Here’s my breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons’ 2015 third-round pick: Indiana RB Tevin Coleman.
BIO & VITALS
40 Time: 4.39 (campus)
3 Cone: 6.92 (campus)
Tevin Ford Coleman was born on April 16, 1993 in Tinley Park, IL. He went to high school at Oak Forest (IL) High. His parents are Liberian-born immigrants that are descended from the 13th president of Liberia: William David Coleman. His cousin is NBA forward Noah Vonleh, who also went to Indiana and currently plays for the Charlotte Hornets.
As a true freshman, he was a reserve and started twice in 12 appearances. He finished the year with 225 rushing yards on 51 carries (4.4 avg) and a touchdown, while also returning kickoffs. He returned 24 kicks for 566 yards (23.6 avg), including a 96-yard touchdown. He also caught 10 passes for 49 yards (4.9 avg) as a freshman. As a sophomore, he earned nine starts at running back, but missed the final three games with an ankle injury. He managed to rush for 958 yards on 131 carries (7.3 avg) with 12 scores, while also catching 19 passes for 193 yards (10.2 avg) and returning six kickoffs for 124 yards (20.7 avg). He would be named honorable mention on the All-Big Ten team that year. He would follow that up with an outstanding junior campaign, prompting his early entry into the draft. He finished second in the nation in rushing with 2,036 yards, only behind Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. He had 270 carries, averaging 7.5 yards per carry and scored 15 touchdowns. He also caught 25 passes for 141 yards (5.6 avg). He would finish seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting, be one of 10 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, and was one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award on his way to first team All-Big Ten honors as well.
Coleman was born 10 weeks premature and weighed 3.5 pounds at birth. Doctors gave him a 20 percent chance of survival. He also has sickle-cell trait, which forced him to exit one game throughout his college career. It was this past year against Missouri, with him missing the entire second quarter of that game. But he returned and caught a 44-yard pass in the fourth quarter that set up the game-winning score. Coleman is noted for his strong work ethic and toughness. He injured his foot during his junior year, but managed to play on it throughout the season and opted to wait until the end of the season to have surgery on it. He was also named a team captain this past year.
2014 GAMES WATCHED
|Date||Opponent||Att||Yds||Avg||YAC||TD||In SR||Out SR||Fum|
|Aug 30||INDIANA STATE||23||247||10.7||51||2||64%||89%||0|
|Sep 2||at Missouri||19||132||6.9||26||1||25%||64%||0|
|Oct 11||at Iowa||15||217||14.5||75||3||50%||33%||0|
|Oct 18||MICHIGAN STATE||15||132||8.8||16||0||25%||33%||0|
|Nov 1||at Michigan||27||104||3.9||23||0||35%||14%||2|
|Nov 22||at Ohio State||27||227||8.4||16||3||23%||43%||0|
|22-Nov||at Ohio State||2||2||3||13||0||0||0||1||0|
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.
Speed (9.0) – Has excellent long speed and he’s dangerous if he can get in space or on the second level. Has a tendency to outrun angles, leading to a large number of really big plays because safeties will hesitate for a half-second and that is all the time he needs to get up to speed and he’s 30 yards downfield before they can recover. Dangerous home run-hitter that when given space to run through, he’s a potential threat to score on every touch.
Power (5.5) – Will lower his shoulder and deliver a blow to a defender, but not someone that is going to power his way through many tackles. Most of his broken tackles are due to his speed and momentum allowing him to outrun angles and prevent defenders from getting a square hit on him. Has a tendency to duck his head when utilized between the tackles to absorb blows, but usually doesn’t shy away from contact in the open field or short-yardage.
Agility (5.0) – Can side-step defenders once he gets up to speed, but generally has to stop his feet to make sharper cuts when he’s got his momentum going. Not a guy that is going to dodge defenders on a consistent basis since he lacks the ideal agility and balance to make sharp, lateral cuts. Needs to play with better balance as well as he has a tendency to lose his footing and get tripped up between the tackles.
