The Bengals have been looking for a play-making safety ever since Reggie Nelson left the team. Coaches hoped that Shawn Williams would be able to fill the void, but he has been unable to generate the turnovers needed. On top of that, Williams and George Iloka have both had issues with injuries and staying on the field. In the draft, the Bengals added Jessie Bates III who will not only improve the depth at the position in case of injury, but will also help generate more turnovers. He is a pretty interesting guy off-the-field, too, who absolutely loves the sport of football.
Lets get to know Bates!
1. Bates’ football IQ is off-the-charts. He wants to be the smartest player on the field at all times.
Some of the most important aspects for a high safety to succeed are how smart he is and how much he studies film. That’s not a problem with Bates as he seems to be a film junkie who just can’t get enough. With all the knowledge he has, he will be able to get to where the ball is going before the quarterback even knows where he is throwing it. With how hard Bates works, he seems to have the potential to be a great safety for the long-term for the Bengals.
2. If Bates could have any super power, he would have the ability to read minds so he could always know his opponents’ next moves.
If Bates could get his super power wish, then I know it wouldn’t be long before he was considered the best safety in NFL history. If he could read minds he would easily be able to get his hands on the ball all game long. Without that ability though, he will just have to rely on his instincts and film study to make it seem like he is able to read the opponents’ mind. It is also too bad that he can’t have super speed or the ability to fly, as both of those would also be really helpful for a safety.
3. Bates compares himself to Rod Woodson whose interception record he tied in high school in Fort Wayne, IN.
Woodson was a great defensive back for years for two of the Bengals’ in-division rivals in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. It definitely is a good sign that Bates was able to tie such a great player’s record while in high school. Bates won’t start out as a cornerback like Woodson did, but hopefully he can have just as great of an impact as Woodson did. Even though he will be likely playing in a rotation early on, he should make a nice impact even as a rookie.
4. Wake Forest safeties coach Lyle Hemphill says Bates studied film every night in college until 10 or 10:30 p.m.
If there is one thing to learn about Bates from these facts, it’s just how much he loves football and watching film. Now Bates has nothing to do all day long other than workout and watch film. If what his college safety coach says is true, someone may have to watch Bates to make sure that he actually gets enough sleep every night. Hopefully, Bates’ attitude ends up rubbing off on every single player on the team as he seems to have a real leader’s mentality.
“In my meeting room, there’s a big window between my office and meeting room,” Hemphill told Cincy Jungle of Bates’ work ethic. “During the season at 10 or 10:30, I would be walking out and the light would be on and he’d be in there. And it wasn’t once every two weeks, it was every single night.”
5. The Bengals were the first team Bates had a formal interview with at the combine. The pre-draft process came full circle!
Every draft prospect meets with a ton of teams, some of them multiple times. This time it just so happens that the Bengals ended up getting the first interview with Bates at the combine, and it seems it was a case of love at first sight as the Bengals did end up eventually drafting him.
“The Bengals were my first formal interview at the combine,” Bates said. “So that was pretty funny because I didn’t know what to expect from the meetings. I met with them at the combine and coach Livingston (safeties coach Robert Livingtson) came down and had lunch with me before my pro day. So I was in touch with them a good amount and had an idea that they liked me.”
Overall, Bates’ work ethic and ball skills bode well for his future with the Bengals. He hopefully will be able to help replace the void that has been missing ever since Nelson left. One of the biggest keys to winning in the NFL is winning the turnover battle and in that regard, Bates may be able to have a bigger impact than any other Bengals rookie this year, even if he won’t be playing a full-time role or replacing as big of a weakness as center.