Every year people are looking for the next late-round sleeper. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates has a good chance to be that sleeper. Coates has an impressive skill-set which could give him immediate success in 2016.
The Pittsburgh Steelers made Coates their third round pick in 2015 at #87 overall. Although they were loaded at wide receiver they couldn’t resist taking the junior out of Auburn. Let’s take a look at Coates’ measurables.
If Coates’ combine results tell you one thing its that he is a physical freak. Coates has a unique blend of size, athleticism, and strength. His 4.43 40 yard dash time jumps off the page once you realize he weighs 212 pounds and is listed at 6′ 1″ tall. His 41″ vertical would suggest he could be a red-zone factor as well. According to nflsavant.com, Coates’ combine results are all above average for a wide receiver.
Coates had a very successful three-year career at Auburn. After missing his freshman year in 2011 with a foot injury, Coates came back his redshirt freshman year to record 114 yards and 2 touchdowns. Coates had a breakout season as a sophomore in 2013. He hauled in 42 receptions for 902 yards receiving yards with 7 touchdowns in 12 games. Coates showed his speed by snagging 14 receptions that totaled 30 yards or more. In his junior campaign, Sammie had somewhat of a disappointing stat line. Coates caught 34 receptions for 741 total yards with 4 touchdowns. He didn’t disappoint during the Iron Bowl in his junior season, however. Coates set a school record by demolishing the Alabama Crimson tide for 5 catches, 206 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns. Coates left Auburn with the 10th most career receiving yards in tigers history with 1,757 total.
Sammie Coates didn’t exactly light the world on fire during the regular season of his rookie year. Coates only saw action in a week 2 game against the Baltimore Ravens. In this contest, Coates reeled in one reception for 11 yards on 2 targets. Everyone develops differently, Coates thinks he is more prepared for this year. Coates also claims that he’s got a better understanding of the Steelers offense.
“I’m just starting to get comfortable,” he said to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Paul Zeise. “I’m getting used to the offense, and like I said, I just want to get better every day that I’m out there. The rest will come. My opportunity is really one of those things where I need to come out here and show them I can compete and I’m capable of making plays.”
Let’s get to why the Steelers took Sammie Coates in the 2015 NFL Draft: his potential. According to NFL.com, Coates sported a 20.9 yards per reception average during his career at Auburn. Sammie Coates has an impressive body for a guy who can stretch the field.
Here’s an example of Coates leaving an opponent in the dust. Coates lines up on the far right side of the formation across Alabama cornerback Eddie Jackson. Coates uses his 4.43 speed to score a 67-yard touchdown. Coates’ ability to get downfield will likely mesh well with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to hit his receivers in stride. Roethlisberger completed an impressive 17 pass attempts of 40 yards or more in the 2015, which ranked first in the NFL.
Coates isn’t only a burner. Sammie Coates can hurt you in the short and intermediate zones of the field as well.
Texas A&M cornerback De’Vante Harris is probably still having nightmares of Sammie Coates after this play. Coates takes a 5-yard hitch route and proceeds to bench press Harris off of him and into the ground. Coates doesn’t end the play there as he gains an additional 8 yards on the play.
Coates didn’t have much success during the regular season for the Steelers but he did end show some promise during the playoffs. Coates got his first NFL playoff snaps against the Denver Broncos in an AFC divisional round matchup. Coates snared two of his three targets for 61 yards. Here’s a clip from his performance.
Sammie Coates gets some help on this play with a designed rub route with the help of his fellow teammate Darrius Heyward-Bey on the right side of the formation. What’s impressive about this play isn’t how he got open, it’s how he looks after the catch. Coates leaves Denver’s cornerback Chris Harris Jr. in his rearview mirror after he secures the catch for a 41 yard gain.
Coates has seemingly built upon his high note he left off on last year. There are reports swirling around Pittsburgh that he is turning some heads inside the organization.
