Will Corey Coleman Catch a Break?
Corey Coleman is an exciting sophomore wide receiver on the Cleveland Browns and a player many in the fantasy community have pegged as a potential sleeper for the 2017 season. After the Browns selected him in the first round of the 2016 draft, Coleman flashed a moment of brilliance in Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens, taking five receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Things ground to a halt after that when Coleman fractured a bone in his hand and missed six weeks only to return to a roster featuring the emerging Terrelle Pryor.
The departures of Pryor, Gary Barnidge, and Andrew Hawkins leave behind 277 targets from 2016. Many believe Coleman will benefit the most from these. However, the Browns have also signed veteran Kenny Britt and drafted tight end David Njoku, both of whom may stake claims to those targets this year (not to mention deep sleeper Seth DeValve). The recent signings, among other things, have cast Coleman’s 2017 season into ambiguity.
Broken Hand and Broken Hearts
Just when the momentum was building for Coleman in 2016, he fractured his hand in practice Week 3 and sat out for six weeks. When he returned, his productivity just wasn’t the same; he failed to break 100 yards in any of the remaining eight games and scored just one more touchdown. Part of this decrease in production was due to the unexpected breakout of Terrelle Pryor. The Browns offense could barely support one viable fantasy option, and when another receiving option joined the fray, the production of both receivers diminished.
However, I don’t believe this paints the full picture. The fractured hand was likely still bothering him, as even when Pryor started receiving significant snap percentages Coleman still averaged 7.5 targets per game. After returning from his injury Coleman caught less than 50% of his targets, logging just 26 receptions on 60 targets. Part of this may have been quarterback play, but that hand could easily have affected his catching ability.
Those who are excited about Coleman have many reasons to be. Coleman lit it up in college, amassing over 3,000 yards and 33 touchdowns while at Baylor. His high draft capital would lead one to assume that the Browns want to use him, and his snap percentages when active last year (87% of offensive snaps) were among the highest at the position in the NFL. His on-field experience in his rookie year should be a boon to helping him take the next step and break out.
Despite taking significant strides this offseason, the Cleveland Browns defense will still be mediocre at best in 2017. That means the Browns will be playing from behind a good amount of the time, and that typically lends itself toward more passing plays and fewer run plays. Their rebuffed offensive line should be able to give whoever wins the Browns’ quarterback battle enough time to make solid passes, which bodes well for Coleman as well. Right?
The Bad News
Not necessarily. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows at Camp Coleman. The fact of the matter is that we still don’t know who his quarterback is or whether that quarterback can help Coleman. We can pray it isn’t Brock Osweiler (who couldn’t get it done with DeAndre Hopkins). The concern about DeShone Kizer is that he isn’t ready yet and while Kessler may have been quietly solid in his rookie year, Coleman’s production with Kessler was middling.
There are also the recent comments from coach Hue Jackson about his commitment to running the ball more in 2017. The fantasy community has grown very excited about Isaiah Crowell’s prospects behind the rebuffed offensive line, but Crowell’s production could dip into Coleman’s opportunities. We may expect the Browns to throw more, but if Isaiah Crowell and their offensive line are producing more efficiently than the alternative, Coleman won’t necessarily benefit from the typical positive game scripts for a wide receiver.
Finally, we come to Coleman’s injuries. In addition to his broken hand last year, Coleman also injured his hamstring in that preseason. That injury kept him out of most preseason activities in his rookie year and it appears that a similar hamstring injury may do the same again. Per another recent report, he suffered an additional injury when he fell on a ball and will miss more time. These nagging injuries are a concern, and missed time in practices could leave a window for the other Browns receivers to step in and fill the WR1 role for the team.
Coleman flashed moments of WR1 upside in his rookie season and could absolutely experience the breakout many believe he will. Even Hue Jackson has said he believes Coleman can be a number one receiver in the NFL, albeit only if Coleman puts in the work. Coleman will need the best quarterback he can get and he’ll need to not only earn the targets of a number one receiver, but to start catching them as well. He’s currently available quite late in fantasy drafts and is ranked in our Expert Consensus Rankings as the WR42, but if the breaks fall his way and he puts in the work, Coleman could end up winning people their seasons at that ADP.