When studying wide receivers, I tend to zero in on the little things that separate the top players at the position from the rest of the pack. Certainly raw physical attributes are part of the equation, but that's not what helps guys like Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson get wide open on a consistent basis. They are masters of all of the subtleties of the position, and use every tool at their disposal to beat opposing defenders on a weekly basis. When I popped on the tape of Auburn's Sammie Coates, I saw a guy with fantastic speed and physical gifts, but a player who needs to fill out his toolbox a bit before he can really make a splash in the NFL.
» Explosive athlete
» Ideal frame for NFL receiver
» Big performer in big games
» Vertical threat with good separation
The first thing you notice when watching Coates at Auburn is that he looks the part of an NFL wide receiver. He has a big body and is a fluid, fast runner. His long strides help him cover a lot of ground in a hurry and his speed helps him get immediate separation from which cornerbacks struggle to recover.
Coates is a home-run threat who averaged more than 21 yards per reception in both 2013 and 2014, although he never tallied more than 42 receptions in a single season. Coates has the raw physical traits teams will look for in a developmental prospect in the middle rounds.
» Inconsistent hands
» Poor at tracking the deep ball
» At times out of sync with QB
» Not much wiggle after the catch
While Coates looks the part of an NFL wide receiver physically, once the ball is snapped that image becomes murkier. While Coates often had to deal with underthrows, even when his quarterback put the ball right in the breadbasket Coates too often came up empty. A deep threat who struggles to catch the deep ball is deeply concerning.
When I reviewed Devin Smith's tape, he was a natural at locating the deep ball in the air and putting himself in an ideal position to catch it. Coates is far from Smith's level in this regard, and to make matters worse there were times where he and Marshall were so far off the same page, it looked like they were reading different playbooks altogether. Now, I don't know whom to blame in those situations, but more often than not it falls on the wide receiver.
Ideal NFL fantasy fits
Chip Kelly believes his system can make the most of wide receivers, so grabbing a raw, but physically gifted prospect like Coates in the middle rounds of the draft makes sense. Likewise, the Ravens believe Joe Flaccocan develop young wide receivers, so they could restock their cupboard with Coates. The Saints traded away their previous deep threat in Kenny Stills, so they could get a prospect to learn under Brees by grabbing Coates.
Early fantasy draft projection
Coates has many of the traits you want in an NFL wide receiver, but right now nothing is clicking together. He's like an unassembled Ferrari; if a coaching staff and quarterback can help Coates put all of his pieces together he could be a stud. But since he isn't there yet, fantasy owners are best leaving him in the garage until a later date.