Last season, many expected that the offense would carry the Detroit Lions. Instead, it was the defense that took off in year one under Jim Caldwell, in part due to offensive line struggles and injuries all around.
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While Joique Bell ran well for the Lions towards the end of last season, his performance combined with the move to cut Reggie Bush has increased the possibility the Lions could look for a running back in the 2015 NFL Draft. With defensive tackle emphasized by the departure of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the Lions may pass on a running back in the first round – especially with the offensive line also a concern.
One area that stands out when watching the film on Coleman is his ability to run north and south; an ability that is likely very appealing to the Lions after spending two seasons with Reggie Bush who struggled to do this.
Coleman’s running style shows up big time in his stats, as he led the country in runs of:
30- (9), 40- (8), 50- (6) and 60-yard runs (5) in 2014 and tied for the top spot in 70- (3), 80- (2) and 90-yard runs (1). He finished second in touchdown runs of at least 20 yards (10).
What’s more impressive is that he played most of last season with a fractured hallux (or big toe) en route to a 2,000 yard season. While Coleman may not have the size advantage of Gordan and Gurley, he certainly plays with every bit of their tenacity on the field. He also might be the most polished of the three backs going into the draft.
His jack of all trades skill set and readiness to succeed at the next level lead to former Chicago Bears scouting director Greg Gabriel listing Coleman as his top back in the 2015 draft class.
Gabriel on NFL.com
"“My thinking is that if Coleman played behind the Wisconsin line he may have run for over 2500 yards. As it was, he ran for 2036 yards, a 7.5 average per carry, 15 touchdowns and 25 receptions,” Gabriel wrote. “Coleman has a complete game. He can run with power between the tackles, is creative, and consistently gets yards after contact. He has the speed to turn the corner and is elusive in the open field. As a receiver, he is very reliable, runs good routes and has very good hands. Add to that the fact that he can already pass protect and is a dangerous kickoff returner.”"
The added ability to return kicks could be the type of versatility the Lions are looking for in a running back this year given the surprising struggles for Jeremy Ross last season.
At this point Coleman sounds like a dream running back that should be coveted by all 32 teams, but there are some draw backs to his game. During his time at Indiana, Coleman rarely showed the shiftiness often needed to be a high level running back in the NFL, and his ability to break tackles remains a big question mark.
Coleman projects as a second round talent that could get a few sniffs from teams drafting at the end of round one with a solid pro day.
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