By Tom Withers
AP Sports Writer
BEREA — The Browns came into the NFL draft craving speed, a downfield target and someone to score touchdowns.
Corey Coleman fills all three criteria.
“I can do a little bit of everything,” he said.
After ignoring a vital position for much of the past few seasons, the Browns nabbed the first wide receiver in the draft, selecting the quick Coleman from Baylor with the No. 15 overall pick.
The Browns traded out of the No. 2 overall spot and a chance to pick a potential franchise quarterback last week and then made another deal to move down before selecting Coleman, who scored 20 touchdowns last season.
Cleveland’s new, analytics-focused, assets-starved front office sent the No. 8 pick and a sixth-rounder this season to Tennessee in exchange for No. 15, a third-rounder (No. 76) and a second-round pick next year.
Coleman won the Fred Biletnikoff Award last season, given to the nation’s top receiver. Coleman’s speed — he’s been clocked at 4.38 seconds in the 40 — made him attractive to the Browns, who were desperate for a big-play threat after Travis Benjamin left as a free agent and because of Josh Gordon’s continued drug limbo with the NFL.
Browns vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said Coleman was the team’s top-rated wide receiver and the team was thrilled he was still available at 15.
“He’s a tremendously productive, dynamic playmaker,” Brown said. “It’s something we haven’t had here in recent years. With Corey’s speed, tenacity and ability to turn small plays into long plays, we’re really excited to bring him here.”
New coach Hue Jackson needs to improve a receiving corps that accounted for a league-low eight TDs last season. The Browns scored just 28 TDs and offensive weapons to put defenses on edge. Jackson believes Coleman, who may be undersized at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, can change that.
“He scores touchdowns,” said Jackson, who spent the past two seasons as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator. “He can light it up from anywhere on the field.”
Coleman caught 74 passes for 1,363 yards last season and led the NCAA with 20 catches of 30-plus yards and 11 over 40 yards. By contrast, the Browns had just 48 plays go for more than 20 yards.
By making their second trade in the first round, the Browns now have seven picks in the top 100 and 11 to use over the next two days. They own the No. 32 overall pick and Brown said the team has already received numerous phone calls from teams interested in acquiring it.
Paul DePodesta, the team’s new chief strategy officer who earned his reputation building major league baseball contenders, said the group was confident Coleman would still be available if the Browns moved down.
Cleveland has numerous holes to fill, but DePodesta said the goal this year is not to just horde picks for the future.
“It’s about acquiring good players and trying to figure out the best spot to do that and the best way to do it, not just in the immediate term but over the longer term also,” he said. “I think we were in there after we traded down from No. 8 down to No. 15 and I think those of us, Sashi and I said, ‘Let’s start picking players.’ and Hue was the one saying, ‘Be patient, we’ll get ‘em.’”
During Coleman’s visit, Jackson showed him video of Bengals Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green. While it remains to be seen if Coleman can develop into a player like Green, Jackson said the 21-year-old has other intangibles.
“He has a lot of charisma,” Jackson said. “He’s very confident, many receivers are very confident — at least the ones I’ve coached. They want the ball and he’s going to be one of those guys who want the ball, and you want a guy who wants the ball.”