I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
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Tevin Coleman, RB , Indiana - 5'11, 206 - Junior
Let's start right here: This seems to be a very good running back class and the 5th best running back this season might be the best running back in a few of the previous drafts. Only time will fully tell, but the idea that the high investment RB might not be as dead as we thought. At least from the standpoint of rookie RBs. There still might not be a time to pour large amounts of cap space into a RB who is 27, but the rookie contract investment in the 1st or 2nd round will always be a consideration given how dynamic a weapon some of these players are.
Tevin Coleman, though, is an example of how complex this can be. We cannot merely look at statistics to try to separate Coleman from Gurley or Gordon. We must watch carefully and see what he does similarly, better, or worse. In Coleman's case, he has this uncanny knack for gigantic runs. He has 8 60-yard runs in 2014. 8! He has an average touchdown distance of over 40 yards. These numbers are absurd. For his study, we looked at Iowa, Ohio State, and Missouri.
What I liked: With Coleman, you have this runner who clearly can see the 11-defenders well, because he picks his path on the stretch plays to the edge so well. Some runners can only see the guy in front of them, others have an instinctive ability to set up the entire run with his route up the field. I think Coleman has amazing vision and that allows him to out flank defenders without having to run over them. He seems to be comfortable as a receiver on screens and swing passes and decent enough in pass protection. But, it is sort of tough to properly gauge that based on the scheme he was in which is a spread that utilizes a lot of zone read. But, let's not lose sight of his strongest asset which is clearly his breakaway speed and the idea that if he creases you and gets into open space, he is running away from your fastest pursuers. He was not caught from behind and displayed jets that were quite impressive, especially on an offense that did not offer him a whole lot of cover.
What I did not like: He is a very big target, and the run directly above was one of the few runs where I actually saw him get between the tackles and break through to the other side (that is Carl Davis he runs through from Iowa). He has so many short runs and then explodes for one giant one like Barry Sanders or Chris Johnson made a living doing over the years (although neither of those were very upright targets). I am not a huge fan of this type of production as I might take fewer home runs for more consistency from play to play, but we all know, Sanders and Johnson were both amazing NFL running backs. You wonder about the zone read allowing for some of his production as he had a QB who was a threat and the deployment of troops against the Indiana spread allowed him to get into space. What is he like in 12 personnel as Dallas prefers? That is speculative at this point, but I didn't see him running against 8 or 9 man fronts very often. Short yardage is also a bit of a question as I watch him as well. He is big and strong, but he just wasn't used in that way and like I said, he doesn't make people miss inside that much.
Summary: Let me be real clear here: Tevin Coleman is a terrific player and the kind of guy who can run for 2,000 yards with Indiana's supporting cast has a chance to be great at any level. But, Gurley and Gordon did more of the tough NFL inside runs to satisfy my questions on that front and the ability for them to always move the ball down the field and not be as reliant on the home run puts them a slot ahead of Coleman. But, you can clearly see what he has and how he might be a better investment in the 2nd round than spending a 1st on those other two. He also played with a broken toe for much of the season and that surgery kept him out of the combine. I am not sure he is a perfect fit with a 12 personnel team like the Cowboys, but he probably could figure it out. Either way, he is going to be heard from at the next level, you have to expect.