Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates (18) gets around LSU safety Ronald Martin (26) after catching a pass for a first down during the second half Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, in Auburn, Ala. (AP)
After taking arguably the draft's best playmaking cornerback in the second round, the Steelers completed their Friday evening by taking a playmaking wide receiver in the third.
Auburn's Sammie Coates, by his new positions coach's own admission, is raw. But despite less-than-gaudy overall production in college, Coates made big plays — and in big games.
Eleven of his 13 career touchdown receptions went for at least 33 yards, including almost half (six) covering 56 yards or more. As a redshirt sophomore in 2013, his seven touchdown catches covered an average of 54.1 yards — part of an overall per-reception average of 21.5 that ranked third in the nation.
“He can take the top off the coverage,” Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann said. “He's a guy that can track down the ball down the field real well. He has some problems with straight-ahead catching the football, but that's why we drill. And when we get a chance to coach him up, we feel like we can make that better.
“The thing you can't coach up is his athleticism.”
The 6-foot-1, 212-pound Coates has been clocked in the 4.3-4.4 range in the 40-yard dash. Although he ran a 4.43 at the Combine in February, his measurables in some other workouts were among the best in Indianapolis. His 20-yard shuttle (4.06 seconds) was second best among wideouts. His 23 bench press reps were tied for first, his 41-inch vertical tied for fourth and his 131-inch broad jump third.
“That shows the athleticism and the explosion that he has,” Mann said. “He will block. ... He will put his pads down and run with good pad level. A lot of guys won't do that, but we have seen him do that.”
In addition to the big-play ability, Coates made his biggest plays in the biggest games. During games against No. 15 LSU, No. 4 Mississippi and No. 1 Alabama in 2014, Coates combined for 14 catches and four touchdowns, including 206 receiving yards against the Crimson Tide.
“My goal is to be an all-around receiver,” said Coates, who was named second-team all-SEC. “I want to be one of the best at everything.”
The Steelers have had great success in recent years in drafting wide receivers in the middle rounds.
Coates' official NFL.com profile lists his “NFL comparison” as Martavis Bryant, whom the Steelers took in the fourth round last season. The Steelers also have found starting-caliber receivers Markus Wheaton (third round, 2013), Emmanuel Sanders (third, 2010) and All-Pro Antonio Brown (sixth, 2010) in the middle rounds.
During his career, Coates had 1,757 receiving yards with 13 touchdowns and seven 100-yard games. With his size and speed, Coates has all the tools, but Mann acknowledged, “I think we've got a guy that needs some work.”
Mann suggested that Coates initially will compete for playing time in the slot, a spot Coates said he played at times in college.
“I'm willing to do whatever I need to do to get the job done,” Coates said. “I'm just ready to get back on the field and show everyone what I'm all about.”
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In good hands: NFL prospect Sammie Coates has so much to offer -