- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates is skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

Coates, who has already graduated, announced the decision on Monday and is projected as an early round pick.

“I think this is time for me to take another step in my life and take that chance,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling just to be able to make this decision.”

Coates finished the regular season with a huge game. He had five catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to No. 1 Alabama. His 717 receiving yards was second on the team behind D’haquille Williams, another junior who is eligible for the draft.

One of the SEC’s top deep threats, Coates averaged 23.9 yards on 30 catches. His last game with Auburn will be the Outback Bowl Jan. 1 against Wisconsin.

Tigers coach Gus Malzahn predicted he will “go out with a bang.”

“It just seems like yesterday that a real quiet, skinny kid from Leroy, Alabama was up in our office,” Malzahn said. “I think he was either a two-star or a three-star (prospect) and after our camp we offered him.”

Coates emerged as Auburn’s top receiver during the run to the national championship game as a sophomore before Williams’ arrival from junior college gave the Tigers two big targets.

Coates was coy on questions about where he was projected in the draft. Malzahn was more straightforward in his own expectations.

“He’s going to be a high draft pick,” the coach said. “We really don’t need projections. He’s one of the best receivers in college football right now. He’s got a great upside and the future’s very bright.”

Coates graduated last Saturday with a degree in public administration, and said without that diploma he wouldn’t have considered leaving.

“I’ve got a diploma,” Coates said. “That’s what you come to college for. “

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