Dynasty Draft Profile: Tevin Coleman
April 24, 2015 | Rich Hribar
Tevin Coleman is one of the most intriguing and polarizing prospects in this entire draft class. He’s coming off of a 2014 season in which he tallied massive production, rushing for 100 or more yards in 11 of 12 games (his season low was 71 yards in a game). What’s more impressive about his raw production is how he was able to tally such gaudy numbers while playing with a broken toe for the back half of the season while in one of the most limited offenses in the country. Indiana ranked 90th in points per game this past season (25.1 points) and passed for just 1,697 yards total on the entire season (123rd in the country), while throwing just seven passing touchdowns on the entire season (only three teams few less in the entire FBS). This came a year after averaging 38.4 points per game (16th) and passing for 36 scores (ninth). The Hoosier offense ranked 81st in total yards (4,860) in 2014, with Coleman accounting for nearly half of that yardage. His 44.8 percent share of his team’s total yardage was tops in the country. Here’s how he stacked up against other D1 backs entering the draft this season in terms of carrying his respective offense.
All of that jarring production didn’t come in a silky smooth fashion, however. Often he was hitting long jaunts down a handful of scores in the fourth quarter after being stymied all game. 65% of his college touchdowns came from 20 yards or longer and half of them (14) came from 40 yards or longer. The next highest back of this class with that type of distance scoring reliance was Duke Johnson (23 percent). When he has an initial lane available to him in which he’s able to get his shoulders and frame up-field, he’s almost unparalleled in this class in terms of being able to burst downhill and then evaporates angles with his straight line speed.
That type of reliance on distance scoring is really unprecedented and it would be even more rare if he were able to sustain how he accumulated his yardage totals in 2014 into the NFL since he does have some mechanical flaws to his game. Coleman is a straight line runner who frequently plays in a hurry at the line of scrimmage, often causing missed opportunities for feeling the holes opening on the back side. If he’s going to be able to overcome becoming a niche back that is strictly reliant on lanes created for him to explode straight through in the NFL, he’s going to need to develop a better overall feel at the line of scrimmage. In one of my favorite runs from him this past season, he does all of those things. In the play below, he not only shows the vision and awareness to diagnose the free linebacker in the hole, but he’s able to slightly press that hole and change direction instantly through a new lane and then finish the play off with power.
It’s a run that doesn’t make the morning game highlights, but that’s a highly translatable run on the next level. We don’t get to see them often from Coleman, but given his physical and production profile, I don’t want to completely rule out that he’s not capable of developing just enough nuance to his game to make him an elite weapon in the proper scenario.
Although we didn’t get any physical measurables beyond his 40-yard time, I feel confident in saying he meets the threshold in terms of overall athleticism. Looking back on how he performed in 2013 in a capable offense in which he shared carries and then how he carried a poor offense in 2014, I do believe we’re short changing his overall ability to function a bit based on the negatives in his game regardless if he’s sharing a backfield or a team gives him the keys to one from day one. I was someone definitely guilty of focusing on why he wouldn’t succeed rather than how he can early in the process. Considering Melvin Gordon also has similar flaws that Coleman has as a runner behind the line of scrimmage, there’s a very large gap in terms of cost between the two with Gordon costing you a top four rookie pick while Coleman carries an early second round price tag. Going into the draft Coleman has the feel right now of suffering from the market over-correcting itself from February and has the potential to trump his discounted price if it holds.
Coleman landed in one of the more intriguing spots by going to the Falcons in the early third round. With new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in town, we can expect their rushing game to get a major uptick in terms of volume and production. The last time Atlanta rushed for over 1,500 yards as team was in 2011 and Shanahan offenses have just two under that mark in seven seasons, averaging 1,857 yards on the ground per season. He’s worked wonders with a plethora of late round backs without the athletic acumen that Coleman possesses, so there’s an opportunity for fireworks here.
While everything about Coleman’s shortcomings behind the line of scrimmage are a potential issue in a pure zone blocking scheme, I also don’t have the arrogance in believing that Atlanta isn’t cognizant of the same areas of weakness and Shanahan will adapt a rushing attack to suit the overall ability of Coleman instead of just round pegging a square hole. He’s had a glutton of success in his career to this point with a variety of backs. Atlanta’s offensive line also isn’t a total disaster like most assume, ranking in the top half in run blocking and pass protection per Football Outsiders in 2014.
The only thing in Coleman’s way is how much usage he will take over in terms of the backfield. Devonta Freeman is more of a Jacquizz Rogers clone and although he has limitations in the rushing game, is a stellar pass protector and receiver. He’s going to keep Coleman off of the field in those situations and Atlanta’s overall roster quality doesn’t exactly point to them being a largely competitive team in 2015. Coleman also has the type of leaner frame that isn’t commonly seen amongst NFL bell cows and has some injury history already in his pocket, so a split to some degree seems possible. That’s only a minor hiccup, however because he will still significant enough of an opportunity in an offense helmed by a good quarterback with an elite receiver, solid enough offensive line and a scheme that has produced oodles of production in the rushing department. All of those things are enough for me to overlook some of his limitations as a rusher and can live with his rushing volatility enough to move him to my third overall running back and a mid to late first round rookie draft pick.
Early 2015 Projection: 219.5 ATT/899.7 YDS/6.6 TD 30.6 TGT/22.6 REC/156.1 YDS/.7 TD