The Cleveland Browns had three picks in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. After using their first two picks on Friday on defense, their attention shifted back to the offense at No. 76 overall, with the team selecting Auburn tackle Shon Coleman. Coleman, a 25-year old rookie, spent 2010 through 2012 successfully battling leukemia. He served as a backup during the 2013 season but was Auburn’s starting left tackle in 2014 and 2015, and gave up zero quarterback hits during the 2015 season.
Though a left tackle in college, right tackle may be his home in the NFL—something that is right up the Browns’ alley after the team lost former starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz in free agency. While veterans John Greco or Austin Pasztor have the skills to step in and do the job despite being generally viewed as guards, having Coleman in the mix means they have a full-time tackle who can compete for that starting vacancy and either win it or serve as much-needed depth in his rookie year. Greco and Pasztor have too much overall value to the Browns for the Coleman signing to threaten their job security, at least in 2016. In terms of potential purging of guards who can, in a pinch, play tackle, the two aren’t the ones to look at.
But in terms of tackles, there’s one man whose job is immediately on the line—Michael Bowie. Bowie had fans in the previous regime but couldn’t stay healthy and this new regime may not have interest in waiting for Bowie to meet his potential. In fact, it could be potential that was overblown by Mike Pettine and company, as he’s yet to do much with. Erle Ladson, another depth tackle, could also be on the chopping block as the offseason continues. One of the two, if not both, could be former Browns soon enough with Coleman added to the roster.
Coleman is a good pass-protector and an even better run-blocker, which is good news for the Browns and an offense that will have a fair deal of running—and creative running at that. And he’s huge, measuring in a 6’5” and 307 pounds, with an impressive 35 1/8” arm length. Some technique needs coaching up, to be sure, but there’s no reason to doubt Coleman’s ability to compete for the starting right tackle spot right away. Adapting to the speed of the NFL shouldn’t be too difficult for him, either, as he faced top-tier defensive talent in the SEC.
As for left tackle, it would take Coleman truly breaking out this year for the Browns to consider him a long term replacement for Joe Thomas, whether the Browns move on from the perennial Pro Bowl veteran who remains under contract through the 2018 season and who has $10 million salary cap hits in both 2017 and 2018. But it must be noted that if the Browns release Thomas before the fifth day of the league year either in 2017 or 2018, they have no dead money connected to him. And if they did wait to release Thomas, their dead-money charge would still be just $1 million, his roster bonus (which is paid out yearly on that league-year trigger date and is not prorated). For that to happen, however, would require Coleman to play well above his third-round pedigree. Coleman is a good tackle, but he’d have to prove elite (or to possess elite potential) for the Browns to seriously and confidently consider him the heir to Thomas in his second season.null