“I have been told he worked like crazy this offseason and is in great shape,” said Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Also, the fact that the coaches keep talking him up means they expect him to progress nicely.”
Coates has the opportunity of a lifetime to show that he can make plays. Coates’ teammate Martavis Bryant is suspended for the 2016 season after he failed multiple drug tests. This unfortunate turn of events for Bryant could catapult Coates into fantasy football relevancy. In 2015, Martavis Bryant totaled 92 targets on just 11 games. That averages out to 8.36 targets a game. Those targets have to go somewhere.
Markus Wheaton is the only obstacle in Coates’ way for heavy playing time. While Wheaton is seen as a lock for some snaps, as he recorded 44 receptions for 749 receiving yards, he shouldn’t exactly be considered a lock for the #2 wide receiver gig. Wheaton saw 26% of his 2016 receiving yard total come from a week 11 game against the Seahawks where he torched them for 201 yards. At 5′-11″ and 189 lbs, Wheaton may be better suited to play slot receiver while the bigger bodied Coates can hold down the receiver spot opposite of Antonio Brown.
A look at the targets that were distributed last year in the Steelers offense gives you an idea of why its imperative that Coates can lock down the outside spot opposite of Antonio Brown. Markus Wheaton, who was the third passing option, only registered 79 targets on the year. This is a pretty telling stat when you consider that Martavis Bryant, who received 92 targets, was suspended for the first four games of the year and missed an additional game with a knee injury. Antonio Brown is a target monster and received 33.5% of the teams total looks, but there is still a lot of passes to go around for the receiver who plays opposite of him. If you extrapolate Martavis Bryant’s 8.3 target per game average over a full season he would have 133 targets on the year. This would have given Bryant 21% of the total targets over the year. Another interesting observation is that the starting running backs in this Steelers offense nearly tied Markus Wheaton’s target total. Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams totaled a combined 73 targets which was 3 targets shy of Wheaton’s mark. While these observations don’t absolutely prove that the number three receiver in the Steelers offense will be neglected it does suggest that the number three receiver might not be as nearly involved as the number two receiver and Antonio Brown.
One factor that you can’t disregard is that Coates has a legitimate chance to be a part of one of the best offenses in the NFL. In 2015 the Steelers ranked third overall in passing yards per game with a 287-yard average despite missing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for four games. Roethlisberger has quietly been steadily improving his numbers in offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s offense. Roethlisberger has increased his yards-per-attempt from 7.3 in 2012 and 2013 to 8.1 and 8.4 in 2014 and 2015. Roethlisberger has also posted gaudy numbers in regard to total yards. Big Ben maxed out with 251.2 yards per game and 266.3 yards per game in 2012 and 2013 and has since took another step in Haley’s scheme. Roethlisberger posted a 309.5 yards per game average in 2014 and recorded an impressive 328.2 yards per game average in 2015 which made him the number one ranked quarterback in that statistic last year. These numbers give you the idea that Big Ben is comfortable in Haley’s offense and ready to keep producing in 2016.
It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone to suggest that Ben Roethlisberger likes to air it out. In 2015 Roethlisberger was very aggressive and the stats can back it up. According to sportingcharts.com, Roethlisberger was the second ranked starting quarterback in average air yards per passing attempt with 5.26 in 2015. Air yards, as SportingCharts explains, is the distance recorded at the point where the receiver catches the football per passing attempt. Basically, you subtract the yards after the catch from the quarterback’s passing yards total. This kind of aggressive passing could be very advantageous for Sammie Coates’ outlook.
Expecting Sammie Coates to produce like Martavis Bryant in 2016 would be a very tall order, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Coates has the height-weight-speed combination that Martavis Bryant possessed and showed some promise late in the season. According to fantasyfootballcalculator.com, Coates is being drafted at an average of 12.08, which makes him one of the best low-risk-high-reward players. I believe there is a good chance his price will begin to rise with offseason reports. Coates should at the least be a solid selection as a WR4 or WR5 in standard and point-per-reception leagues.