Vision (6.0) – Shows ability to find daylight and run to it. Can pick his way through traffic and shows patience at times when asked to run sweeps, tosses and stretches to the edge that need some time to develop. Times where he struggles to find daylight tend to have more to do with his lack of lateral agility to make the necessary cuts to avoid a blocker or a defender in the hole.
Hands (6.0) – Shows capable hands, able to adjust to the ball in the air. Will occasionally drop a pass or lose his concentration, especially if he’s thinking about turning the ball upfield before securing it. Shows good potential on screens and swing passes that can get him in space where he can use his trademark speed.
Blocking (7.5) – Isn’t asked to block a ton, often getting subbed out on passing downs. But when he does block, he’s very effective in pass protection. Does a good job squaring up defender and delivering a blow. Doesn’t shy away from contact from bigger defenders and usually hits his assignments.
This is based off my own grading system on a 9-point scale.
Starting Prospect (5.7) – Has the potential to be a quality starter on your team, but rarely will be considered a Pro Bowl-caliber talent. Typically player is among the better complementary starters on your roster that won’t excel and impact on a weekly basis, but can play at a relatively consistent above-average level. Typically can play a significant role right away, but ideally will be given at least a year or two to develop before receiving extensive reps. A solid pick in the Top 75, but would be considered a reach before the middle of the second round.
Coleman is an explosive home-run hitter that would be an ideal change-of-pace back at the next level. The chief concern about Coleman is whether he’s well-rounded enough to be more than a player that can split carries. Essentially, can he carry the load?
There is no doubt that the potential is there. Coleman’s ability to get large chunk plays where he’s out-sprinting the opposing defense were readily apparent last year. The problem for Coleman was that when he wasn’t breaking long runs, there was nothing extraordinary about him.
Coleman struggled as a between-the-tackles runner because he doesn’t have the sort of power to smash the ball up the gut and create room on his own. He did manage to get a number of long runs when running between the tackles, but most of them came on the relatively rare instances where Indiana’s line opened up large holes and/or were able to perfectly execute their blocks on the second level. When given that space, Coleman could bust any play wide open largely because of his speed destroys angles from safeties.
As far as Coleman’s upside and potential, there is a little bit of Jamaal Charles in him. Although Charles has much better lateral agility, balance and vision than Coleman showed at Indiana. That allows Charles to sneak through tight spaces and can often times turn nothing into something because of his quickness and burst to get east and west just as well as he can get north and south. Coleman is not that type of player, as he instead tends to be much more north and south as a runner. Essentially, if Coleman is able to run in a straight line, he’s dangerous. If he’s going to have to make lateral cuts to avoid contact or find daylight, he’s average. But a team could be optimistic that with time and development, Coleman can improve in those areas.
Even if Coleman reaches his max potential, he may not be a true workhorse sort of player, similar to Charles. While Charles has had seasons where he’s touched the ball more than 300 times, he’s not ideally built to take that sort of wear and tear, which is why the Chiefs have worked to scale back his workload somewhat by mixing in a player like Knile Davis to take some of the load off him.
At max potential, Coleman is probably more the type of guy that can get 16-18 touches per game and have someone else that is better suited to running between the tackles get eight or more touches to lighten his load. Concerns about Coleman’s durability are worthwhile however. He’s been nicked up the past two years, but managed to tough his way through them. But if he’s asked to be more of a feature back at the next level, he’s likely going to take a lot more punishment from NFL-sized defenders than the guys he was consistently facing in the Big Ten.
Besides durability, the chief concern with Coleman is fear that too much of his production relies on the big plays. He might really just be a change-of-pace runner at the next level. While his propensity to get the big splash plays will mean that he’ll post solid numbers by the end of the game, he might not become the back that can keep an offense on schedule. Especially as a lead back that will be asked to run between the tackles, where he’s simply not very good.
If that’s all he is, he can still be a highly productive role player, but nothing more. A good comparison for that type of player is Darren McFadden during his earlier days in Oakland. McFadden was an explosive and productive role player his first two seasons when he shared the load with Justin Fargas and Michael Bush. Then he got the opportunity to be the lead back in his third season, splitting reps with Bush, who handled the power stuff. McFadden had a very strong campaign that year in 2010 and followed that up with a strong start to his 2011 season before an injury side-tracked him. After that point, McFadden ceased to be anything more than a below average starter.
