Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Despite their second AFC North title in three years, the Cincinnati Bengals dropped their fifth straight opening round playoff game in early 2016. This time to their fiercest rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. It wasn't so much the fact that they had come up short again, that had many Who Dey fans shoegazing for the better part of January. No, that fairly inevitable outcome had already been penciled in nearly a month prior, shortly after Andy Dalton's throwing hand nicked Stephon Tuitt's cleat, during the second of what would prove to be three intradivisional slugfests. Instead, it was the manner in which they lost.
Second year backup A.J. McCarron finished the regular season 2-1 as a starter; his only loss a gutsy road performance against the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos; a game that extended into overtime. Though he failed to guide the offense to any first half points against the Steelers, McCarron played within his own limitations, kept his miscues to a minimum and eventually secured a one-point lead with under two minutes left to play, on a 25 yard touchdown strike to A.J. Green. Unfortunately, a bizarre series of plays consisting of an interception by Vontaze Burfict, a fumble by Jeremy Hill and two costly personal foul penalties - one by Burfict, the other by Adam Jones - moved the ball deep into Cincinnati territory, setting up a chip shot field goal for Steelers' kicker Chris Boswell, in the game's closing seconds.
On a positive note, the season proved to be a turning point for Dalton, prior to his fateful thumb injury. After four seasons of maddeningly inconstent play, the fiery ginger finally managed to put together a campaign, the likes of which any NFL QB would be proud. Aside from an impressive 8-0 start, his numbers through 12 games had him in the thick of the NFL MVP conversation. Barring any unforeseen setbacks, he should be fully recovered and ready to pick up where he left off, come September.
Aside from that, the team has done a relatively good job of maintaining the nucleus that got them to 12-4 and the post-season. Exceptions to that are as follows:
1. Wide receiver - Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, who combined to start 55 games over their four year tenures in Cincinnati, went their separate ways in free agency. Sanu managed to nail down a lucrative deal with the Atlanta Falcons and is expected to start opposite Julio Jones in 2016. Meanwhile, Jones and New York Jets' castoff Jeremy Kerley will attempt to fill the void created by Calvin Johnson's untimely retirement in Detroit. Though neither are/were anything close to playmaking talent Green remains, both managed to come up big on numerous occasions; particularly along the sidelines, showing their presence and athleticism in making the tough catches, then dragging their toes inbounds to move the sticks. Sanu was also occasionally used on gadget plays, including those run out of the Wildcat formation. As a passer, he was 5-of-5 for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns as a Bengal.
The team has since signed hit-or-miss veteran wideout Brandon LaFell. The former LSU standout initially fizzled with the Carolina Panthers, then saw mixed results with the New England Patriots over the past couple of seasons. Though tight end Tyler Eifert managed to have the breakout season many expected in 2015, his short career has been plagued with nagging injuries. If Dalton's success is to continue, it is imperative that the Bengals' brass fully reload this offseason and continue to provide him with adequate weapons with which to work.
2. Free safety - At 32 years old, Reggie Nelson put together his first Pro Bowl season and finished tied with Chiefs' rookie cornerback Marcus Peters with a league-leading 8 interceptions. Rather than pay top dollar to the aging veteran, Bengals owner and GM Mike Brown wisley decided to let Nelson walk. He has since signed a 2 year deal with the Oakland Raiders.
Thankfully, strong safety George Iloka was retained and Taylor Mays returns after one season in Oakland. Though the latter can technically play both the free and strong safety positions, he is underwhelming at best; far from a definitive long term answer in the starting lineup. Former third round pick Shawn Williams is expected to compete for that spot.
3. Right tackle - Andre Smith's less-than-stellar 2015 performance was also rewarded with walking papers. He moves on to the Minnesota Vikings. Despite this loss, the Bengals are in pretty good shape along their offensive line. This due in large part to having spent their 2015 1st and 2nd round picks on tackles Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) and Jake Fisher (Oregon), respectively.
4. Defensive end - 2014 starter Wallace Gilberry predictably took a backseat to Michael Johnson, upon the latter's return from Tampa Bay. His offseason change of address to the Motor City spells little more than a lack of quality depth at the position.
