Jessie Bates III has yet to sign his franchise tender, and when he does, he’ll be paid like one of the five best safeties in the NFL.
But according to dozens of league executives, coaches, scouts, and players, Bates is just outside of that top-five threshold.
In ESPN’s league-curated top-10 list of safeties, Bates secured the No. 6 spot, which is four higher than his No. 10 ranking in last year’s list. Players such as Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James ended up ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals’ All-Pro centerfield defender.
Where Bates is almost universally praised as a rangy player, his ability in run defense knocked him lower in the rankings for some. That has been a characteristic of Bates for the duration of his four-year career, but the strengths of his game absolutely out-weigh the weaknesses.
When it comes to last season, many point to a volatile season caused by the ongoing contract dispute he’s having with Bengals ownership. Even Bengals fans themselves found this to be a knock on the 25-year-old, but those in the league know there’s more nuance to it than meets the eye.
“That happens sometimes when a guy enters a contract year,” said an NFL personnel evaluator. “There’s a lot to process ... but as the season went on, he was excellent.”
Is sixth the right spot for Bates entering 2022? Let us know in the comments!