The Bengals added some drama to Day 2 of the draft when they completed a trade with the Chiefs. Cincinnati gave up their 46th overall pick and their 100th overall pick in exchange for the Kansas City’s 54th and 78th picks. After moving down eight spots, the Bengals used their new pick to select one of the best safeties in the draft.
The Bengals clearly wanted more out of the back end of their defense this offseason. They first tried to woo Kurt Coleman, then when he signed with the Saints they almost signed Eric Reid. They made it even more obvious that they expect Bates to create change when they released safety George Iloka following the Bengals’ second preseason game. This paves the way for Bates to become the starting safety along side Shawn Williams. Bates will be the first defensive rookie to start for the Bengals in Week 1 since 2009 when Rey Maualuga started at linebacker.
After bringing in Teryl Austin as defensive coordinator from the Lions, the Bengals have been trying to manufacture more turnovers. The Bengals were tied with the Raiders for 30th in takeaways with 14; only the Browns had fewer with 13. So Austin wanted to make some changes with the defense.
That’s where Jessie Bates comes in. Bates is athletic, rangy, instinctive, a good tackler, and an electric playmaker. Since he’s been drafted he’s been drawing comparisons to Reggie Nelson, who was a key player in the Bengals’ great 2015 defense, which was second in scoring and third in interceptions in the league that year.
Bengals are hoping that the combination of Austin and Bates will create more turnovers in the back end of the defense and give the offense more scoring opportunities.
Weight: 200 pounds
College: Wake Forest
Hometown: Fort Wayne, IN
Bates signed a four-year deal worth $4,947,814, according to Spotrac.com. His cap hit is only $899,602 in 2018.
Jessie Bates was a three star recruit coming out of Snider High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana and was selected to the All-State team his junior and senior year before going to Wake Forest for college.
He redshirted his first year and made an instant impact as a freshman in 2016. He made the first team Freshman All-American after posting 100 tackles, 5 interceptions, and two touchdowns.
In 2017, he recorded another 77 total tackles, an interception and a punt return touchdown. After only playing for two season at Wake Forest, he decided to come out early and enter the NFL Draft.
The Bengals took him in the second round with the 54th overall pick.
Bates was the first defensive selection made in Teryl Austin’s tenure as the Bengals’ defensive coordinator. Marvin Lewis really let Austin reconstruct the defense with the selection of Sam Hubbard, Malik Jefferson, Darius Phillips and Davontae Harris later on in the draft and bringing in Preston Brown as a free agent. So it figures that Bates will have a huge role in the new defense.
Bates will walk in to training camp as the most versatile safeties on the roster. George Iloka didn’t have the same free safety skills or athletic ability, so it makes sense that if the Bengals wanted a safety with range that they went with the rookie.
The Bengals don’t have a ball-hawk safety like Bates. They brought him in for a specific role, and they clearly have no doubts about whether the NFL will be too big of a stage for them. It is rare the Bengals will start a rookie on defense, and especially in the secondary. The fact they dropped Iloka to give Bates this opportunity speaks volumes about what this team expects for him.