Undrafted Coleman embraces opportunity

METAIRIE, La. -- Brandon Coleman was surprised he didn’t get drafted and said he doesn’t know exactly why it happened.

But as for the idea of using that as motivation to drive him to NFL success? The New Orleans Saints rookie receiver said he didn’t really need any extra motivation.

“Nah, that’s all out of my control. I’m just gonna play my game,” Coleman said during the Saints’ rookie minicamp this past weekend. “I don’t have any control over being drafted or not. But I did everything I could to prepare for it. And now it’s just, I’ve got an opportunity to play, and I’m gonna take advantage of that.”

Coleman immediately stood out on the practice field during the brief portion of individual position drills that was open to the media on Saturday morning.

At 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, how could he not?

It’s impossible to say how well he actually performed, though, in such a brief sample size. At one point, Saints coach Sean Payton turned to watch Coleman and credited him for doing “much better” – both a positive and negative sign.

But it’s worth noting that Payton was taking notice.

“He’s a big target,” Payton said. “With him, there’s just a handful of things were working on with regards to his transition. But he’s picked things up well, seems to be moving around well.”

Coleman will be one of the most intriguing rookies to watch in Saints camp this summer. The Rutgers receiver was rated by many as a third- or fourth-round draft pick. ESPN/Scouts Inc. listed him as the top player who went undrafted.

According to a report by NJ.com, Coleman was red-flagged by NFL teams because of a right knee injury he suffered before last season. Coleman tore his meniscus, which obviously seemed to hamper him during the season.

But it’s hard to believe it would be the sole reason for him to go undrafted since teams took players with more serious and more recent injuries (including the Saints’ selection of safety Vinnie Sunseri in Round 5 after he tore his ACL in October).

“I can’t speak for the other teams,” Payton said when asked why Coleman dropped. “I don’t know. I know it was gonna be harder for us to draft a receiver after drafting one in the first round. He’s certainly [got] size . I think he had a little bit more productive [2012 season than 2013] season. But seven rounds is not a lot. There’s always a number of guys that don’t get drafted, and I’m sure he’s looking at it that way.”

Indeed, Coleman’s sophomore year in 2012 (43 receptions, 718 yards, 10 touchdowns) was more impressive than his junior year (34-538-4). He told NJ.com that he didn’t regret declaring for the draft early, however.

And he chose the Saints, in part, because of their history of keeping undrafted free agents on the roster and giving them genuine opportunities to compete. The Saints had seven of them make the active roster last year, for example.

Coleman said he chose the Saints over the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams.

When asked if there is less pressure on him than if he had been a high-round draft pick, Coleman shot down that idea as well.

“There’s pressure whether you’re drafted or undrafted,” Coleman said. “But you’ve just gotta go out there and be confident in yourself. And that’s what I’m gonna do.”