Can KD Cannon replace Coleman's production at Baylor?
There’s no question that one of the best wide receivers in college football last year was Baylor’s Corey Coleman. He had the 14th-highest receiving grade in the country and his 20 touchdowns led the NCAA. He averaged 3.97 yards per route run, which ranked third in the country. He was the first receiver picked in the 2016 NFL draft and now Baylor will have to try and replace the extremely high level of production that they got from Coleman. Luckily for them, junior receiver KD Cannon may be ready to take the step up to superstardom.
Cannon burst onto the scene in 2014, earning a starting receiver job as a true freshman. His production nearly matched that of Coleman as he finished the year with 58 catches for 1,030 yards and eight touchdowns (Coleman had 64 for 1119 and 11 TDs). He actually graded as a top 40 receiver in the country in 2014. Last year was a bit of a step back for Cannon but he still graded out positively and caught 50 balls for 869 yards and six touchdowns. Part of that might have been the emergence of WR Jay Lee, who took a lot of potential plays away from Cannon. Still, Cannon flashed the ability that he showed as a freshman throughout the season. His most impressive game came against Oklahoma State in which he caught five passes for a ridiculous 210 yards and two touchdowns.
As expected with the Baylor offense, Cannon does most of his damage on the deep ball. 1129 of his 1899 yards (59.4 percent ) and 13 of his 14 touchdowns came on throws greater than 20 yards downfield. Only three other receivers over the past two seasons saw more deep targets than the 72 that Cannon saw thrown his way. Because he’s not overly tall, Cannon has to win deep by using his speed and his quick feet to get open behind the defense. Here’s as nice a stop-and-go route you’ll see by Cannon in that aforementioned Oklahoma State game. He comes to a near complete stop before exploding behind the entire defense that was faked out by his stop.
The biggest difference between Cannon and Coleman would be their ability to make defenders miss after the catch. In 2014 Cannon actually averaged more yards after the catch (6.3 to 5.8) than Coleman did, but he only forced three missed tackles compared to Coleman’s 16. Last year was similar with Coleman forcing 13 missed tackles and Cannon just forcing five. Cannon doesn’t necessarily have the same ability that Coleman has in that regard, but he’s no pushover. This is a play from last year that ended up being called back that really shows what Cannon can do after the catch at times.
As for actually replacing Coleman, that’s easier said than done. The good news for Baylor is that Cannon and Coleman are very similar players. They’re both the same height (5-11) and almost the same weight (roughly 190 pounds to 170 for Cannon), and they run a very similar route tree for Baylor. Much of that comes from Baylor’s offense having similar routes for every position, but it’s good to see that Cannon is effective in the exact same areas that Coleman was. The one spot that he really differs with is the slant route. That was one of Coleman’s most effective routes last year, while Cannon has been targeted just twice in his last 21 games when running a slant. But the deep go routes, the 10-yard hooks and the screens are all a huge part of Cannon’s game, just like they were for Coleman.
With the loss of Coleman and Lee, Cannon is the only receiver returning to Baylor with over 350 snaps played last season. He’s now the unquestioned No. 1 receiver in the Bears’ offense and should see even more opportunity than he has over the past two years. If he can play at the level that he’s flashed in the past on a more consistent basis, Cannon could be the next big name receiver in college football.