As NFL free agency inches closer, the growing belief seems to be that the Bengals will lose at least one of their top wide receivers.
With the potential for both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu to command contracts paying them $5+ million annually, it's hard to see them both back with so much money already committed to A.J. Green. You can only commit so much money to one position and have a balanced roster capable of winning a Super Bowl.
That could mean both Sanu and Jones are playing for different teams next season, but just losing one of them suddenly makes receiver one of Cincinnati's biggest needs this offseason. That's why the latest round of mock drafts is strongly favoring the receiver position for the Bengals.
In fact, one specific name is now becoming a common mock target for Cincy. That's Baylor Bears All-American Corey Coleman, a two-time All-American and 2015 Biletnikoff Award winner, an honor given to the top receiver in college football.
Missing Baylor’s win over North Carolina in the Russell Athletic Bowl due to a hernia, the 21-year-old started his junior year with 20 touchdown grabs in his first eight games and finished the year with 74 catches for 1,363 yards. An onslaught of injuries to Baylor quarterbacks led to the Bears opting for a more run-heavy offense down the stretch, leading to Coleman catching just 13 passes for 134 yards and no scores over his final three games before missing the bowl game.
With Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones potentially leaving Cincinnati in free agency, it's clear the Bengals need a partner opposite A.J. Green. Coleman is a dynamic playmaker who specializes in big plays. Coleman can work deep and make defenders miss in the open field. He can even work on special teams as a kick returner.
The latest mocks from Draft Wire, CBS Sports, NFL.com's Charles Davis, College Spun and Fox Sports all have the Bengals landing Coleman. Most of the draft experts and gurus view Coleman as the second or third-best receiver prospect in this draft and someone who should fall into the 20s.
However, the latest mock draft from NFL.com's Bucky Brooks has the Bengals taking Ole Miss Rebels star LaQuon Treadwell with the 24th pick. Few expect him to fall all the way into the 20s as Treadwell is viewed as the top receiver prospect and a possible top-10 pick.
Then again, reading Brooks' ranking of this year's receiver prospects, he really likes Coleman and goes as far as to compare him to Baltimore Ravens receiver Steve Smith. Here's Brooks' in-depth scouting report of Coleman:
Pro comparison: Steve Smith.
Strengths: Electric playmaker with exceptional speed, quickness and burst. Coleman is a touchdown waiting to happen when he gets the ball on the perimeter. He is capable of turning short passes into big gains with his explosive combination of speed and elusiveness, yet he also torches opponents as a deep-ball specialist. As the designated playmaker on the Bears' offense, he averaged 17.4 yards per catch throughout his career and finished with 35 total touchdowns (33 receiving, one rushing and one kick return). While some of that production is a byproduct of coach Art Briles' wide-open system, there is no disputing Coleman's big-play potential on the perimeter. He is too fast for most defenders to run with on deep balls, and he is nearly impossible to bring down on quick routes due to his extraordinary strength and running skills. With Coleman also displaying phenomenal grit, toughness and ball skills, he should be an instant-impact player for a team in need of a potent WR2 on the perimeter.
Weaknesses: Baylor's system has produced a lot of prolific pass catchers on the collegiate level, but few of their stars have enjoyed similar success as pros. Part of their struggles can be attributed to limited exposure to the full route tree in Waco. Scouts could lump Coleman into that category after watching him primarily execute three or four routes (hitch, slant, go and post) throughout his career. Although he has been successful on speed routes, Coleman will need to expand his repertoire to be a long-term star at the next level. In addition, he'll need to convince evaluators that he has a keen understanding of complex passing concepts after spending three years in a simple system.
I'd be happy with the next Steve Smith next to A.J. Green.