A two-year starter at Wake Forest, Bates quickly established himself as a defensive leader as a redshirt freshman and only grew in that role this past season, starting 20 career games at strong safety for the Demon Deacons.
Bates is fearless in run support and comes to balance well pre-contact, but he isn’t a power player and fundamental breakdowns lead to missed tackles. Although he seeks out contact as a downhill hunter, he doesn’t boast ideal body armor, which leads to durability concerns at the next level. However, Bates is a very smart player in coverage and trusts his diagnose skills to put himself in position to make plays, anticipating routes and passing windows.
A two-star safety recruit out of high school, Bates was a two-time first team all-state defender at Snider, recording nine interceptions as a senior – also a standout basketball and baseball player at Snider. He received low interest from FBS-level schools and initially verballed to Toledo in the summer of 2014, but Iowa and Wake Forest offered him closer to signing day and Bates flipped to Wake Forest.
After redshirting in 2015, he moved into the starting strong safety role and finished second in the ACC with five interceptions in 2016, adding 100 tackles and nine passes defended to earn Freshman All-American honors. Bates started nine games at strong safety as a redshirt sophomore and recorded 79 tackles, six passes defended and one interception, earning All-ACC Honorable Mention honors.
Instinctive and trusts what he sees. Reads the eyes of the quarterback and sniffs out routes. Click-and-close quickness with a knack for arriving at the right time. Fluid movement skills to make proper adjustments from shadow position. Enough play speed to chase down ballcarriers from behind. Fearless as a downhill defender, taking proper run angles. Doesn’t bypasses tackle attempts like most defenders his size. Low tackler and gets his guy on the ground. Collected six interceptions the past two seasons with 95 interception return yards, averaging 15.8 yards per return with a pair of touchdowns (6/95/2). Experience as a punt returner, averaging 7.9 yards per return (22/173/0). Credits his preparation and film study for his play-making on game day. Takes a big brother approach with younger players and wants to be a future coach. – Dane Brugler 1/14/2018
Lean-limbed and needs to continue and fill out. Lacks ideal bulk or play strength to handle work in the box. Would rather avoid blockers than go through them, lacking the muscle or hand usage to pry through a crowd. Bad habit of waiting on his heels as a run defender. Needs to do a better job squaring his target and wrapping to avoid sliding off tackle attempts. Needs to finish when he gets his hands on the football and should have had more than six interceptions in college. Doesn’t have ideal body armor or growth potential for the position – missed two games as a sophomore due to a knee injury (Oct. 2017). – Dane Brugler 1/14/2018
COMPARES TO: Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos – Although Bates isn’t as physical as a downhill run defender, he competes with the play awareness and decisive reactor to be in position to make plays, similar to Simmons.
IN OUR VIEW: Bates isn’t elite in any one area, but he is well-rounded with the cover instincts, play range and toughness vs. the run to contribute to a NFL secondary. If he can hold up physically, Bates will compete for a starting role within his first few years in the league.