Coleman could similarly look dynamic as part of a committee and be in line for more reps, but the minute he gets them, he may never develop into the consistent performer that you truly need in a starting tailback.
Unlike McFadden, Coleman has the potential to develop into a more reliable option in the passing game. Coleman flashes what you’re looking for in terms of pass-protecting and pass-catching skills to be a productive third-down back. It is somewhat concerning though that he would often get pulled in such situations for senior running back D’Angelo Roberts this past year at Indiana. But I think that might be more a testament to Roberts than a knock on Coleman. However, he may not hit the ground running in that arena at the next level and might take a year or two before he’s trustworthy.
Ball security is a slight issue. He had only two fumbles in the six games I watched, both of them coming early against Michigan. But I did notice too many runs where he carried the ball away from his body when he was in the open field (reminiscent of Adrian Peterson when he was fumble-prone) and didn’t always secure it just before contact. I also noticed that Coleman always carried the ball in his left arm, even if it was his inside arm. I’m not sure how prevalent that is in the NFL or whether that is a big deal but it’s something worth keeping an eye on in the future.
It’s hard not to see Coleman eventually becoming the lead runner in Atlanta. His dynamic speed gives him one stand-out trait that Devonta Freeman just doesn’t seem to have. Freeman is probably the more well-rounded of the two runners, but the fact that Coleman can take it the distance probably will cause the Falcons to lean his way eventually.
But both players are noted for their work ethics and it’s going to be interesting to see who wants it more in the impending training camp battle. Coleman has the higher upside, but the year of experience that Freeman has on him can’t be underestimated. More than likely, the Falcons will have a committee approach and ride the hot hand. That’s basically what offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan did a year ago in Cleveland to the frustration of fantasy football players everywhere.
It’s notable that Coleman draws the McFadden comparisons, because the latter struggled in his lone year working in a Alex Gibbs-style zone-blocking scheme in 2012. The Falcons are set to implement that same blocking scheme under Shanahan this year, and thus there are concerns whether or not Coleman fits that scheme.
I believe those concerns are somewhat overblown to an extent. Coleman may not be the cleanest fit right away, but I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to adapt to the scheme in time. Running the stretch plays in the outside zone scheme shouldn’t be a huge leap for him, since Indiana ran similar plays from time to time. His straight-line speed once he is able to make the cut can make him dangerous on those plays. The only concern is whether or not Coleman has the level of patience necessary to let those plays develop. That may be a slight learning curve at the outset of his NFL and might be a reason why Freeman takes the early lead in the roster battle, but I don’t think it’s something that is going to prohibit Coleman long-term in Atlanta.
One of the other things I noticed is that he played almost exclusively out of the shotgun at Indiana. If Coleman is going to be asked to run in more traditional NFL backfields with a fullback blocking in front of him, that might also take a bit of an adjustment.
So there’s likely going to be an adjustment period for Coleman, but I’m just not sure whether it’s going to be a few months or a full year. If not Week One, I suspect by the end of 2015, Coleman will be getting more carries than Freeman. I also believe that Coleman should eventually take over for Freeman as the team’s primary third-down back. There’s always a learning curve when it comes to running backs and pass protection, but ultimately Coleman’s size and physicality should make him the superior blocker once he understands what he needs to do.
If you’re optimistic about Coleman’s abilities, then he has the potential to become a feature back and be one of the top 12-15 running backs in the league. I doubt he’ll be that guy early in his career and it might take until his third or fourth season, which is typical.
I personally don’t have that level of optimism, but I do think Coleman is at the very least an upgrade over Freeman. I don’t expect him to become a feature back in the sense that he’s going to get 20 or more touches on a week-in, week-out basis. But I am optimistic that he can become a quality lead back in that he’s the guy that gets the majority of the touches, but is splitting reps with one or more other guys.
More easily put, I don’t see Coleman being the primary catalyst to if/when the Falcons have a top 10 rushing attack. But I do think Coleman will get them a few steps closer to that point.