Jessie Bates 2018 NFL Draft Profile

Jessie Bates
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Overview
Position
: Safety
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 200 pounds
School: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Combine Performance Data
40-yard dash
: 4.50 seconds
Vertical jump: 35.5 inches
Broad jump: 9 feet, 9 inches
Three-cone drill: 6.78 seconds (fourth among safeties)
20-yard shuttle: 4.26 seconds (fifth among safeties)
60-yard shuttle: 11.34 seconds

Jessie Bates 2018 NFL Draft Profile

To say that Jessie Bates was a nuisance to opposing quarterbacks as a senior in high school might be an understatement. He finished the year with a whopping nine interceptions, helping lead Snider in the Fort Wayne, IN area to a 10-3 record. Despite those exploits, Bates was lightly recruited. A three-star prospect according to 247 Sports and ESPN, he received just three Power Five scholarship offers, two of which came from Indiana and Iowa out of the Big Ten. In the end, Bates was the second to last commitment of Dave Clawson‘s second recruiting class as Wake Forest head coach.

After redshirting in 2015, Bates stepped right in and proved invaluable as a defensive playmaker. In the fourth game of the season against Indiana, Bates registered two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. It wasn’t his only pick six of the year either as he took another one for a score later in the year against Virginia (the Demon Deacons won both games). In so doing, he became the only freshman in the country to return two interceptions for touchdowns in 2016. Overall, his five picks on the year led all ACC freshmen. It led to him collecting consensus Freshman All-American accolades in addition to finishing second in conference defensive rookie of the year voting behind Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence.

Bates couldn’t replicate those numbers as a redshirt sophomore. Injuries limited him to just 11 games on the season. But he did see a noticeable improvement in his tackle for loss numbers which increased from 3.5 in 2016 to six the following year. He also proved a dangerous asset on special teams, returning a punt 59 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter of Wake’s Belk Bowl victory over Texas A&M. Even though he only has two seasons of collegiate experience under his belt, Bates felt ready enough for the next level and declared for the draft on January 5th.

Strengths

  • impressive ball skills with the ability to go up and high point it;
  • in the right place at the right time to make plays on tipped balls;
  • able to swivel hips effectively on route transition points;
  • rangy player with anticipate and contain instincts in both the run and pass game;
  • plays centerfield, reads tendencies and uses closing quickness to break on the ball;
  • can sit in zone or mirror and match in man;
  • plus recovery burst to close and wrap up downfield;
  • above average lateral athleticism as demonstrated in three-cone/short shuttle Combine times;
  • showed big-play ability on special teams.

Weaknesses

  • frame is a tad thin and could use some added bulk;
  • play strength and propensity for delivering physical blows a bit underwhelming;
  • might not be enough of a big hitting thumper to play in the box;
  • tackle numbers are impressive but too often ball carriers are dragging him for extra yardage before going down;
  • susceptible to play action which could open up the middle of the field vertically on seams and deep posts;
  • gives up too many cutback opportunities due to over-pursuit;
  • a relatively raw prospect with just two years of game experience in college.

NFL Comparison: Tre Boston

Teams With Need at Position: Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins

Projection: Second to third round

Bottom Line

A ball-hawking safety with impressive coverage skills, Bates forewent his final year of eligibility largely off the strength of his 2016 campaign. While he had his moments last year, his production dropped off from his standout redshirt freshman campaign, largely due to a nagging knee injury. Bates uses his vision, burst and ball skills to make plays in a variety of alignments and coverage shells. But he’s not particularly physical and struggles to create leverage as a tackler. That said, his overall skill set gives him a fairly high ceiling and teams with a safety need on day two of the draft will have him squarely in their crosshairs.

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