How Keon Coleman could become the Bills’ next No. 1 receiver in time

The Buffalo Bills are in a bit of a soft rebuild right now on both sides of the ball. That’s certainly true with the receiver corps, as there are more new faces than now. Gone are Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis as the team’s former alpha dogs. Now, it’s nearly about all the new receivers — Curtis Samuel, Marques Valdes-Scantling, Chase Claypool, Mack Hollins, and KJ Hamler are among those who are trying to get the hang of catching frozen ropes from Josh Allen in Joe Brady’s passing game… which, by the way, is Brady’s or a full season for the first time in Orchard Park.

While it should be expected that tight ends Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid will be big parts of the passing game — Knox has a four-year, $52 million contract extension going with $31.2 million guaranteed, and Kincaid was the team’s first-round pick in 2023 out of Utah — it could also be said that when it comes to having a true alpha receiver — whether you think teams need one or not — that may come in the person of Keon Coleman, the Bills’ first pick of the 2024 draft. Buffalo got Coleman with the first pick in the second round because they saw him as a big, fast, ball-winner with those primary attributes.

“I think his play style (is) what we needed in our offense,” Allen recently told the NFL Network. “Talking with our offensive coordinator (Joe Brady), our quarterbacks coach (Ronald Curry), (general manager) Brandon Beane, and, obviously, coach (Sean) McDermott, a guy that’s a big-bodied guy and can go win one a back-shoulder fade and not afraid to be a physical wide receiver.

“I think you pair him with some of the guys we have in our room right now, I think Mack Hollins has been such a great addition so far to that room with his mentality, his mindset is infectious to others. Curtis Samuel, he’s been showing up every single day ready to work. … You start pairing those guys up with Dawson (Knox) and Coleman in this mix now, we’re gonna have a pretty solid group that works together.”

As he made clear to me when I spoke with him recently, Allen is not shy at all about praising the rookie.

When you watch Coleman’s 2023 Florida State tape, and even his tape at Michigan State in 2022, it’s clear why the Bills are excited. Allen is a quarterback who loves to extend the play in and out of the pocket for the promise of a big downfield reward. Last season, Coleman caught eight passes of 20 or more air yards on 24 targets for 257 yards and four touchdowns, and he did that in an offense where the deep ball wasn’t a feature. Florida State’s quarterbacks completed just 23 deep passes all season long, per Pro Football Focus.

But when a guy with Josh Allen’s arm is throwing the ball? Yeah, you could see some stuff like this right away.

This could also work in Allen’s favor. Everybody knows that Allen has one of the NFL’s best deep arms, but it takes two to tango. Without a prominent, consistent deep receiver last season, Allen was able to complete just 29 deep passes on 82 targets for 962 yards, eight touchdowns, nine interceptions, and a passer rating of 73.4.

And though Coleman isn’t the fastest straight-line receiver in this draft class — his 40-yard dash time of 4.61 seconds at the scouting combine was 17th percentile among receivers since 1999 — his 10-yard split of 1.54 seconds was great for his size, and you see some of that short-area separation on tape.

Of course, all that fancy stuff goes right out the window when you have a ginormous receiver who can just go Godzilla on any cornerback in press coverage — which is become more and more of a thing in the NFL.

Of course, Coleman will have to work on some of the nuances of the game — his route palette was limited mostly to hitches, screens, go balls, and the occasional corner or over route — but that can be expanded over time. But it’s easy to see in the abstract why the Bills are so interested in Coleman’s potential.

If you thought of Coleman as a potential D.K. Metcalf-style player who could leverage his unusual physical gifts for production in the short term, and become that dude that nobody wants to deal with over time once the little things are all plugged in, that might not be too far off the mark.

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How Keon Coleman could become the Bills’ next No. 1 receiver in time

Author: Doug Farrar

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