5. Outside linebacker - Ditto for reserve Sam 'backer Emmanuel Lumur, who has moved on to greener pastures in Minnesota. The versatility of Burfict, Rey Maualuga and Vincent Rey, along with the emergence of last year's 3rd round draft pick, Paul Dawson (TCU), along with A.J. Hawk and the recent addition of veteran ILB Karlos Dansby should render this loss minor, as well.
6. Cornerback - 31 year old Leon Hall was not retained, though he has yet to sign with another team. Jones is even longer in the tooth. He'll be 33 in September and was retained. Fortunately, younger guys with upside, like Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard and Josh Shaw are being groomed below these aging veterans. That said, a little more youth infusion couldn't hurt.
There are also two other glaring needs; these existing prior to the start of free agency:
1a. Nose tackle - Domata Peko just wrapped up his 10th NFL season, all of which have come in Bengal stripes. Though he's only missed five games since his rookie season, it's painfully obvious that the rotund Samoan is gassed. His backup, Pat Sims, was retained, but he is on the wrong side of 30 years old himself. Obtaining a young, talented 0/1 tech to basically just attack the opposing center on every play probably isn't going to spell the difference between a Wild Card round playoff exit and a Lombardi Trophy, but it would make things a little easier for Maualuga, Rey and Dansby, as well as for Geno Atkins, the All-Pro 3 tech who remains the best all-around defensive player on the Cincinnati roster.
2a. Center - Whether this should rank above or below free safety, as far as needs go, is arguable. Starter Russell Bodine is routinely cited as the weakest link in a better than average offensive line. That said, he's only been around two seasons and his approximate value for those two years have been 7 (2014) and 8 (2015). By comparison, perennial Pro Bowler Max Unger graded out at a 4 (2014 w/ Seattle) and a 9 (2015 w/ New Orleans). So, while he may not be anything to write home about compared to his teammates, Bodine has at least proven to be somewhat consistent among his center peers. It should also be pointed out that not a ton of teams are in the market for a starting center. Of course, the same could be said for a starting NT, playing almost exclusively in the 4-3.
With needs out of the way, let's take a look at the top five available prospects at each of these positions, here at the 24th overall pick. These rankings courtesy of Mike Detillier's Draft Report 2016, incidentally:
Laquon Treadwell, WR1, Mississippi - 19.34
Mackensie Alexander, CB3, Clemson - 19.27
A'Shawn Robinson, DT2, Alabama - 19.27
Corey Coleman, WR2, Baylor - 19.20
William Jackson III, CB5, Houston - 19.20
Andrew Billings, DT3, Baylor - 19.19
Kevin Dodd, DE6, Clemson - 19.18
Jarran Reed, DT4, Alabama - 19.18
Robert Nkemdiche, DT5, Mississippi - 19.17
Jonathan Bullard, DE7, Florida - 19.15
Kenny Clark, DT6, UCLA - 19.15
Jason Spriggs, OT5, Indiana - 19.10
Artie Burns, CB6, Miami (FL) - 19.09
Germain Ifedi, OT6, Texas A&M - 19.07
Deion Jones, OLB4, LSU - 19.03
Ryan Kelly, C1, Alabama - 19.01
Braxton Miller, WR5, Ohio State - 18.99
Jalen Mills, FS1, LSU - 18.92
Kendall Fuller, CB7, Virginia Tech - 18.90
Michael Thomas, WR6, Ohio State - 18.90
Kamalei Correa, OLB5, Boise State - 18.88
Sterling Shepard, WR7, Oklahoma - 18.88
Su'a Cravens, OLB6, USC - 18.80
Kyler Fackrell, OLB7, Utah State - 18.37
Bronson Kaufusi, DE8, Brigham Young - 18.37
Nick Martin, C2, Notre Dame - 18.37
Shilique Calhoun, DE9, Michigan State - 18.30
Darian Thompson, FS2, Boise State - 18.30
Le'Raven Clark, OT7, Texas Tech - 18.29
Carl Nassib, DE10, Penn State - 18.29
Shon Coleman, OT8, Auburn - 18.25
Yannick Ngakoue, OLB8, Maryland - 18.19
Cyrus Jones, CB8, Alabama - 18.13
DeAndre Houston Carson, FS3, William & Mary - 18.10
Max Tuerk, C3, USC - 18.01
Joe Haeg, OT9, North Dakota State - 17.93
Jack Allen, C4, Michigan State - 17.73
T.J. Green, FS4, Clemson - 17.70
Austin Blythe, C5, Iowa - 17.60
Justin Simmons, FS5, Boston College - 17.51
Starting at the top of the list, I have reservations about Laquon Treadwell at the next level. He relies on his size to out position defenders for the ball, rather than true separation speed. The comparison being thrown around by Detillier is Torry Holt coming out of North Carolina State. I'm thinking a less physically imposing version of David Boston. I'd obviously have no problem with a receiver of Holt's caliber, but with Green (6'4") and LaFell (6'3") both already carrying that size, it would be nice to have someone a bit more dimunitive and elusive to cause personnel mismatches and I'll get to that in a few minutes.
