Jessie Bates is the best free safety in this year’s draft. Bates is currently considered a fringe first round prospect, but when we look back on this draft, he will be considered a huge steal.
Bates left Wake Forest as a red-shirt sophomore who had two highly productive seasons for the Demon Deacons. I thought Bates was special after seeing his freshman season, in which he had 5 interceptions. Bates reinforced my perception of him in his sophomore season. Bates plays free safety and has great range for the position. Bates showed about what I expected at the combine, running a 4.50 40 and showing good explosion in the jumping drills. The agility and DB drills were where he shined. Bates has phenomenal hip fluidity and agility to the point that he could play cornerback. His play speed is fantastic and his cover ability reflects his great movement ability. The Wake Forest product is also the best ball-hawking safety in the draft. Bates consistently reads the quarterback and uses his range and length to make spectacular athletic plays on the ball. Bates also has shown value as a punt returner, bringing one all the way back in his bowl game against Texas A&M this year.
image credit to morganton.com
Some scouts have concern over his weight and bulk, which is somewhat valid, but it isn’t a horrendous issue and NFL strength programs prove time and time again to fix concerns like this. He also misses some occasional tackles, in particular coming down to tackle running backs, but when he is the last man to beat he can almost always be relied upon to make the tackle.
Jessie Bates is a big-time playmaker with great cover ability and is a reliable last line of defense.He is a player that any team in need of a free safety should look long and hard at come late April.
Check out the mock draft that Harun and I made pre-combine.
Featured image credit to http://www.wfmynews2.com