The Patriots haven't had the best of luck when it comes to drafting wide receivers, but they typically hit their first round picks. New England never takes receivers in the first round, but if you continue to miss in the second round and beyond, maybe it makes sense to go after a top prospect. Picking at the end of the first round puts the Patriots in a position where they may not be able to land the top wide receiver prospect, but there will still be top talent available on the board. Sammie Coates of Auburn is the type of prospect the Patriots could target because of what he would provide the offense.Coates was a decorated high school player coming out of Leroy High School in Leroy, Alabama. Coates was rated in the nations top 25 receivers and was also rated in the top 175 overall. Coates was rated #57 in the nation among wide receivers by Scout.com and also as the #10 prospect in the Alabama, which is no small feat. In 2010, Coates led his team to the Alabama Class 2A State Championship. Coates had a big year, making 57 catches for 1,170 yards and 14 touchdowns. Coates junior year wasn't quite as explosive, but it was still strong- 50 catches, 788 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Even as a sophomore playing in Alabama high school football, Coates was productive, making 18 catches for 477 yards and four touchdowns. From the moment Coates stepped on the field in high school, he was the #1 weapon defenses had to worry about.
Coates didn't have an ideal start to his college career, missing his entire freshman year after a foot injury that required surgery. Auburn was able to red-shirt Coates because the injury occurred before he played in any games. In 2012, Coates got an opportunity as a red-shirt freshman, albeit as a rotational player, and he showed he could play with the big boys. Coates only made six catches, but it was for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Coates, with his 19 yards per catch, gave Auburn fans a preview of what the following two season would look like.
In 2013, Coates started 12 out of 14 games and became one of the top deep threats in the country. Coates finished the season with 42 catches for 902 yards and seven touchdowns. Coates was ranked third in the country with 21.5 yards per catch. Coates stepped up against top competition, making four catches for 139 yards and five catches for 14 yards against Texas A&M, not to mention a 43-yard touchdown catch to win the game. Auburn didn't throw the ball a lot that season, but when they did, the goal was to get the ball downfield to Coates, and it worked.
Coates didn't have the same production in '14, but it wasn't that large of a drop off. Coates finished with 34 catches for 741 yards, four touchdowns and an average of 21.8 yards per catch. Coates was voted second-team All-SEC and second-team All-AP. The trend of stepping up in big games continued. Coates finished with five catches for 122 yards and one 57-yard touchdown vs. Ole Miss, and the best performance came against Alabama- five catches, 206 yards, two touchdowns (34,68). The best way to show up in the eye of a scout is to play your best against the top competition and that is something Coates did throughout his entire career at Auburn.
New England has a clear need in their wide receiver core- a receiver with top end speed(Coates ran a 4.43 40 at the combine) that can open up things underneath for Gronkowski, Edelman, LaFell, and the running game. Coates is considered the top athletic talent in this draft and he should be available when the Patriots are on the clock. If history tells us anything, Coates will most likely not be drafted by the Patriots, but his skillset would fill one of their biggest needs.