NFL Draft player spotlight: Cornerback C.J. Coldon – From Laramie to Norman to the NFL

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 26: Defensive back C.J. Coldon #22 of the Oklahoma Sooners runs with the ball after an interception during the second half against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 26: Defensive back C.J. Coldon #22 of the Oklahoma Sooners runs with the ball after an interception during the second half against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /

Expert’s note: This is part of a continuing series of articles looking at former Sooners players who are 2023 NFL Draft prospects.

Sooner cornerback C.J. Coldon, a 5-foot, 11-inch, 185-pound redshirt senior, came to Norman from the frozen tundra of Laramie, Wyoming, where he was a Wyoming Cowboy for four years. Originally from Belleville, Illinois (Althoff Catholic), Coldon was a composite 3-star defensive back in high school, according to 247Sports.

Coldon spent his years in Wyoming showcasing his incredible work ethic and his burning desire to not be denied. During Coldon’s years in Wyoming, he accumulated 25 collegiate starts, 115 total tackles, and two interceptions. He was named a second-team All-Mountain West selection following the 2021 season according to Coldon transferred to Oklahoma following the 2021 season, where he had his breakout performance.

In one year wearing the crimson and cream, Coldon recorded 12 games of action, 42 total tackles, and four huge interceptions, which tied him for 22nd overall in the nation in interceptions. He also had a team-high six-pass breakups during his year in Norman. Coldon’s biggest game of the year came at the perfect time, in a primetime showdown against Oklahoma State, where he had seven solo tackles, three pass breakups, and an interception. Following his one and only Sooner campaign, Coldon was named an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention defensive back by the league’s coaches.

For the second year in a row, an Oklahoma Sooner (Coldon) had one of the defensive highlights of the year as well. In a 52-42 victory over Kansas, Coldon intercepts KU quarterback Jason Bean to setup an eventual Sooner score. It is these type of plays that showcase Coldon’s instinctual feel for the game and his elite-level athleticism.

Film Study: There are some athletes you can teach to play football, and some football players you can make a little more athletic. Coldon is a true blue-collar football player that happens to possess above average athleticism. The most significant attribute I noticed when watching Coldon’s game tape was his instincts. He displays an instinctual timing to break on the ball and jump receivers’ routes. Many of his interceptions this season were blown routes; however, he revealed an elite level of ‘break’ on the football, allowing him to showcase several pro-level pass breakups.

Based on observations he was sensing in the wide receiver, I could see his body language and positioning change. His man coverage ability was excellent. He showed patience in zone coverage, inadvertently allowing him to mask his coverages. On multiple occasions, I saw Coldon break a split-second early on a route and end up making a pass break up. He has a knack for making defensive stops and above-average intelligence as a defensive back.

The second most apparent skill Coldon possesses is his ability to tackle with force. Whether he is coachable and performs form tackles consistently or his defensive instincts were kicking in again, Coldon made dozens of forceful, aggressive, technically sound tackles. Watching him tackle provides fresh air, especially in today’s game, where body tackles, and shoves are increasingly apparent.

Coldon’s athleticism is also above average. He’s a tall, muscular corner that plays fast and has a high level of ‘twitch.’ Cornerbacks play off of feeling and reaction, and Coldon’s game footage showed these skills consistently being used. His athleticism, aggressiveness, and instinct should serve him well in the NFL.

A point worth mentioning is his earlier footage from Wyoming. The same skills I watched him display at Oklahoma were also in full force at Wyoming. He’s a consistent player, which, for NFL scouts, is a huge sign of his work ethic.

Numbers: At Coldon’s Pro-Day in Norman, he ran a 4.63 40-yard dash and a 4.24 shuttle; he had a 37.5″ vertical jump and a 10’5” broad jump.

Draft Day: Coldon’s physicality and instinctual gameplay show he’s ready for NFL football. His year in Norman skyrocketed his stock into a high-potential range as well. One of, if not the most significant, attributes Coldon has is his work ethic and attitude. Coldon already displays a highly-professional attitude and an all-business work ethic. I see Coldon being drafted in the third round. Anything beyond the third round would be an absolute steal for an NFL franchise. Still, this is unlikely. Coldon has the athleticism, size, and mind to transition to safety in the NFL, which improves his chances of being drafted early. Coldon was one of the best defensive backs in the Big 12 this year, and if he had been starting from week one, I could see him going even earlier than the third round. When teams draft corners, they’re drafting a guy’s instincts. It’s a given they’ll be athletic. You cannot teach the reactions Coldon displays on tape, they’re who he is.

Best Fit(s): The first place I see Coldon being a productive fit would be with the Detroit Lions. The Lions have the 55th pick in the second round, which wouldn’t be crazy, but they also have the 81st pick in the third round, where I could see Coldon going. Detroit’s cornerback depth is weak; however, so are other spots on their roster. The Lions are trending towards selecting key defensive line positions in the first two rounds, which leaves their secondary needs to be met in the third round. Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell has an affinity for hard-working, humble, highly-aggressive football players, and Coldon fits that build to a tee.

The second potential landing spot for Coldon is the San Fransisco 49ers. The 49ers hold the 99th, 101st, and 102nd picks in the third round, all of which I could see Coldon going to. The 49ers need more depth at safety and have limited depth/experience at cornerback. 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has utilized similar corners to Coldon and has a tough-minded defensive mindset. The 49er’s depth is shallow at safety, with the aging safety and, oddly enough, former Wyoming Cowboy Tashaun Gipson aging at the safety position. If the 49ers sit without a defensive back selection in the third round, they would likely pull the trigger on taking Coldon.

The final destination I would see Coldon fitting in with would be Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers also have limited depth in their defensive backfield and could use a dynamic/coachable talent like Coldon. The Steelers hold the 49th pick in the second round and the 80th in the third round. Coldon would fit in well in Pittsburgh by learning under eventual NFL Hall-of-Famer Patrick Peterson. Another underrated aspect of Coldon’s game that will help his draft stock is his ability and aggression in playing special teams. The Steelers would benefit immediately by putting Coldon on all special teams units and allowing him to soak up years of knowledge from the aging Patrick Peterson.

Sooner Nation was lucky enough to enjoy C.J. Coldon for one season; we wish we could’ve enjoyed more. It’s all good. We will still enjoy watching Coldon make plays, only now it’ll be on Sundays.