in the PC/JS era and solidify the D-line for a lot less than previous years.

  2. Darnell

    I really like Coleman, and Patterson is definitely intriguing.

    But if we’re talking DTs/WRs, I think there is a far bigger gap between the RD1 DTs (Richardson,Letulelei,Williams,Short) and the rest than there is between the potential RD1 WRs and the RD 2 WRs especially if guys like Wheaton,Hopkins,Rogers,Woods fall further than they should.

    I could be wrong, but I see the DT value being in the first and the WR value being in the 2nd. Though, of course it is early and as always very fluid.

    • Rob Staton

      It really depends on where the DT’s fall. If the top three DT’s leave the board early (I think Short will be there at least in the late second) then you’re not going to reach for that position in the same way you won’t go that route in round two. There’s nice depth at DT this year stretching beyond perhaps even round two. But for me, it’s still a position you look to free agency for. There are 2-3 prospective free agent three techniques that would take this defense to another level.

      • Darnell

        Short – late 2nd, I’m not so sure there. But it is a valid opinion. What are you feeling? A Jerel Worthy type of grade for Short. Not enough ability or is it more the motor issue?

        Assuming the three 3-techs are Richardson, Williams and Star.

        Assuming the FA is Randy Starks, who is the other?

        Sed Ellis and Glenn Dorsey could be worthwhile buy low guys.

        • Rob Staton

          Henry Melton is perhaps the best DT who will possibly hit the open market. It’s close with Starks. With Short it’s all about the motor and consistency. He’s not played hard this year. And teams are wary of three-tech’s that blow hot and cold.

          • Michael

            If Melton did get out of Chicago (unlikely in my opinion) getting him to Seattle would be a huge boon! Yet another great 3-tech drafted in the 4th round…

  3. John Thomas


    Do you see Travis Johnson/San Jose St as a LEO candidate for the Hawks?


    • Rob Staton

      I have tonight’s game recorded so I’ll take a look.

  4. kevin mullen

    Coleman is so unique that I’d be tempted (if I were Bevell) to maybe line him up at offset TE and let grab those jump balls in the middle, in redzone. Imagine Rice & Tate/Baldwin on outside, Coleman tight slot in, Lynch in backfield… Who want to game plan that???

    He’s got the size but weight would be an issue in that scenario. Regardless, i still think 1st round we draft an offensive threat, a real playmaker. He fits the bill.

    Curious as to what your second round projection would have been if we did draft Coleman in the first, what 2nd round 3tech DT would be available? I think that would be my ideal 1-2 picks.

    • Turp

      I’ve been wondering that too; what dt options available late second?

    • Chris

      “and let grab those jump balls in the middle, in redzone”

      I like your line of thinking, but I don’t see Coleman as either a real “hands” catcher or a “high-pointer”. He waits for the ball to come to him and tends to get it slapped away if not open.

      • Rob Staton

        I would disagree with this. He’s not a consistent high pointer, but he’s shown real evidence of going up and plucking the ball out of the air on some big plays – so we know he can do it. From what I’ve seen he tries mostly to hands catch.

  5. GH

    Is it just me or does Coleman look very stiff in the hips and mid section? Perhaps it’s just his height, but he looks like a board running his routes.

    The other WRs you’ve scouted look much more fluid and make much more convincing moves in their routes. This guy doesn’t look like he’ll get separation on NFL DBs. He might have great 40 times but to my eye he’s very stiff in the body.

    • Rob Staton

      He is a little stiff running routes. I put a lot of that down to his height. But I think one of the counters to that will be his ability to win jump balls and excel in single coverage. In many ways his height, reach and determination to catch with his hands will make up for it.

      • GH

        probably right. That height advantage can overcome some other concerns. The NFL is a game of matchups and this guy does present some problems for the defense if they go single coverage.

  6. Brian

    The “problem” in making projections is that the Seahawks draft guys with an idea of how they will scheme them. They have brought Russell Wilson along gradually, and it’s a safe bet that the offense will be more advanced next year. But none of really know in what way.

    Maybe they are planning on drafting a Joker TE and using him in space to create mismatches. Maybe they will draft a guy like Coleman and put him and Tate in motion a lot to take advantage of the fact that both of them can play the whole field but the opposing corners may not be able to. I have no idea.

    The pre-draft analysis is frankly less fun for me under the Schneider era than the Tim Ruskell one simply because we had an idea of who Ruskell was going to draft. Schneider could easily be targeting a TE . . . and it could be Ryan Otten.

    • Rob Staton

      Sure… but I think it’s a good challenge. Bruce Irvin should’ve been more obvious than it was. Heck, we went into last season talking him up as a top-ten pick. The old conventional wisdom got to everyone in the end. There was no great mystery to the two 2010 first round picks and they found an offensive lineman in 2011 we’d also spent time discussing. So I don’t think it’s less fun and I don’t think it’s impossible to project what might happen. I just think we have to remain so open minded and try to think outside of the box whenever possible.

      • AlaskaHawk

        Rob – Yes think outside the box on players. Position wise you’ve called out greatest needs and I expect PC will fill them in the first half of the draft. 3 tech, recievers and tight ends, and a linebacker. He will pad out the roster with the other picks. As PC has shown with Sweezy, he can pick players in the 7th round that are capable of becoming starters, even at different positions – which is more out of the box thinking.

        Speaking of receivers did you watch the Holiday bowl? The Baylor receivers have good hands.

        • Rob Staton

          I’ve just finished watching the Holiday Bowl. I’m still not sold on Terrance Williams – I’m going to do a piece on this today.

      • Brian


        BTW, I mentioned Ryan Otten because he reminds me a lot of Zach Miller. If he is available in the fifth round I wouldn’t mind picking him (with our extra pick from the Raiders) to back up and perhaps eventually replace Miller.

  7. Clayton

    I stand corrected on Brandon Coleman, his stats are no longer a concern. Hope Seattle picks him with the 32nd pick of the draft!

  8. Turp

    I see Sharrif Floyd and Sylvester Williams being our likely targets in the late first (based on past drafts, it seems a physical talent like Coleman won’t make it to the mid 20s). A pass rushing DT has to be more important than finding a WILL backer in the first – the better pass rush we have out of base formation, the easier it will be to live with a WILL like Malcom Smith. I like WR as a target in the 2nd, and we are a team built on defense and running the ball.

    • Rob Staton

      The team has changed somewhat recently though – now the offense and in particular Russell Wilson are growing into the identity of this team. And it would seem off to not build on that too. The big question will be ‘where’s the value?’. Is a guy like Floyd or Williams better than the receiver options in the late first? Or the WILL linebacker options? That’s likely to be the determining factor. And who knows what kind of wild card players at different positions could come into the mix if they suffer an unexpected fall?

      • Eli Neal

        I think it is important to remember the identity of the team. The jets were in a similar position as the hawks during Sanchez’s rookie season. They were a team built on defense and running the ball and succeeded. In recent years they’ve failed. I think a huge reason why is that they got away from the style of play that made them successful. I think the hawks need to draft two Wr’s this year but I don’t want their identity to change. Russell throwing under 25 passes a game seems like a recipe for success. More than that and we don’t know what will happen.

  9. Eli Neal

    Coleman’s QB is pretty terrible

    • Rob Staton


      • Eli Neal

        Like, really bad

        • EFly88

          Just Nova’d that snap

  10. MJ

    Anybody wondering why Coleman’s stats are not better…his QB, Gary Nova might just be the Max Hall of college football. Atrocious. And that’s being kind. Hopefully he comes out.

    • Rob Staton

      He has to turn pro. He’s going to get zero benefit playing with that QB again next year.

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