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Daniel House discusses the upside of Vikings wide receiver Stacy Coley and why improved route running is key for the rookie.
Updated: May 22, 2016 10:55 a.m.
By: Daniel House
video .gifs used courtesy of Draft Breakdown
By: Daniel House
Many draft experts all calling wide receiver Stacy Coley one of the steals in the backend of the draft. There is no doubt Coley has all the talent to be a contributor on an offense at the next level. The main reason for his slide down the board was related to questions surrounding his effort and desire to play the game. When the effort was there, Coley showed flashes. However, he still is a very raw receiver that needs work in the detailed facets of the game. He struggles with big, physical cornerbacks who press him hard at the line of scrimmage. Coley was unable to get separation and was washed out of plays on several occasions.
Coley also has a tendency to telegraph his routes because his head swivels before he even breaks off his route. Nonetheless, his blend of speed and fluidity as a player allowed him to expose cornerbacks who were slower than him. As a route runner, he needs extensive work, but has all of the tools to be effective if he receives the correct coaching. The beauty with Coley is the fact he can be effective all over the field, particularly in the slot. He is a matchup threat that can get open vertically off his speed and smooth running style. In the NFL, he'll need to get stronger and become more polished with his footwork to sustain success. He is a player who is coasting off complete talent right now and needs to refine the smaller details of his game.
After watching several of his games, I was most impressed with his body control in traffic. He has the ability to make tough contested catches in traffic with defensive backs draped all over his back. In some instances, he is even able to make a fantastic run after the catch. His ability to create yardage with his natural speed is what makes him special. I look for Coley to be lined up in the slot similar to the way Jarius Wright was used early in his career. This could pose a threat to Wright's chances of making the team if Coley is a training camp/preseason standout. In the clip below, Coley makes a contested catch on a post between two defensive backs. He turns on the jets and nearly scores because of his open-field speed. He flashes his body control and ball tracking skills in traffic.
Another aspect of Coley's game that impressed me was his ability to run a double move and get open when he is isolated on one side of the field. He wins because of his quick first step, fluid hip rotation, and ability to track the pass into his frame. However, you don't see him get substantial separation on the outside very often because of his lackluster route running. When he can win battles with route running, he will become more of a consistent threat. Combining his athletic skill-set with polished routes would maximize his full potential. In the clip below, Coley runs a fade in the end zone and he beautifully tracks the ball into his frame after getting just enough separation to make the grab.
Coley can be a threat in the slot because of his ability to make contested grabs off a quick slant or a shallow post. He can explode out of a break quickly and get enough separation to be disruptive. In the clip below, Coley lines up outside, gets the defensive back off balance to the sideline, and finishes the route with his hands coming through strong. When defensive backs play off Coley and aren't physical, he makes a play nearly every time. This is why it's going to be important to place Coley in the slot off of screens and formations where he can be isolated in space.
Isolating Coley in space is something Miami did during certain portions of the season. Small flare and bubble screens got the ball in his hands to create plays. When he was placed in those situations, he picked up positive yardage and even exploded for huge gains. This type of skill-set is paired with one that can be a threat vertically at multiple levels of the field. It sounds like a broken record, but he must learn how to be a more methodical wide receiver to translate at the next level. Defensive backs that are more physical and experienced won't allow Coley to win off of pure athleticism. He needs to fine tune the smaller details of his game.
There are many portions of Stacy Coley's game that are very raw, but the upside is very high. He can create plays completely off of his talent right now. His goal should be to get stronger physically and more polished as a route runner. If the coaches can get him to play with maximum effort at all times, Coley will have the chance to be a vertical threat for the Vikings. However, he has plenty of work to do before he is ready to become a consistent contributor. He is another athlete with playmaking potential when the ball is in his hands.
The Vikings wanted weapons and they have them with both Stacy Coley and Rodney Adams. The ceiling for these players is yet to be determined, but the promise is high.