Mackensie Alexander represents the BPA with whom I'd feel 100% comfortable with this pick. Good value, at least. The main reason I leaned away here is the huge disparity between biggest need imo (starting WR) and what amounts to a luxury type acquisition; someone who'd likely only going to see the field in dime packages as a rookie.
A'Shawn Robinson simply isn't a good fit for the 4-3 scheme. I envision him as an early down DE in the 3-4, one that will likely excel at disrupting running plays to the outside, if at all. Jarran Reed, who played 0 tech exclusively for the Crimson Tide and was exceptional against the run, would no doubt be the pick here, should someone point a gun at my head and whisper "you're taking an Alabama defensive tackle in the first round". And Reed would represent decent value here at 24. The thing is, there's still Billings (who also fits like a glove), Clark, Chris Jones, Vernon Butler, Sheldon Day, Adolphus Washington and Austin Johnson all projected to go somewhere in the first two rounds.
Plus, Nkemdiche, (who I'm not particularly high on due to his numerous off the field issues) and Bullard, who (like Butler) isn't the ideal fit, but is at least versatile enough to man the spot, while offering defensive line depth elsewhere. And maybe a dozen or so NT prospects beyond that. Again, for a team mainly just looking to get younger at the position, there isn't nearly the sense of urgency to do it quite this early on. Especially when Peko was merely a 4th rounder himself coming out of Michigan State, all those years ago. In short, as long as supply is exceeding demand, it can wait.
That brings us to Corey Coleman, an absolute burner out of Baylor.
He's 5'11" 195, so the smaller build I was looking for and not able to pin down in Treadwell.
Three knocks on him, so let's get those out of the way:
1. Baylor receivers operate out of a spread offense, so there's some concern that their (limited) route trees are indicative of their limitations as receivers. Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams are the two examples most often cited. What people tend to forget is that Josh Gordon also attended Baylor, before transferring to Utah, another spread offense program. Gordon may have his fair share of problems, but getting open on a football field is not, nor has it ever been one of them. There are numerous other examples of WRs from spread offenses going on to excel in the pros. Michael Crabtree has done much better than initially expected. Further, when you have open field moves like this.
Being the most disciplined route runner becomes less important. Coleman is the type of guy you want to get in space. Granted, it's always a plus if your QB and WR can be on the exact same page, but we're talking slight deviations based on lack of focus at worst, not Renaldo Nehemiah level cluelessness, when it comes to where to be.
2. Drops. Again, this comes back to infinitesimal lapses in concentration. Nearly all of Coleman's miscues have come across the middle, while attempting to corral passes on less-than-ideal angles. When led over the shoulder in stride, the guy is typically money and Dalton is one of the very best in the game at ball placement, believe it or not. Many receivers have dealt with drops at one time or another. It's a shortcoming that can be overcome through repetition and coaching. Devery Henderson is living proof of this. Coleman has nearly twice as many catches at Baylor, than Henderson had at LSU. He's also an electrifying returns specialist, both on punts and kickoffs.
