The gem of the Falcons free agent class this offseason was Jessie Bates III, who comes over from the Bengals after five successful seasons in Cincinnati. The All-Pro safety inked a four-year deal worth $16 million, making him the fourth highest-paid player at his position, but Falcons fans can rest assured, he’ll be worth the money.
Everyone knows how good Bates is, including his peers. In the latest ESPN rankings, which polls 80 execs, coaches, and scouts to compile them, the new Falcons leader came in ranked as the sixth-best safety. Below is the full list as well as honorable mentions and those who garnered votes:
- Minkah Fitzpatrick
- Derwin James
- Justin Simmons
- Budda Baker
- Jevon Holland
- Jessie Bates III
- Kevin Byard
- C.J. Gardner-Johnson
- Talanoa Hufanga
- Antoine Winfield Jr.
Honorable mentions: Marcus Williams, Quandre Diggs, Kyle Dugger, Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Xavier McKinney, Jalen Pitre
Also receiving votes: Tyrann Mathieu, Eddie Jackson, Jeremy Chinn, Jayron Kearse, Justin Reid
Bates isn’t elite in any one area but is very good in all areas. He’ll cover up a lot of deficiencies on Atlanta’s defense and will become an immeediate impact player for a group that desperately needed them. Here’s what the article said about Bates:
Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: Unranked
Age: 26 | Last year’s ranking: 6
Personnel officials like to joke that free agency means paying “A” money for “B” players.
But when Bates agreed to a four-year, $64-million deal with Atlanta on the first day of the negotiating period in March, the reaction was… yeah, that’s about right.
He’s an “A” player.
Bates’ seven pass deflections on 30 targets as the nearest defender garnered a 23.3% ball hawk rate.
“He’s ‘Justin Simmons lite’ — classic post safety who can get the football, nice clean game, won’t make mistakes but not a lot of electricity to his game,” an NFL personnel director said. “Not a violent player.”
An AFC exec disagrees with that somewhat. “I thought his tackling improved this year, and he already had the versatility and the ball skills,” the exec said.
There are several important notes. At least one voter polled had Bates ranked as the top safety in the league. Though I think you could argue top five, I wouldn’t have him over Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James. Still, that’s nice to see.
Another intriguing quote: “Personnel officials like to joke that free agency means paying “A” money for “B” players.” Then followed it up with Bates’ contract is exactly on par. That’s got to make Falcons fans feel good.
The ‘Justin Simmons lite’ comment was a bit strange, but I don’t think it was meant to be insulting. Simmons is an elite safety in this game, and the pair’s games resemble each other.
I could argue Bates should be higher than Jevon Holland and Budda Baker, but I digress.
Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire