(Throughout the spring, DallasCowboys.com will be providing live reports from NFL Pro Days at college campuses around the country. Today, David Helman was on hand for Baylor’s annual Pro Day in Waco, Texas, where the Bears hope to produce two first-round picks in 2016.)
*WACO, Texas *– Corey Coleman hasn’t yet become a pro, but he certainly knows how to speak like one.
In the middle of a packed interview session at Baylor’s NFL Pro Day on Wednesday, the lifelong Dallas native and Cowboys fan was asked about his love for his childhood team. It was a question the receiver dodged as deftly as an oncoming tackler.
“I grew up a football fan. I’m from Dallas, and I love the Dallas Cowboys – that’s my home,” he said. “But wherever I end up, that’s going to be my favorite team.”
It’s a diplomatic answer to a difficult question. After all, Coleman has virtually no control over which of the NFL’s 32 clubs select him. But having concluded an All-American career just 95 miles away at Baylor, it would be special to return home.
“It would be awesome to wind up there – right in my backyard. I’d love to play for Dallas,” he said. “Great coaches, I grew up watching them – big old fan. That would be – ideally, if you just look at it – it’d be perfect. Not too many people are able to go where they grew up.”
Coleman was arguably the most-high profile prospect at Baylor’s annual Pro Day. The 2015 Biletnikoff Award winner is considered this draft’s top wide receiver by many, and his grades typically fall between the mid-first round and the early second round.
“I feel like I’m the best receiver in the draft,” Coleman said. “I can do pretty much everything. I can punt return, kick return. I can play inside receiver and outside receiver.”
Adding to the anticipation on Wednesday was the fact that the speedy wide out did not run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine last month. Coleman suffered a sports hernia injury in practice last fall – while trying his hand at cornerback, impressively enough.
“I went over there to play some defense, broke on the ball and caught a pick – that’s when it happened,” he said.
Coleman had surgery in late December and opted to wait for March to showcase his speed.
The result? Unofficial 40 times of 4.37 and 4.40. That’s fast by most standards, but Coleman didn’t seem too impressed.
“I’m pretty happy –especially coming out off a sports hernia surgery,” he said. “I’m about 90 percent, but I can do everything.”
Having passed that test, the waiting game begins for April 28. It’d hardly be surprising to see Coleman become the sixth first-round draft pick during Baylor coach Art Briles’ tenure in Waco. Then again, it’s not a stretch to imagine him falling to the Cowboys at pick No. 34.
Until he learns his eventual destination, Coleman said he plans to enjoy the experience as much as possible.
“I’m excited about the process. You only get this one time, so you’ve got to enjoy it,” he said. “Just live and have fun doing it, don’t let it get to you – because I know it can tear you down sometimes. But not too many people are in my shoes.”
It’s a testament to Andrew Billings’ strength that he was “annoyed” by a solid effort of 31 reps on the bench press at the NFL Combine. It was seventh-best at the event and fourth-best among defensive linemen.
Given Billings’ expectations, though, it wasn’t quite good enough.
“That was annoying. I can’t even explain that. There was just too much going on in my head,” he said.
He might be peeved, but Billings was willing to let his Combine results stand at Baylor on Wednesday. After all, this is a guy who once benched 500 pounds, and who has managed 34 reps with 230 pounds – rather than the NFL standard of 225.
Instead, the highly-prized defensive tackle wanted to focus on his 40 time of 5.05.
“I wanted to run this 40,” Billings said. “I’ve already done 34 with 230, and they know I’m strong by the tape. It really wasn’t too much of a factor to go out there and bench.”
Billings worked on his 40 in the down time between the Combine and his Pro Day, and it paid off. He was the first prospect to run, and he clocked in at a personal record of 4.92.
“The 40 was my biggest one, and the 5.05 wasn’t good enough, either,” he said. “I came back and that’s why I ran today.”
If his tape and his All-American reputation weren’t good enough, then numbers like that just might solidify Billings’ status as a first-round pick. He’s been invited to the NFL draft in Chicago, where he may be able to see that play out. And even if not, it should work out all the same.
“What made my decision was just the potential I have – to go first round, or even the potential I have anyway,” Billings said. “The second round works pretty good for me.”
*Possible Cowboys Fits:Corey Coleman (WR) – *As noted above, Coleman is a Dallas native and a dynamic playmaker at receiver. The position doesn’t look like an immediate need for this Cowboys roster, but it’s hard to forget how inconsistent the receiver corps was in Dez Bryant’s absence last season. Coleman racked up an absurd 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns on 74 receptions last year. He’d give the Cowboys a speedy and versatile option at receiver, which could be important with Terrance Williams entering a contract year.
*Andrew Billings (DT) – *Billings falls into a similar category as Coleman – which is to say a late-first or early-second round pick. He might not look that imposing at 6-0, but he’s one of this draft’s strongest prospects, as evidenced by his 31 reps on the bench press at the NFL Combine. It’s hard to imagine the Cowboys drafting Billings at No. 34 overall after they just signed Cedric Thornton to a four-year contract, but he’d be a strong, disruptive piece to add to the defensive line rotation.
*Xavien Howard (CB) – *Howard has the size the Cowboys covet at cornerback, and he displayed his speed on Wednesday with a 4.41 40-yard dash. The junior corner led the Bears with five interceptions in 2015, and he parlayed his first-team All-Big 12 honors into entering the NFL draft early. Howard told reporters that the NFL Draft Advisory Board recommended he stay in school, projecting him as a fifth or fifth-round prospect. Howard has a chance to make them eat those words, as his measurables are garnering him first and second-round consideration. The Cowboys just re-signed Morris Claiborne, but there’s always a need for another big, talented corner.
*Shawn Oakman (DE) – *The pass rush is probably the Cowboys’ biggest problem right now – as no one needs to be told – and Oakman might be one of this draft’s most intriguing prospects. At 6-7, 287 pounds, he towers over even the largest draft prospects – and he blazed past most of them with an absurd time of 4.78 in the 40-yard dash. Draftniks will say Oakman is a bit of a project, though, as it’s hard to discern whether he’s a better fit for a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Oakman said he’ll happily adapt to whichever team selects him, and he certainly presents an option with a lot of upside.