Baylor coaches aren't foolish enough to have Coleman handling such duties, if he was an outright liability when it comes to attaining and maintaining possession of the ball.
3. Run blocking. This aspect of offense is virtually non-existent in the Baylor spread, but there's good reason for it. Baylor coach Art Briles prizes fresh receivers play after play in his uptempo offense over blocks by those receivers that might just turn a 5-yard run into a 50-yard run for his running backs. Coleman (and other Baylor receivers) have basically been instructed to avoid contact whenever possible. As such, it's hard to knock anyone who's just doing what they're told.
Getting back to his bonus value as a returns specialist, this actually played heavily into my decision. I happen to love Sterling Shepard out of Oklahoma. He's a little smaller than Coleman, doesn't have the drop problems, has run all the routes you look for in a receiver at the pro level and even has a little mean streak. Tenacious anyway, in going up and taking the ball from bigger corners. I've seen him do that a few times, actually. What he doesn't bring to the table is game breaking speed and the ability to return punts and kickoffs. That's huge, expecially when Brandon Tate was only extended one year (a perennial renewal, he's basically Courtney Roby with zero value on offense) and Pac-Man could receive a lifetime ban from Roger Goodell at any given moment, if he so much as winks at someone the wrong way.
I will admit that I was completely set to take Josh Doctson with this pick, before the Vikings (SxSnts9) snatched him up at 23. Mainly based on the TCU connection with Dalton. I think that commonality would help develop a strong QB-WR rapport early on, while also helping to ease the butterflies normally associated with anyone's rookie season. Sure, they never actually played together for the Horned Frogs, but they can still share memories of certain coaches, rivalries, campus traditions, games played at Amon G. Carter Stadium, shenanigans pulled at the Brown-Lupton Student Union, etc. I also happen to think Doctson is going to be something special at the next level. But I'm totally ok with Coleman as the next dynamic Bengals WR2, following suit in a long line of good ones, including Eddie Brown, Darnay Scott and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Check me out! I can still spell that ish.
Thanks to all the CSC members who participated in this year's community mock draft. Without your help, none of this would be possible.
Below are the complete results from our community mock draft.
Catch up with all of the mock draft selections in our 2016 CSC Community Mock Draft Hub.
||Selection||Team Representative||Approval Rating|
|1||Tennessee||Leremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss||Chris Dunnells||74%|
|2||Cleveland||Jared Goff, QB, California||quickdrawdoc||44%|
|3||San Diego||Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
|4||Dallas||DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon||Tee Word||52%|
|5||Jacksonville||Myles Jack, LB, UCLA||SxSnts9||73%|
|6||Baltimore||Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida||Lostastic||64%|
|7||San Francisco||Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota St.||BlackandGold4ever||58%|
|8||Philadelphia||Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State||ukesilence||64%|
|9||Tampa Bay||Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State||RyanAb9||85%|
|10||New York Giants||Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan St.||Johnny BeGood||38%|
|11||Chicago||Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson||NOLASaintsBeast||63%|
|12||New Orleans||Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville||Dave Cariello||69%|
|13||Miami||Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame||saintmanumit||45%|
|14||Oakland||Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama||Chris Dunnells||60%|
|15||Los Angeles Rams||Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis||quickdrawdoc||32%|
|16||Detroit||Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State||Khannar||67%|
|17||Atlanta||Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State||Dave Choate||66%|
|18||Indianapolis||Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia||NOLASaintsBeast||69%|
|19||Buffalo||Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky||Jaimichaelugp||33%|
|20||New York Jets||Emmanuel Ogbah, DE/OLB, Oklahoma St||RyanAb9||54%|
|21||Washington||Eli Apple, CB, Ohio St.||saintmanumit|
|22||Houston||Will Fuller, WR, NotreDame||Tee Word|
|23||Minnesota||Josh Doctson, WR, TCU||SxSnts9|
|24||Cincinnati||Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor||coldpizza|
|27||Green Bay||Johnny BeGood|
|29||New England (Forfeited)||Forfeited pick||---------||--------|