Corey Coleman a ROY candidate for the Cleveland Browns?
By Thomas Moore
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Corey Coleman’s explosive playmaking ability should keep him in the conversation for Rookie of the Year honors this fall.
The Cleveland Browns have been a disappointment, to put it mildly, since 1999 when it comes to adding talent to the team via the first-round of the annual NFL Draft.
From players that had their careers shortened by injury, to misinformed selections on draft night, or simply making the absolute wrong pick, the Browns have done it all, which helps explain why they have not had a player selected for one of the league’s Rookie of the Year honors since Kevin Mack was AFC Rookie of the Year in 1985.
In fact, the Browns have only had four players in franchise history be honored as a first year player, with Jim Brown (1957), Bobby Mitchell (1958) and Chip Banks (Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1982), joining Mack.
But that could change come the fall with wide receiver Corey Coleman, the team’s top selection out of Baylor.
While running back Ezekiel Elliott will enter the season as the presumptive favorite to take home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, Coleman’s ability to find the end zone after scoring 31 receiving touchdowns the past two years in Baylor’s high-powered offense makes him a candidate should Elliott come up short, according to Pro Football Focus.
"While the team’s most-targeted player last season — TE Gary Barnidge — is still on the roster, new head coach Hue Jackson is likely to immediately lean on Coleman. The former Baylor star earned the ninth-best overall grade among FBS WRs last season, but was in the top five before QB Seth Russell suffered a season-ending injury in just the Bears’ seventh game."
"Coleman’s greatest strength is his ability to get separation from coverage both before and after the catch using his quickness and speed, and that translated to his stat line. At 3.97, his average yards per route run mark trailed only Washington Redskins rookie Josh Doctson in the 2016 draft class."
There is much to like about Coleman and has the potential to be the most dynamic playmaker the Browns have had since Eric Metcalf. But in terms of being the league’s best rookie on offense, he has a few hurdles to overcome.
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First off, it is somewhat easier to put up big numbers as a running back than a wide receiver. Elliott is walking into an ideal situation as the Cowboys offense is more stable than the Browns and he will be running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.
Coleman, on the other hand, will be the focus of opposing defenses in the passing game and is at the mercy of the quarterback throwing him the ball. If Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown or whoever takes over at quarterback this fall struggles, and opposing defenses work hard to take Coleman out of the game, his numbers may not match his talent during his initial campaign.
One way the Browns can offset that, of course, is by running the ball more effectively than they did in 2015. If the Browns can make other teams respect the run that opens up the passing game – most notably via play-action – which is an area where both Coleman and Griffin have excelled, as PFF points out:
"During the height of Griffin’s NFL career thus far (his rookie season), Griffin ran play-action fakes on 40 percent of his dropbacks that year—the highest rate PFF has recorded in the past four seasons. In 2015, Baylor QB Seth Russell ran play-action fakes on 54.2 percent of his dropbacks, with Coleman on the receiving end of many of those targets. What’s more, under Jackson as the Bengals offensive coordinator, Andy Dalton ran play-action fakes the ninth-most of any NFL QB last season."
Knowing that could explain, in part, why the Browns are reportedly heading into the season with the oft-stated plan to be a “run-oriented team.”
“I think when you look at coach Jackson’s background, he is a ‘quarterback guru.’ ” run game coordinator Kirby Wilson said last week. “He has done a tremendous job over the years with that, but if you look at his record, in terms of running the football and the amount that he runs it, you’re going to find out that he really, truly does enjoy running the football.”
Ultimately it doesn’t matter if Coleman picks up a Rookie of the Year honor at the end of the year. His playmaking ability adds a dimension to the Browns offense that has been lacking for far too long, and if he plays up to that potential everything else will take care of itself.
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What do you think Browns fans? Can Corey Coleman do enough to earn Offensive Rookie of the Year honors this fall?