The Memphis Tigers, under the tutelage of head coach Mike Norvell, quietly became somewhat of a powerhouse among the ‘Mid Major’ ranks of college football. From first-round pick Paxton Lynch to 2020 NFL Combine star Antonio Gibson, they’ve sent a number of high-profile players to the NFL, to varying degrees of success. The next in line for Memphis is wide receiver Damonte Coxie, who could wind up as one of the best sleepers of the 2021 NFL Draft.
While Norvell has moved on to the greener pastures of Tallahassee and the Florida State Seminoles, Damonte Coxie is back for one more ride with the Tigers. Coxie has had a prolific career to date, turning in back-to-back seasons of more than 70 receptions and over 1,100 yards. Yet he’s flown relatively under the radar as far as national hype is concerned. That shouldn’t be the case for long, as Coxie has a legitimate claim to being a top-10 wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft class.
Who is Memphis wide receiver Damonte Coxie?
Damonte Coxie has taken an unconventional route to get from high school standout to Memphis Tigers receiver and NFL Draft sleeper. Coxie was a multi-sport star in Louisiana who was recruited by some of the giants of the SEC. Coxie had an offer from Alabama to play for Nick Saban and catch passes from Tua Tagovailoa. Coxie had committed to playing for Tigers of a different stripe — LSU — not once, but twice.
Yet, after suffering a knee injury during the 2016 track season, Coxie wound up in Memphis, where he could take a redshirt year and rehab. In 2017, Coxie had to sit behind Anthony Miller, an eventual second-round pick of the Chicago Bears. After Miller’s graduation, it was Coxie’s time in the spotlight, and he has taken full advantage of the opportunity.
With another year like the one Coxie had in 2019, he will rewrite the record books for the Memphis Tigers football program. A program that includes the likes of Miller as mentioned above, and former St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce, a Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinee. Coxie is only 69 receptions and just over 700 yards away from breaking Miller’s records in both categories. Miller’s all-time receiving touchdowns record may be safe, as Coxie is still 18 away, but that record too could fall with a great season.
No matter how you slice it, Coxie has lived up to the expectations, and then some. It’s a wonder that more people aren’t talking about him.
What makes Memphis receiver Damonte Coxie a 2021 NFL Draft sleeper?
Competitive toughness is something I talked about in the piece I did last week on Indiana wide receiver Whop Philyor. It’s something I look for in all wide receivers — all players, really, regardless of position — and a trait that can separate similarly ranked players for me. It may manifest itself in different forms, but it’s something you know when you see it. And I see a lot of it in Memphis wide receiver Damonte Coxie.
For Coxie, competitive toughness shows up in just how physical he plays the position. I spoke of the “want to” that Philyor shows in his run blocking, and Coxie has even more of it than Philyor. Unlike Philyor, Coxie also has the size to back it up.
Coxie is about as physical as they come in this aspect of the game, meeting the cornerback with an eagerness, unlike many receivers you’ll see. He latches on and gets nasty with DBs. You can tell it’s a point of pride for Coxie, and it’s something he’s only going to get better at the next level.
Perhaps more relevant to the primary responsibilities of the position, Coxie also separates himself from other receivers in this class with some superb body control. For possession receivers, especially, this is an important trait to show on film. Being able to contort your body and make sure you come down with the ball while getting your feet down along the sidelines or in the end zone is invaluable for a team.
The trait also shows up for Coxie when working over the middle of the field. Coxie takes some absolute shots and can contort his body not only to miss the brunt of the collision but spin-off and keep running.
What’s holding Coxie back?
In today’s NFL, it’s all about speed. Teams are continually looking for mismatches and ways to get faster. The 40-yard dash is always the star of the show at the NFL Combine. Speed kills, and it may be the biggest thing killing Coxie’s draft stock.
That’s not to say that Coxie is slow by any means, but he’s not going to be particularly impressive in that department, either. Coxie is a long strider, and that helps him create separation in the open field, but he’s far from a burner. His 40 time could make or break his draft stock.
What may end up playing an even bigger role in Damonte Coxie’s sleeper stock is the coaching change at Memphis. Memphis had a high-flying offense under Norvell and one that lets its wide receivers flourish. Former Tigers wide receiver put up back-to-back seasons over 1,400 yards and 10+ touchdowns. Coxie has followed that up with back-to-back seasons of over 1,100 yards and 7+ touchdowns.
Now with Norvell at Florida State and assistant coach Ryan Silverfield promoted to the helm, it remains to be seen the impact that has on Coxie’s production. If the change is drastic — such as the change in Jordan Love’s production from 2018 to 2019 — his stock could take a significant hit. However, if Silverfield’s Memphis offense is just as kind as Norvell’s, Coxie will make a legitimate case for being a steal on Day 2 of the NFL Draft and one of the best sleepers available.