Breakdown: Steelers Select Sammie Coates

Everything you need to know about the Pittsburgh Steelers' third-round selection of wide receiver Sammie Coates out of Auburn from Scout's college and pro football experts.

Awaiting Image
Sammie Coates
Auburn / 6'2 / 215 lbs
  • WR
  • [3] #23

Analysis

Coates spent time playing both slot and on the outside at wide receiver for the Tigers. This is a terrific athlete that can really run well. Coates has good size (6-2/215) and is tough to defend and tackle once he has the ball in his hands. He caught 82 passes for 1,757 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. Typically it takes multiple players to bring him down. He’s physical and fast and at times shows another gear. Coates needs to play with more consistency and he drops to many easy balls.

Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation

Report from NFL Scouting Services' Dave-Te' Thomas:

Since Cam Newton left for the NFL, the Tigers have failed to mount much of a passing game. Without that blue chip quarterback, Sammie Coates has had to make the most out of limited opportunities, to the tune of numerous big plays. Outside of Alexander Wright (56 for 1,320 yards, a 23.57-yard average; 1986-89), no other Tiger can boast Sammie Coates’ career average of 21.43 yards per reception.

With a running back/cornerback impersonating a quarterback in Nick Marshall (Marshall was converted to cornerback during practices at the 2015 Senior Bowl), Coates made the most of his reception opportunities. He can get deep and separate thanks to his speed and burst and shows urgency to get open on short routes.

Coates has exceptional speed to get downfield, showing good body flexibility, balance and body control to adjust to the ball in flight. He capitalizes on using his rare speed and timing to make proper adjustments to get into position to make the catch without having to break stride. He just seems to lack the natural hands needed to be an efficient pass catcher.

If last year is any evidence of his future, Coates had the worst pass catching-success rate among the top ten receivers eligible for this draft. He caught just 34-of-79 targeted passes, dropping five while smaller defensive backs batted another thirteen tosses away from him. He also needs to play with better discipline, as he’s had penalty issues (holding, false starts, pass interference) in 2014. He was also not a great “table setter,” as just four of his non-scoring grabs (30) came during other touchdown drives.

Coates has excellent athletic ability, but he needs to improve his feel on the field, as he tends to lose his focus, especially when not involved in the play. He is a physical receiver who shows good courage going for the ball in a crowd. There are times where he just lacks alertness to coverage, running right into traffic. He needs a few reps before he can retain plays and must to do a much better job of showing that he has the ability to adjust to the defense.

His straight-line explosion will generally see him rock the cornerback back on their heels and he is very good at eating up the cushion. He is inconsistent using his hands to beat the jam, but he can suddenly generate a second gear to eat up the defender’s cushion. He has more than enough strength to fight through a powerful jam, and when he is able to avoid it, he gets into his route quickly.

With his explosion, he can easily get under the deep throws and has shown improvement tracking the ball in flight, but did fail to get to 57% of the balls thrown to him in 2014. He is better when using his long stride and vertical speed to stretch the field. It is evident that he has natural ball skills to adjust to the ball in flight and play it deep.

Coates builds to top speed nicely, but does show some wasted motions, as he takes long strides that causes him to struggle in attempts to get consistent separation out of his cuts working in the short area or in traffic. He can run a lethargic defender off the line of scrimmage, but needs to play the ball with better adjustment skills.

Coates is a long strider with exceptional quickness off the line, showing the ability to eat up a defender’s cushion. He shows explosive acceleration throughout his route, but would be better served if he can develop an array of moves to set up the defender. He has fluid hips to sink and settle under the throws and if given space to operate, he will suddenly break free and take the ball to the house. He looks sudden coming off the line when he gets a clean release and has above average speed that forces the defense to account for him on every deep pattern.

Coates seems to be better on linear routes, as he can build his acceleration and make cuts to separate. On short routes, he needs to improve, as like most tall receivers, he struggles to drop his weight and gain separation. He will round up field routes, but has the body control to adjust and get under the thrown ball without having to break stride. He also must do a better job of coming out of his breaks cleanly (takes soft angles too much). He has the long arms and hands to get a good push off the defender, but for some reason, he will slow down and chop on his inside routes.

Because of his speed, defenders must give Coates a big cushion on deep patterns. His problem on long routes occur when he drifts, as he rounds his cuts often and gets too reliant on his speed to gain separation. He has some awareness to uncover, but needs to work at staying lower in his pads to cut more effectively working in the short areas. He has the size to shade defender and a valid second gear to separate in the deep zone, but must be more precise in and out of his breaks.

Coates has excellent leaping ability and the long arms to catch the ball at its high point, but despite a 41-inch vertical jump, he lacks great timing, failing to get to as many balls at their high point as you would expect. He seemed to have his timing off quite a bit in 2014, as he was either affected by working in closed quarters or just did not compete for the jump ball, perhaps favoring his leg injury that impacted his play earlier in the year.

As a red-shirt sophomore, Coates blossomed as the Tigers’ starting split end in 2013, as he average of 21.48 yards per reception ranked third in the nation. He pulled down 42-of-79 targeted passes for 902 yards and seven touchdowns, recording fourteen catches that went for 30 yards or longer. That season-long performance prompted Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports to name Coates the top “freak” in college football.

Since Cam Newton left for the NFL, the Tigers have failed to mount much of a passing game. Without that blue chip quarterback, Coates has had to make the most out of limited opportunities, to the tune of numerous big plays. Outside of Alexander Wright (56 for 1,320 yards, a 23.57-yard average; 1986-89), no other Tiger can boast Coates’ career average of 21.43 yards per reception.

With a running back impersonating a quarterback in Nick Marshall (Marshall was converted to cornerback during practices at the 2015 Senior Bowl), Coates made the most of his reception opportunities. He can get deep and separate thanks to his speed/burst and shows urgency to get open on short routes, doing a very good job of setting up the cornerback with his head fakes and change of direction agility. Coates is fearless in a crowd and will make proper body adjustments along with good timing elevating for jump balls. He is used mostly on routes over the top because he has more than ample speed to challenge deep.

Sammie Coates NFL Scouting Combine measurables


6-1/212 (4.43 forty)
33 3/8-inch arm length
9 3/8-inch hands
23-reps
41-inch vertical jump
131-inch broad jump
6.98 3 cone drill
4.06 20 yard shuttle
11.81 60 yard shuttle

Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.

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