Can Corey Coleman Resurrect His Career in Buffalo?

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterAugust 9, 2018

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Corey Coleman runs to the field for his first practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Pittsford, N.Y., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

The 2016 NFL draft featured major trades that would reshape four teams—the Los Angeles Rams traded with the Tennessee Titans for the No. 1 overall pick to select Jared Goff, and the Philadelphia Eagles made a series of deals that culminated in moving up to No. 2 overall to select Carson Wentz. 

The Cleveland Browns, under new general manager Sashi Brown, traded back from No. 2 overall to the No. 8 spot before ultimately sliding back one more time to pick No. 15. With that selection they added Corey Coleman, a fast wide receiver from Baylor. In his two seasons with the Browns, Coleman started just 18 games and caught only 56 passes. It might be a drop that he's most well-known for, though, as his dropped pass in Week 17 against the Pittsburgh Steelers sealed the Browns' winless 2017 season.

After a disappointing two seasons from the top wide receiver drafted in the '16 class, Coleman has been shipped to the Buffalo Bills for a 2020 seventh-rounder.

What went wrong for Coleman in Cleveland? And can his career be resurrected in Buffalo?

Let's start with what went wrong. Sources within the Cleveland scouting department and coaching staff complained about his lack of football knowledge and preparation, saying: "The guy couldn't even line up in the right spot in practice. And this is his third year in the offense." One teammate, who requested to not be named, said Coleman was "all the time missing the snap count or lining up offsides. How do you do that s--t as a professional football player?"

That was strike one for Coleman, who many scouts worried about privately in predraft talks because of the offensive scheme he was in at Baylor and the struggles to acclimate to an NFL-style playbook from there.

Strike two for Coleman, according once again to teammates, was a label that no player wants—"soft."

"You have this guy who is supposed to be supertough, or so we were told, and he doesn't want to fight for the ball or get physical in traffic. He's Charmin soft."

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 18: Corey Coleman #19 of the Cleveland Browns in action during NFL game action against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on December 18, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

As the Browns try to rebuild the roster and achieve more than the one win they've accrued in their last 32 games played, the culture of the team is at the forefront of the changes new general manager John Dorsey is making. Toughness, accountability and a winner's mentality are all part of the makeup he wants from his team. Coleman's struggles in Cleveland landed him in Buffalo for pennies on the dollar. Now the Bills have to find out if they can get him back on track. That's part two of this story—the resurrection of Corey Coleman.

The Bills have made significant roster changes despite making the playoffs in Sean McDermott's first year as head coach in 2017. Gone is quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and in come rookie Josh Allen and free-agent pickup AJ McCarron to compete with second-year player Nathan Peterman (he of the five-interception game). The team has weapons in running back LeSean McCoy and receiver Kelvin Benjamin, but the passing game lacked speed and a vertical threat. Acquiring Coleman carries almost no risk and a high potential for reward.

In Buffalo, Coleman could be the ideal candidate to stretch out the awesome arm strength of Allen once the rookie gets onto the field. With a power running game and big-bodied Benjamin working slant routes, ideally the Bills would get Coleman loose down the field where he's not asked to bang his body as often after he broke his right hand in 2016 and '17 and has had recurring hamstring injuries. 

On paper, Coleman not only seems like a good fit but also a potential weapon.

"It's not like the guy tore two ACLs or something," a scout said this week. "He's still the same dynamic player we all liked two years ago. Maybe this is his wake-up call."

If it is and Coleman gets back to his pre-Cleveland level, the return on investment could be huge. The concerns about mental lapses and toughness no doubt contributed to the fact that Coleman fetched only a 2020 seventh-rounder in return, but the Bills should be commended for trading only a future last-round pick for a player selected No. 15 overall just two years ago.

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