Shield your eyes, Cleveland Browns fans, as I recall the last few wide receivers your football team has selected in recent drafts:
- Vince Mayle (2015)
- Greg Little (2011)
- Carlton Mitchell (2010)
- Brian Robiskie (2009)
- Mohamed Massaquoi (2009)
Please take a second to react appropriately.
Everybody OK? Great, moving on.
Yes, these are some of the “superstars” previous Browns regimes have selected in hopes of bolstering a seemingly-always shoddy receiving corps. The above mixed bag of wideouts who are either making minimal impact elsewhere or who are just flat out not even in the NFL anymore represents some of Cleveland’s most notorious draft picks in recent memory.
Also unsurprising is the fact that, believe it or not, the Browns didn’t score a lot of passing touchdowns with receivers like these. So, when new coach Hue Jackson came into the picture this past January and immediately noted Cleveland’s need for impact wideouts, it was a breath of fresh air. Clearly he didn’t follow the same football knowledge of former GM Ray Farmer – who probably still thinks receivers aren’t important to success – and wanted to target this position in the draft.
In doing so, Jackson may have ended up selecting one of the Browns’ future stars. Though only one week into training camp, first-round pick Corey Coleman has been receiving rave reviews, and could potentially be the first marquee wideout this team has seen in a long time.
Coleman’s college resume speaks for itself. The former Baylor Bear led the nation in receiving touchdowns last year, hauling in 20. Coleman ended up winning the 2015 Biletnikoff Award as the country’s best receiver, and entered the draft process with scouts raving about his speed and big-play ability.
The knock on him, it seemed, was his lack of route-running skills in college. Someone of Coleman’s speed needed only to run go-routes for much of his Baylor career, so scouts were concerned about his ability to learn pro-style plays.
While one week of camp in Cleveland certainly hasn’t erased any criticism for Coleman, it’s certainly generated him a lot of praise.
Coleman is easily the biggest star on campus for the Browns, wowing fans and reporters on hand with numerous highlight-reel plays in practice. The on-field rapport between him and QB Robert Griffin III (another Baylor alum) has been apparent from Day 1, as the two have connected for multiple touchdown bombs.
Last night, during the team’s intra-squad scrimmage, Coleman continued his impressive week. He pulled in three spectacular catches, one for 35 yards, another for 53 and a dazzling 41-yard touchdown hauled in at the back corner of the end zone.
All in all, there hasn’t been a single Browns player with a more impressive first week of training camp. The comparisons to some of the NFL’s best have been pouring in, as teammate Andrew Hawkins likened Coleman to future Hall of Famer Steve Smith. The Baltimore Ravens receiver even noted this as well, tweeting some praise of Coleman earlier this week.
It goes without saying we can’t get too excited. Every training camp has its all-stars, a good chunk of which crumble once they start seeing live action. Top that with the fact Cleveland’s secondary isn’t exactly the league’s most vaunted unit, and you can see why we shouldn’t start campaigning for Coleman to win Rookie of the Year just yet.
Still, the lightning quick wideout is oozing with potential. Should he live up to the hype come regular season, it could go a long way towards lifting this oft-sluggish Browns offense out of the doldrums. Additionally, provided Coleman continues impressing and Josh Gordon stays clean, the Browns could have one of the league’s most intriguing one-two punches at wideout come Week 5.
Again, though, it’s too early to crown Coleman as a top-tier receiver. He needs more time to develop and, per Jackson, still has some aspects of his game in need of polishing.
That said, when’s the last time an offensive rookie has received this much buildup in Cleveland? Heck, when’s the last time a wideout the Browns drafted has received any buildup, period?
Coleman may not be a finished product yet, but once he hits that point, all signs point to him being a player everyone will need to keep an eye on.