Coates impressed NFL scouts when he stepped on the stage and measured in at a chiseled 6-foot-1½ and 213 pounds. Then he showed during the South squad’s practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday that he is more than just potential.
“I’ve got a lot to offer,” Coates said matter-of-factly, without even a glimmer of modesty, following his team’s afternoon practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Thursday. “I’m running good routes down here. I’m showing that I can catch the ball. I’m a playmaker. I bring a different aspect to the game and I’m just a freak of nature when it comes to playing football.”
What makes him a freak of nature?
“The speed,” Coates said. “I can go get it out of the air. I go snag it out of the air. I’m very physical and strong. I bench press 405. I’ve got a lot around this package.”
NFL scouts probably agree with him after this week.
Coates, who announced in December he was forgoing his final year of eligibility with the Tigers to enter the draft, didn’t have as many opportunities as other wide receivers in this draft class to show what he was capable of during his college years because of Auburn’s high-powered run-first, run-second, run-third offense.
The Leroy, Ala. native led the Tigers in receiving yards (741) and yards-per-catch average (21.8) this past season but finished tied for second on the team in receiving touchdowns (four) and was third in receptions (34) over 12 games.
Coates finished his three-year career with 82 receptions for 1,757 yards, an average of 21.4 yards per catch, and 13 touchdowns.
“We felt like he did a great job for us,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who visited the South’s practice on Thursday. “He’s a great deep-threat guy. He really improved his intermediate routes. His upside is very good. He’s got a lot of speed, he’s very strong. He’s a great competitor, so his upside is very good.”
Coates’ stats at Auburn aren’t going to wow scouts — by contrast, the top receiver prospect in this draft, Alabama’s Amari Cooper, racked up an improbable 124 catches for 1,727 yards and 16 scores this season — but Coates certainly offers an intriguing mix of skills.
It’s hard to find wide receivers with Coates’ size, speed and strength, which should make him one of the first wide receivers selected this spring.
That’s why it was important for him to stand out this week.
Coates did just that in Mobile.
“I think I performed great this week,” he said. “I had some up and downs, but as a football player you’re always going to have up and downs. I’ve just been fighting through it all week. I’ve been a little sore from all this running, but other than that I fought through it, I showed that I can make plays and I’ve been consistent I feel like it. It has been a great week so far.”
“I think I proved a lot this week,” Coates added. “I’m happy about everything I did this week.”