Jessie Bates is a redshirt sophomore with two years of starting experience at safety. However, as a redshirt freshman, Bates made 100 tackles and intercepted five passes. He came back down to earth as a sophomore, with 75 tackles and an interception while missing two games due to injury. Still, he certainly has NFL scouts buzzing. Could he be a fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers and in what round?
Jessie Bates is a very instinctive player. Bates has great recognition skills and is capable of being the quarterback of a defense in the back end. Watch his break on the ball in the play below. Before the quarterback lets go of the pass Bates has broken on the play and is in front to deflect it away. The understanding of the route concept along with his responsibility combined with fluid change of direction makes this play happen.
In the play below, Jessie Bates is sitting in zone. He is able to read the quarterback, has the speed to recover, turn his body around and find the football for the interception.
Bates has great ball skills when it is in the air. Below, he reads the pass much better than the receiver does. Bates does a great job of undercutting the route and playing the ball, not the receiver.
While he played a lot of deep half in college, Bates also has great speed to potentially play sideline to sideline. His speed shows off in punt returns, interception returns, and in pursuit of the football. Watch how quick he is able to recognize the pass to there running back, break and makeup about 12 yards to hit the running back before he ever has a chance to get upfield.
Bates shows his long speed in the play below as he tracks down a breakaway running back. He is going to be able to play the deep middle in Cover-1.
Bates understanding and pursuit of the football is impressive, but his ability to finish tackles is very inconsistent.
He guns for ankles a lot and at times can end up diving and missing, taking him out of plays.
Ball carriers with strong lower bodies can slip off of his tackles. On this play he gets pushed a bit off of his angle but does not have a great pursuit of the football, allowing for poor form in tackling.
Another poor angle and poor form allow a slot receiver to get by his man with ease.
Bates is a bit smaller, and his inability to get physical and tackle higher combined with his lack of core strength adds into him being shrugged off by ball carriers. He needs to consistently play a more physical game as the team’s last line of defense.
Eddie Jackson Chicago Bears
Jackson was able to come in as a rookie and make an impact at free safety for the Chicago Bears. This may be high expectations of a rookie year for Jessie Bates, but he can be used in a similar fashion to Jackson.
Jackson and Bates both have the speed and ability to help as punt returners. That also translates to their ability to play the deep portion of the field with great ball skills. Jackson played a lot of deep halves last season and thrived in the role, but was comfortable in a variety of roles. Bates can be viewed in the same manner. Still, their biggest weakness comes down to physicality.
A fit for Pittsburgh Steelers
He does not bring the same physicality that Mike Mitchell brings, but may bring better instincts. A role very similar to Mitchell, playing a lot of deep portions of the field would be great for Bates, though. Bates would be limited in run liabilities and with better ball skills than Mitchell may not need to rely on the physicality as much in the passing game either.
Still, without elite ball skills and sideline to sideline range, the price of a first rounder may be a bit high. The Steelers could be hoping for Jessie Bates to fall to the lower part of the second round, in which case the team would likely be very happy to bring him in.