What kind of crazy person would suggest picking up a player that hasn’t played in almost two months with less than 500 career yards on a team that hasn’t won a game since 2016? This guy, clearly.
Now, don’t get me wrong – there are a host of risks associated with him becoming worthy of a start this season, but that’s the case with anyone you’re considering this time of year. The thing is, he has the best combination of upside and likelihood of hitting it as anyone else you’ll consider picking up this season. Others may try to distract you with Josh Gordon noise, but while he is interesting in his own right that’s a 2018 story; not 2017 – if he even plays this year.
Why Coleman? In case you haven’t noticed, the Browns have a major problem at wide receiver. They also play from behind frequently (that whole not winning since 2016 thing) which leads to a lot of late game passing. Overall, three of the top four players on the team in receiving yardage don’t play wide receiver and the one inside of the top four hasn’t scored a touchdown nor has he pulled in even 50% of his targets. On an offense that Head Coach Hue Jackson wants to funnel through the wide receiver position – that’s an issue. Only recently has the game plan changed to feature more of the ground game and quick passing plays. Doing so has been bred from necessity and personnel and not from designed schematic advantage. Coleman’s return changes that dynamic and we should see that in very short order.
It was very clear in July and August whom the best receiver on this team was and it shouldn’t be any surprise it was the second year 1st round pick, Coleman. The difference in skill between him and the rest at the position was eye opening, so his loss Week 2 to a broken hand vs. the Ravens (for the second year in a row) was a detrimental blow to an offense that spent most of the weeks that followed stuck in the mud. Until last week in Detroit, the only output over 17 points was fueled by a failed 4th quarter comeback against the Colts’ prevent defense. While the botched end to the first half against the Lions dominated the headlines, the offense had its best game of the season, amassing 413 total yards and 24 points – most of it before Kizer was knocked out of the game (ribs) at the end of the 3rd quarter. Despite having no receiver eclipsing 38 yards and only Ricardo Louis (6 targets, 2 receptions, 15 yards) topped four targets. If there is a concern here it’s that the Browns lean on Coleman too heavily after an eight game layoff – not that there’s anything wrong with that.
That said, the schedule is brutal. His return is against the league’s best pass defense and four of his remaining five games are against Top-11 pass defenses. Between his schedule and a rookie (or worse) throwing him the ball he’s probably not going to be a player that carries you to a championship. That said, he has enough talent and opportunity to provide Top-20 numbers despite the challenging path he must navigate. Ultimately, can he work his way towards being a better start than someone like Jarvis Landry? Demaryius Thomas? Or Jordy Nelson? Landry has scored in five of his last six games, but has only eclipsed 62 yards once and is averaging less than 8 yards per reception on the year. Age has clearly caught up with Thomas and while he’s scored in each of the last two games it appeared Sunday night as though Emmanuel Sanders is the preferred #1 receiver down the stretch and is the Broncos signal caller really an upgrade over the Browns? All of the Packers pass catchers have suffered without Rodgers, but none more than Nelson – who has been limited to 68 yards and no scores since losing his quarterback. Similar arguments can be made for/against other wide receivers in this area of the rankings. Simply put, it won’t take much for Coleman to separate himself from any of them. And he will be given every opportunity in order to do so.
This week’s flavor of the week is: Cousin Eddie’s 5th glass of eggnog.
It’s not going to be a pretty ride. You may have to spend countless hours outside setting up Christmas decorations to separate yourself from
your family other wide receivers. You may burn down your Christmas tree poster of Eric Decker on your wall. But in the end if you end up with the free membership to the Jelly of the Month Club championship, it’ll all be worth it.