Heading into the 2023 college football season, Florida State wide receiver Johnny Wilson was expected to have a great redshirt junior season and become one of the top receiver prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft.
We are two weeks into the season, and although Wilson played well in week one, he actually hasn’t been the Seminoles’ best wideout. Keon Coleman, a transfer from Michigan State, has had an incredible start to the season, and he’s taken over as the best wide receiver in Tallahassee.
After a strong showing vs. LSU in week one, the Keon Coleman hype train took off as he skyrocketed up draft boards, becoming a top 32 player on the consensus big board. Let’s dive in and see why everyone is excited about him and whether or not he is worth the hype.
Keon Coleman was a Hidden Star at Michigan State
Let’s start by exploring Keon Coleman’s performance at Michigan State, where he spent two seasons before transferring to Florida State. During his freshman season in 2021, He didn’t have much of a role, but he did the next season in 2022, hauling in 58 passes for 798 yards and seven touchdowns. On the surface, those numbers don’t look super impressive. However, that changes when you consider a little bit of context.
Coleman wasn’t the only high-level receiver on that offense. That Michigan State team also had Jayden Reed, a senior wideout who recorded over 2,000 yards through three seasons in East Lansing and was a second-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Although Reed had a ton of experience going into the 2022 season and led Michigan State in receiving yards the year before, he was not the Spartans leading receiver in 2022. Coleman was, and he led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns as a 19-year-old sophomore.
The fact that Keon Coleman outproduced Jayden Reed when he was three years younger, and Reed was a legitimate NFL prospect, is extremely impressive. It’s also impressive that Michigan State won just five games in 2022 despite having Keon Coleman, Jayden Reed, and Payton Thorne leading its offense. This is a mystery the human race will never solve.
Anyways, Coleman’s ability to outproduce an NFL-caliber receiver who was three years older than him is a strong signal that he is a ridiculously talented player with a ton of potential. Players who produce despite having elite talents around them tend to be pretty good later on.
At Michigan State, Keon Coleman’s role was what you’d expect from a 6-foot-4, 215 lbs. Wideout with an estimated forty time of 4.5 seconds. In 2022, he lined up almost exclusively out wide (94.5% of snaps), and he majored in grabbing 50/50 balls. That season, he caught ten of his sixteen contested targets for a great contested catch rate of 62.5%. This makes sense when you consider that he also played basketball for the Spartans.
This is great to see because he won’t always be open at the next level. NFL cornerbacks are extremely good, and there will be times when he has to make a difficult catch in tight coverage. Based on what we saw last season, it’s clear he can do that.
While it’s great that Coleman has this skill, there are some issues that come with being a jump ball specialist. There isn’t a ton of footage available from his time at Michigan State, but it seems like he was a bit too reliant on contested catches. 18.2% of his targets were contested in 2022, and this isn’t terrible, but it’s a bit higher than you’d like, and it signals that he may have struggled to create separation.
Also, when you see clips from his 2022 season, there aren’t many plays where he stacks a defensive back and creates separation deep down the field. This is a problem because most great receivers in the NFL are capable of creating separation consistently, and Coleman couldn’t at Michigan State.
This may be why he wasn’t an efficient player in 2022. That season, he averaged just 13.8 yards per reception and just 2.07 yards per route run. Those are pretty low marks and not what you’d expect from a first-round pick.
Luckily for Keon Coleman, it’s a new season and he is no longer.
The main reason why Keon Coleman is the talk of the town right now is because of his electric performance vs. LSU in week one. In that game, he caught nine of eleven targets for 122 yards and three touchdowns as the Seminoles decimated the Tigers 45-14 on national television