Three receivers measured in taller than 6'4" at the 2014 NFL combine, but only two are household draft prospect names.
Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin and Texas A&M's Mike Evans were immensely productive targets on successful, high-profile teams in 2013 with, arguably, the two most well-known signal-callers in the country—Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel.
The tallest wideout at the Under Armour Olympics was Rutgers' Brandon Coleman, a pass-catcher who received passes thrown by Gary Nova and Chas Dodd—not exactly Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterbacks.
Evans probably won't make it past No. 20 overall in the draft, and it'd be surprising if Benjamin lasts very long into Round 2.
Thanks to large, physically imposing receivers Alshon Jeffery, Jordy Nelson, A.J. Green and Brandon Marshall—can't forget Anquan Boldin either—who can routinely "box out" or "outjump" smaller cornerbacks and safeties for the football when they're covered are very trendy in today's NFL.
Sure, some of the "power forward" wideouts and tight ends can't create separation the way speedsters can, but their contested catch ability is absolutely vital.
Coleman and Draft Philosophy
Like "reach," the draft term "value" is, technically, purely subjective. While it's hard to fully buy into either term during the draft, I do think there's some logical validity to each.
If a team falls in love with a prospect, I will almost never criticize the decision.
If said team believes said prospect is special enough to, say, take him in the first round, and the scouting department truly stayed away from the dreaded "groupthink," in theory, it would have no reason to believe the prospect they love would be available in the following round.
Therefore, the team wouldn't dare to risk losing out on the prospect, and its GM pulls the trigger to select the prospect then and there.
And that's when perceived "reaches" can occur.
Danny Kelly, editor-in-chief of FieldGulls.com—a tremendous Seattle Seahawks blog—recently provided an interesting and astute take on this concept:
One of the most important job duties of a GM is during the draft is determining the range a player will be chosen. It's an art.— Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls) February 25, 2014
Kelly's right, but that doesn't mean determining the range in which a player will be chosen is easy, and it's inarguably dicey.
Furthermore, the draft philosophy, or should I say, draft aspiration, that centers around "value" basically focuses on the idea to pass on a prospect if you can draft a similar prospect later—it's all about cost-effectiveness.
So, if a team either doesn't pick early enough to draft Evans or Benjamin, Coleman may very well turn out to be a tremendous value pick.
Well, after a quick perusal of wide receiver rankings, here's where Coleman stacks up in the 2014 class at his position:
|Website||Coleman's WR Ranking|
Actually, Coleman's lower rankings don't have to be viewed as a negative. They can be viewed as an ideal bargain opportunity:
|Kevin Benjamin||6'5"||240||34 7/8"||10 1/4"||4.61||1.62||13||32 1/2"||7.33|
|Brandon Coleman||6'6''||225||34"||9 1/4"||4.56||1.63||21||32 1/2"||7.33|
Now, combine performances are only a small facet of the comprehensive draft process, but to believe they don't factor into how teams view prospects is probably short-sighted.
Coleman's film shows and his combine results prove he's not as explosive as Evans—who ran a faster 40 and timed better in the agility drills.
However, he has experience with a more diverse route tree and appears to be a bit more fluid than both Evans and Benjamin in terms of getting in and out of his breaks down the field.
This route in the first quarter of Rutgers' game against Fresno State demonstrates Coleman's capability to run precise, rather intricate routes:
NFL coaches will like that.
Against Arkansas in 2012, he executed a beautiful slant-and-go double move for an easy touchdown:
Everything from his initial acceleration to the way he sold the slant to the suddenness in which he put his foot on the ground and changed direction was flawless.
Later in that game, Coleman again put his athleticism and deceptive speed on display as he took a quick flare to the house:
Evans and Benjamin made many more "high-pointing" grabs than Coleman during their respective collegiate careers, there's no doubting that, and those receptions are what NFL teams want to see from a tall receiver.
Despite his huge frame, Coleman never really showed a proficiency in that niche area, but he certainly didn't have many opportunities to make catches in traffic.
It's obvious that he needs to get more physical using his body and make a concerted effort to fully extend and attack the football at its highest point like Evans and Benjamin do so well:
Even this touchdown in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl early in 2012 was oddly timed and wouldn't exactly be considered a textbook high point:
Though he's similarly sized to the Florida State and Texas A&M stars, Coleman appeared to be a slightly different type of receiver than those two. I think he could have an easier time creating separation with speed and route-running ability at the NFL level than either of those two but won't make as many spectacular receptions with cornerbacks draped on him.
From a touchdown efficiency perspective—big wideouts are often seen as "touchdown specialists"—21.2 percent of Coleman's catches at Rutgers went for scores, which wasn't quite as good as Benjamin's 22.6 percent but considerably better than Evans' 11.1 percent.
Evans and Benjamin might both ultimately become better professional football players than Brandon Coleman.
But teams in the market for a tall, physically intimidating wide receiver that don't want to take one in the first or second round could "settle" on Brandon Coleman and be pleasantly surprised at his contributions relative to the later round in which he likely can be selected.