Falcons’ Jessie Bates among PFF’s top ranked safeties

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The Falcons brought in a haul of players this offseason. Whether it was in free agency, via trade, or the draft, Atlanta improved the depth and top end talent of the roster. And the gem acquisition was Jessie Bates III.

The defense in Atlanta has long been a sore spot, particularly on the backend. The new regime has invested heavily in improving this facet of the club, drafting Clark Phillips, signing Mike Hughes, and trading for Jeff Okudah. But none compare to the impact Bates will have.

The Falcons handed the former Bengals All-Pro a four-year deal worth about $16 million per year, which makes him the fourth highest paid safety in the league, but fans shouldn’t be worried about the kind of financial commitment to someone like Bates.

The best ability is availability, and Jessie Bates is durable. Last season marked the fifth-straight 1,000-plus snap season for him; he immediately started for Cincinnati after the Bengals selected him in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, only missing two games across five seasons. Bates is also just entering his prime.

He’s one of the best safeties in the league, and PFF believes he’s the 9th-best entering 2023:

Bates was a key piece in the Bengals’ turnaround over the past few years. While he likely won’t repeat his elite 2020 performance (90.1 overall), he is incredibly reliable and durable. His best days — including three games in 2022 with game grades above 89.0 — are as good as anyone’s. His 88.3 run-defense grade was a top-10 mark. Bates’ presence in Atlanta’s secondary will help change the culture of their defense.

The safeties ranked ahead of him are below:

  1. Derwin James
  2. Minkah Fitzpatrick
  3. Kevin Byard
  4. Antoine Winfield Jr.
  5. Micah Hyde
  6. Justin Simmons
  7. Tyrann Mathieu
  8. Jordan Poyer

Bates is a rangy ballhawk who can play the center field role in single-high, producing at an elite level since entering the league, with 43 pass defenses and 14 interceptions in that time, but his value as a leader and mentor almost matches his on-field value.

The veteran will provide valuable experience for the young second-round pick that will play next to him — Richie Grant. That impact cannot be understated. Grant’s development should accelerate more rapidly under the wing of Bates.

Photographer: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire

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