The NFL and its national media may’ve snubbed Bates for Pro Bowl and 1st Team All-Pro honors, but PFF has consistently backed Bates’ spectacular 2020 campaign. Bates was featured in their own All-Pro squad earlier this month, and the recognition has not stopped there.
PFF has listed Bates as an honorable mention for their Defensive Player of the Year award and Best Coverage Defender. The winners and other honorable mentions from their 2020 NFL awards can be found here.
Back in October, we wrote about how Bates was emerging as a legitimate DPotY candidate. The 23-year old safety continued his elite level of play for the remainder of what became a lost season in Cincinnati, which can explain why Bates’ season became under appreciated by Pro Bowl and All-Pro voters.
From Week 4 to the end of the regular season, Bates was PFF’s top safety for coverage grade, which justifies his mentioning with other top coverage defenders Xavien Howard, the winner of the coverage award, and Jaire Alexander, another honorable mention. Howard and Alexander were objectively the two best cornerbacks in the league this past season, but no other safety was more consistently dominant in coverage than Bates. Period.
Bates had a better chance of getting that award over Howard than he had topping Aaron Donald as the best overall defender. Donald proved once again he’s the best player not playing offense in the NFL, which has been the truth for the past several years.
This feels like the start of Bates’ run as the game’s top free safety. Hopefully these next several years of his career will take place in Cincinnati.