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Cowboys 2015 Draft Targets: Indiana RB Tevin Coleman

Because there has been such a high correlation in recent years between the top collegians invited to Valley Ranch for pre-draft visits and who the Cowboys end up drafting, it's important to know as much as possible about these players. As a service to you, BTB offers a series of detailed scouting reports on these players, compiled from the work of top draft analysts. Today, we look at Indiana RB Tevin Coleman

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

At Indiana, Tevin Coleman has enjoyed a steadily upward career arc. As a true freshman in 2012, he was in a reserve role but made his mark elsewhere by leading the team in kick return yards with 566 yards (a nice 23.6 yard clip), including a 96-yard touchdown return. The following season, as a sophomore, he started the first nine games before an ankle injury ended his season. Although he finished just short of 1,000 rushing yards, Coleman still earned Big Ten Honorable Mention honors.

In 2014, Coleman exploded, setting a new school record with 2,036 rushing yards (becoming the third player in Big 10 history with 2,000 rushing yards in a single season), including 307 rushing yards vs. Rutgers. For his fine work, he was selected as a consensus first-team All-American, first-team All-Big 10 and as a Doak Walker (nation's top RB) finalist, even receiving two first-place votes for the Heisman Trophy, finishing seventh. In his junior season, he led the country in 20- (10) and 50-yard (6) touchdown runs; Coleman finished his career with 15 100-yard rushing performances.

As the above suggests, Coleman is a big-play back who can do some significant damage in the open field if he can get free at the second level. In addition, he has some deceiving power and attacks the line; that said, he doesn't consistently run behind his pads and his upright running style exposes him to excessive contact. Still, scouts assert that he's arguably the best three-down back in this draft class because of his ability in pass protection and facility catching the ball.


Want to scout like a boss? Let's start by looking at his rather incomplete set of measurables:

Height Weight Arms Hands 40yd 10yd Bench Vert Broad 3Cone 20ss
5' 11" 206 32" 8⅝" 22

And here they are in the form of a spider graph, courtesy of the folks at

And over at Draft Breakdown, they have five of Coleman's games for your viewing pleasure. From 2014, check him out against Iowa (a staggering 15-219), Michigan (27-108) and eventual national champion Ohio State (27-228). And, from 2013, they have him slicing and dicing against Bowling Green (19-129). Clock on the links to watch the video...


Let's see what our esteemed panel of scouts has to say about…:

Gary Horton ( 4th-ranked RB; 52nd overall:

Competitiveness: Runs hard and doesn't shy away from contact along sidelines. Willing to sacrifice body in pass pro and shows adequate aggressiveness. Ball security can improve but not a red flag. Always carries ball in left hand and ball tends to drift away from body in space.

Vision/Patience: Above-average vision. Will miss an occasional crease but more exception than rule. Doesn't leave many yards on the field. Patiently sets up blocks. Recognizes and exploits cutback lanes. Gets shoulders turned upfield as soon as he hits crease. Outstanding blend of patience and aggressiveness on perimeter runs. Knows when he has the angle. Also knows when to hesitate and let pursuing linebackers blow past.

Agility/Acceleration: Above-average burst to and through the hole. Home-run threat who can turn on jets and run away from pursuit when he hits daylight. Slippery, shifty runner. Doesn't take a lot of clean shots and can make defenders miss in small spaces, but he's not an ankle-breaker in the open field.

Power/Balance: Rarely tackled for loss thanks in large part to burst. Runs through and out of would-be arm tackles. Consistently lowers shoulder and flashes ability to deliver solid initial blow on contact. Consistently falls forward at the end of runs. Above-average balance and tough to knock off course when gets hit high. However, he is high-cut and runs high when he isn't taking on defenders in a phone booth, so defenders can cut his legs out from under him. Doesn't have the powerbase to carry defenders for many extra yards.

Passing Game: Does a good job of extending and catching away from frame without breaking stride, but hands are a little inconsistent. Doesn't run sophisticated routes but has the quickness to separate and does an adequate job of improvising when quarterback gets flushed out of the pocket. Greater threat after the catch than statistics suggest. Good awareness in pass pro. Flashes ability to shoot hands inside and deliver a strong punch. Still has plenty of room to improve from a technique standpoint. Sets high and can give too much ground. Doesn't always shuffle and stay square. Can do better job of attacking thigh pad as a cut-blocker.

Intangibles: Son of Wister and Adlevia Coleman, who are both from Liberia. Religious. Born three months early and doctors told family he had a 20 percent chance of living. Parents nicknamed him the Rock. Humble and quick to credit others for success. Coaches love him. Stays in touch with pee-wee and high school coaches. General studies major.

