Throughout January and February, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at some of the players the Jets have signed to futures deals since the end of the season. We continue today with a look at former Vikings and Giants wide receiver Stacy Coley.
The 24-year-old Coley is listed at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, and was a seventh-round pick in 2017 out of Miami. Coley has played in seven NFL games but is yet to register his first pro reception.
Coley made an instant impact with the Hurricanes, earning third-team all-ACC honors as a freshman with almost 1,500 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns. His numbers dropped off in his sophomore year, though, as he had less than 200 receiving yards, no touchdowns and his average gain dropped from over 19 yards per offensive touch to just 7.6.
However, he bounced back with career-best numbers as a junior and then surpassed them in his senior year with 63 catches, 754 yards and nine touchdown receptions. He ended his career with 166 catches for over 2,200 receiving yards. He also added 125 rushing yards and averaged over 24 yards per kick return and 13 per punt return, ending his college career with 23 total touchdowns.
Having opted to sit out the senior bowl, Coley did well at the scouting combine and in his pro day and was eventually picked by the Vikings in the seventh round, with some experts calling this a potential steal.
He played well in preseason and made the Vikings’ roster but only played in four games as a rookie, seeing most of his action as a return specialist.
Coley missed most of the 2018 preseason due to injuries and was waived two weeks into his second season. The Giants claimed him off waivers, but he played just one game for them before landing on injured reserve, from which he was released in October.
The Jets signed Coley to a futures deal at the end of the 2018 season.
Let’s move onto some further analysis of what Coley brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
Coley’s game is predicated on his speed, which he affirmed at the scouting combine by running a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash. He later ran sub-4.4 at his pro day.
The rest of Coley’s combine and pro day numbers were underwhelming, although he managed a 122” broad jump. He posted a disappointing 10 reps in the bench press and his agility numbers were poor.
Coley has a slightly slender frame, although his wingspan and hand size are good.
Coley played much of the time in the slot while at Miami, especially in 2015 which saw him generate most of his production from there. He played more on the outside as a senior but still had almost half of his production from the slot.
However, in preseason action at the NFL level, he’s mostly lined up outside and hasn’t had any production from the slot.
He’s a player who would often get involved in end around or jet sweep type plays while at Miami.
Coley has the speed to get down the field but has yet to show he can take the top off the defense at the pro level. He had plenty of production on deep passes in college though.
He makes a good adjustment to the back shoulder throw on this play as he’s unable to get a step on the defender over the top:
Scouting reports indicate that he can have issues tracking the ball on deep throws from time to time and that is apparent from his film as he often has to re-adjust to the flight of the ball.
Coley tends to rely on his speed and initial burst to get open and can be effective on crossing routes as a result:
He can also be effective on hitch routes and comebackers but, technically, his route running skill-set is viewed as somewhat raw, as he doesn’t do a convincing enough job of setting up his breaks.
However, he does a good job of breaking open to the outside to make this clutch catch, which set up the winning score in a preseason game:
Coley’s hands are generally considered to be pretty reliable and he does have some spectacular catches on his college highlight reel, although scouts note that he will let the ball get into his body at times and he isn’t particularly effective in traffic. Here’s a nice diving catch on a low throw to the outside, though:
In college, he had some issues with drops early in his career, but seemed to overcome these as he gained more experience. However, he still had a handful of drops in his senior year, and he let the only target he’s had in NFL regular season action go through his hands:
Coley has yet to score a touchdown at the NFL level but was a top red-zone threat for the Hurricanes in college, where he accounted for 20 touchdown receptions in his career. That included six red zone touchdowns in his senior year alone. Coley has shown he can go up to get it and find open areas in the end zone.
Yards after the catch
Coley can be an effective playmaker after the catch as he has good burst and elusiveness, which he displays here:
Coley doesn’t break a lot of tackles and will usually go down on first contact, so he’s the kind of player you’d ideally seek to get the ball in space.
Coley is a player who seems to give a good effort but isn’t generally much of a difference maker as a blocker. He had three holding penalties in his senior year at Miami.
Coley has yet to show he can adequately handle press coverage from NFL-sized cornerbacks. He could also serve to be stronger at the point of the catch and his lack of strength affects his ability to break tackles or make an impact as a blocker.
Despite this, Coley was called for two offensive pass interference penalties in his senior year at Miami.
Coley has some good experience as a kick returner at the college level. In his freshman year, he was the only player in the country to score on a rush, a reception, a kick return and a punt return. However, he didn’t return kicks or punts in his junior or senior years.
At the NFL level, he’s returned some kicks and punts but hasn’t broken any long returns yet. In his first game with the Giants, he muffed this punt:
In punt coverage, he had some brief experience as a gunner in his senior year, making a couple of tackles. He’s only played a few snaps in kick coverage at the NFL level though.
Coley has shown some abilities to find open spots in coverage when a play has been extended and has good open field running instincts.
Coley’s focus can let him down from time to time, as evidenced by his eight false starts in his last two years with the Hurricanes.
Coley’s work ethic has been questioned and scouts have expressed concern about his lack of passion for the game. He also got embroiled in an off-field controversy after reportedly receiving some car rental benefits in college.
He has previously said he grew up in a rough area and his teachers described him as a “knucklehead” in high school, but he learned to become more disciplined and was able to earn himself a scholarship to Miami.
Coley’s on-field discipline has been an issue as well, with 19 penalties in his last two years in college, including two unsportsmanlike penalties in his senior year as he has a habit of trash talking and taunting, so he needs to keep his emotions in check.
As noted, Coley doesn’t have a particularly strong frame so he is a bit of a durability concern. He was placed on injured reserve last year with a hamstring issue, having already struggled with a couple of injuries in preseason, including a lingering groin issue.
Coley played in 48 games in college, but still missed some time with a shoulder injury in 2014 and a hamstring problem in 2015.
Coley, who is a former teammate of Jets tight end Chris Herndon, would probably fit into the Jets’ plans as more of a slot option, although he hasn’t played there much with the Giants or Vikings.
Coley’s career is off to a disappointing start so far but he’s an athletic player with a draftable pedigree who looked really good in his first preseason.
If the Jets are unable to re-sign Andre Roberts - or if Roberts returns but then gets injured - Coley could be one of the candidates to fight for a role as the return man. However, his best shot at a roster spot might be to make the most of any opportunities he gets in the wide receiver rotation. Needless to say, he’s going to be a long-shot.