Category: NFL

Share & Comment:

Keon Coleman’s 40-yard dash time could end up benefitting the Steelers

The 2024 NFL Combine has come to an end. This is always one of my favorite times of year. In my opinion, the Combine signals the official start of the NFL offseason.

Once the Combine has concluded, the free agency period is just around the corner. For other armchair GMs like myself, this is definitely primetime for roster construction. Free agency and draft discussions are filled with excitement and anticipation. Omar Khan gets his second opportunity at the controls for the franchise.

As you can tell, I love almost everything about this point in the NFL offseason. Notice that I said almost. There are a few occurrences that always seem to dampen my enthusiasm. Constant speculation about any and every player that could potentially be a free agent or trade target for the Steelers eventually gets exhausting. Conflicting reports on the same player on the same day also is infuriating. There are honestly a few others.

One of the unmentioned few just so happened to be front and center at the 2024 NFL Combine over the weekend. The fortunes of two talented young wide receivers drastically changed because of how fast they could run 40 yards in a straight line. The two receivers in question were Keon Coleman and Xavier Worthy.

Worthy reportedly catapulted himself into first round consideration after running the fastest 40 yard dash time in Combine history. Worthy ran a blistering 4.21 officially. I watched Worthy perform multiple times for the Texas Longhorns in 2023, and he was definitely the second best receiver on the Texas Longhorns depth chart, after probable first round target Adonis Mitchell.

I don’t complete draft evaluations until after the Combine has been concluded, but my tenuous early evaluation had Worthy as a third round selection. Now numerous evaluators consider him a possible first round selection. For the record, I am not one of those easily influenced evaluators. I still consider him to be a mid to late second round value at best.

The majority of the leading receivers in NFL history have ran in the 4.5 to 4.6 range. I probably should have said vast majority, because elite level receivers with sub 4.4 speed are few and far between. If you don’t believe me, research the leading receivers by season, or any all time greats list. It’s actually shocking to confirm how many elite receivers weren’t blessed with what is now considered elite level speed. I believe there is an obvious and legitimate reason why.

Let’s take former Steelers speedster Mike Wallace as a recent example. What was the nickname that Mike Tomlin liked to call Wallace? If memory serves, Tomlin called the ultra fast Wallace a One Trick Pony. Insinuating that Wallace was limited to using his elite level speed to be the ultimate deep threat. I believe that Tomlin utilized the moniker to try and motivate Wallace to become a more complete receiver. Although Wallace eventually developed into a solid starter, he was always considered rather one dimensional.

Everybody would love to have a well balanced receiver blessed with elite speed and acceleration, but guys like Tyreek Hill are few and far between. Most top receivers gain separation with elite footwork and exquisite balance. Size and strength are underrated qualities.

That brings us to the Keon Coleman portion of this article. Leading up to Saturday’s Combine workouts, I saw Coleman being projected anywhere from the late first to early second round. Then he proceeds to produce a 4.61 forty time, and his stock is suddenly dropping like rats off a sinking ship. I had a solid second round grade on Coleman prior to the Combine, and I still do.

Coleman is blessed with exceptional size and strength, plus an outstanding catch radius. His physical attributes give him an intimidating presence, and makes him extremely difficult to tackle once he has the ball in his hands. Coleman is also an accomplished blocker. While Coleman lacks breakaway speed, he reaches top speed quickly enough. He actually gains easy leverage on many shocked corners due to his extraordinarily long strides, but what really sets him apart from many of his peers is his willingness to run every route at full speed. Coleman doesn’t shy away from contact, and he has complete confidence in his pass catching ability.

This quality was on full display as he ran the gauntlet during on-field drills at the Combine. Coleman confidently ran the drill at full speed, which proved to be substantially faster than his fellow prospects. I was honestly impressed with the enthusiasm that he attacked each on-field drill with. So were the NFL Network announcers, who mentioned it repeatedly on air. I don’t know about you, but I  am always looking for a competitive receiver with YAC yard capabilities, especially in a 6’4″ 216 lbs package. By the way, Coleman is still only 20 years old. Plenty of time left for development.

In my closing argument, I leave you this undeniable evidence to ponder. Coleman has plenty of game film to prove his substantial talents. He was viewed as a coveted prospect coming into the Combine. The only thing that happened over the weekend to change those opinions was his slower than expected 40 time. I highly doubt I would have felt the need to write this article if he would have registered even a slightly faster time.

However, what can we actually learn from his 40 time? That is up for debate, but I would caution anyone against overreacting. I present you Exhibit A in closing: Puka Nacua. Nacua was drafted in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. Nacua set the NFL on fire last season, as he set NFL records for both total receptions and total receiving yards for a rookie. Puka also made the Pro Bowl, and was second team All Pro. You maybe wondering why I am comparing Coleman to the record setting Nacua. Basically because I see plenty of similarities between the two talented youngsters, but mainly because of their similar 40 times.

Puka Nacua ran a 4.57 forty during his Combine testing. He also shined during his on-field testing. Nacua carried all of his Combine confidence into his rookie season with the Rams. Nacua plays much faster than he tests. The same could be said for Nacua’s teammate on the Rams; Cooper Kupp. Kupp ran a 4.63 at his Combine.

So what does a forty time really tell us? A slow forty time can be a red flag, but only if it doesn’t jive with the game film and on-field production. Otherwise it is a single metric utilized to measure the complete product. Keep it simple, stupid.

I am confident that Coleman’s combination of size, strength, and intangibles will help him overcome his lack of optimal deep speed. If his forty time does cause him to drop in the draft, I can only hope that the Steelers stand to benefit from the overreaction.


Sign up below for the latest news, stories and podcasts from our affiliates

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.