Dane Brugler ( 6th-ranked RB; 62nd overall:

Strengths: Narrow frame, but good thickness and muscle tone on his body. Runs with a physical temperament and good body strength, lowering his pads to plow into defenders at the line of scrimmage and run through arm tackles. Works off contact with his aggressive run style and toughness to finish carries, almost always falling forward. Hits his top speed quickly with long-striding acceleration and natural burst. Races away from defenders with his striding long-speed to hit the home run, posting an impressive touchdown distance of 40.3 yards and leading the country with eight 60-yard runs in 2014. Doesn't have any trouble changing directions with excellent balance. Sees the field well with vision to read blocks and find holes, making himself skinny and keeping his pads square to the line of scrimmage. Soft hands as a receiver and reliable catching the ball in space or tight spaces. Nice job bodying up defenders in pass protection and not shy about extending his arms and being aggressive with his hands, showing a lot of promise in this area. Has experience as a return man on kickoffs and could fill that role in the NFL if needed. Durable and toughs his way through minor bumps and bruises. Displays stamina and didn't wear down late in games, averaging 8.4 yards per carry in the second half of games in 2014. Strong character on the field and away from the game, earning high praise from his coaches for his work ethic and accountability. Impressive production, averaging 142.6 rushing yards per start and 7.5 yards per carry the last two seasons as the full-time starter.

Weaknesses: High pad level can be an issue at times due to his taller stature, making a big target for tacklers. Tapered and slender frame and near maxed out physically, lacking ideal body type for the position. Average power and doesn't run with much shock to deliver hits. Lacks the creative elusiveness to dance his way out of trouble in the open field, showing more of a one-cut style to dart through creases. Has some tightness in his running style, struggling to fluidly change directions on a dime. Will chop his feet at times when the hole isn't there and shows some indecisiveness at the line of scrimmage. Good field speed at the second level, but will never be the fastest player in an NFL stadium. Ball security has room for improvement, especially at the contact point, with four fumbles (three lost) in 2014.

Compares to: DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys - With similar body types and run styles, Coleman mirrors a lot of what Murray does on the football field, running with athleticism, toughness and the home-run ability to carry an offense.

Lance Zierlein ( 3rd-ranked RB; 28th overall:

Strengths: Decisive north-south runner. Outstanding three-step burst into second level. Fearless between the tackles. Has dangerous jump-cut to instantly change gaps and ruin the plans of linebackers. Stays square to the line and is always in ready position to hit turbo. Fluid and flexible lower body with elite one-cut ability and natural change-of-direction talent without gearing down. Power in legs to slice through arm tackles and uses free hand as quality stiff-arm. Violent run finisher. Will duck shoulder and throw heavy forearm into tackler to prove a point. Not a content runner -- keeps feet moving after contact and won't give in. Capable hands out of backfield and willing to square up and engage pass rushers on pass plays. Hits top speed so quickly that safeties and linebackers repeatedly take poor angles, leading to long touchdowns. Half of his 28 career rushing touchdowns were of 43-plus yards, including eight of 64-plus yards.

Weaknesses: Treats every carry like a sprint. Must improve run tempo and patience on stretch plays. Has to learn when to keep run play-side and improve patience so he allows back-side cutback lanes to develop. Can improve out of backfield. Wasn't always in position to scan defense on screen passes, resulting in lost yardage. Pad level often a little high into contact.

NFL Comparison: Darren McFadden

Matt Waldman (Rookie Scouting Portfolio) 14th-ranked RB: a stiff-hipped speedster who, with a healthy running start down hill of 5-7 yards, can power through wraps or truck defenders in punishing style. Get Coleman in the open field and with enough room to open up his stride and it's a sight to behold.

The Hoosier can be decisive through the crease and hit the hole hard enough to earn good yardage off his burst alone. Coleman anticipates penetration into the backfield when the defense tips off its run blitz, and he'll adjust his approach to the line of scrimmage as necessary. He can execute jump cuts or shorten his stride to set up blocks and he consistently takes the ball where the play design asks him to go. Because of his outstanding burst, decisive nature, and skill to set-up blocks with pacing and small cuts, Coleman is an ideal fit for a gap scheme...

To become a truly effective zone runner, Coleman will have to display better skills at stride, pacing, and cutting. Improving in these areas will require him to change the mechanics of his natural stride, which is unlikely. As a stiff-hipped runner, Coleman runs with a longer stride and tends to bend runs rather than change direction with a cut.

It's the hips that inhibit Coleman's power. The back is definitely a physical player, but he's not a powerful player. He'll lower his pads into contact and be the aggressor and he's comfortable taking hits...However, he's not effective at generating power on runs where he doesn't have that unfettered downhill start...


This si the first prospect we've looked at where the panel is in disagreement. Our draftniks rate Coleman in a wide range, from the 28th player overall (Zierlein) to the 14th-ranked running back (Waldman), with the other two placing him in the late second, early third round range. I'm going to split the difference and rank Coleman at the top of the third round. It should be noted, however, that the Cowboys would have to take him in the late second, at pick # 60.

Certainly, Coleman has the burst and top-end speed to be a game-changing running back. Reading Waldman's report, it makes me wonder if some scouts become too enamored by his long runs to assess his other work accurately. While he brings a lot of "boom," I wonder if he also brings a bit too much "bust," especially for an offense that seemed so dependent on the "dirty yards" that DeMarco Murray eked out last year. Against Ohio State, for example, he had TD runs of 90 and 52 yards and had another nice 20+ yard run--all outside the tackles. Other than that, all I saw was a bunch of 3-yarders into the line.

As a result, there are other backs I'd rather see them draft in the second round. If he fell to round three and they picked him up at #91? Ol' Rabble would be just fine with that. Of course, the chance of that happening is slim; thus far, Arizona, Baltimore, Carolina, Detroit ans San Diego have all expressed interest in the former Hoosier.


Next up:Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah

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