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2018 NFL draft: Why the Chiefs should draft Jessie Bates III

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Every team in the NFL needs a draft crush, and our draft crush at Arrowhead Pride for the Kansas City Chiefs is Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates III.

Here is the writeup on Bates’ draft profile, produced by Lance Zierlein:

Versatile safety option with the athletic ability to handle man coverage responsibilities in space and the instincts and ball skills to post ball production in zone coverage. Bates is more than willing as a hitter, but can get himself in trouble as an open-field tackler due to inconsistent pursuit angles and technique. Bates plays with energy and aggressiveness and is likely to fill a stat sheet with production thanks to his versatility and play traits. He should contribute early on defense and special teams and has a chance to become a good NFL starter.

Zierlein compares Bates to a second-round pick in last year’s draft: Buccaneers safety Justin Evans.

Bates is also a member of Kent Swanson’s Draftmas List. Here is Bates’ Draftmas List profile, as written by Kent in mid-February:

Jessie Bates III, Safety

NFL: Combine
Wake Forest Demon Deacons defensive back Jessie Bates speaks to the media during the 2018 NFL Combine at the Indianapolis Convention Center.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

6’ 1” 195, Wake Forest

Projected Draft Range: Third round

Games watched: Florida State 2016, Florida State 2017, Clemson

Prospect grade (out of 100): 84.5

I would take him in the: Second round

One sentence bio: Redshirt sophomore who started 13 games his freshman year.

One sentence scouting report: Smooth, young, athletic safety who has the diversity to play in a variety of spots in a defense.

One play:

Why he fits in KC: I value Bates as a second-round pick, so I wouldn’t be mad if he’s Kansas City’s first pick of the draft. Current projections have him falling into the third round. If the Chiefs selected him in the second half of day two, I’d be absolutely thrilled.

Bates would look excellent on the back end of the Chiefs defense in a free safety role. He has the range and ball skills to allow the Chiefs to play aggressive man coverage with him as a single-high. He tackles well in space, and I saw several touchdowns and big-play saving tackles coming up from a single-high role as the last line of defense.

He also showed great effort and speed to chase plays down, including one play where he met the runner at the line of scrimmage all the way from the other side of the field. Bates isn’t a physically imposing hitter, but I do believe he has the ability to consistently do his job as a tackler.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some teams thought about moving Bates to corner. He’s smooth, fluid and has the long speed you want. He possesses the ability and potential to be effective in the slot. He showed the ability to cover tight ends and receivers of all sizes. He’s got ideal length and athleticism. He showed above-average instincts as well.

While Bates is still young, he does have two full seasons of experience under his belt. He was thrown into the fire early and still made plays. What excites me about him is he still has plenty of room to grow. His biggest area for improvement is consistency. He took some poor angles at times in pursuit and coverage. But even then, he showed the ability to recover from mistakes.

He’ll need to continue to add to his frame to handle the rigors of the NFL.