Chargers Draft

Los Angeles Chargers: 5 safeties to target after the first round

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 04: Eli Stove #12 of the Auburn Tigers looks to get around Armani Watts #23 of the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on November 4, 2017 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 04: Eli Stove #12 of the Auburn Tigers looks to get around Armani Watts #23 of the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on November 4, 2017 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Wake Forest S Jessie Bates III

In 2016, Bates took the ACC by storm as a redshirt freshman.

According to his bio on WakeForestSports.com, Bates played (and started) in all 13 games and tied with Virginia’s Quin Blanding for the most solo tackles in the ACC with 70 (100 total). He also finished second in the entire league with five interceptions. Two of his five interceptions went for touchdowns. He was Runner-up for ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and a consensus Freshman All-American.

He followed up his superb 2016 season with another solid season in 2017. He finished with 79 total tackles, including six for loss, five pass deflections and one forced fumble. However, his interception total went down, as he only picked off one pass. Bates did make an impact in the return game for the Demon Deacons, too, returning eight punts for 161 yards (an average of 20.1 yards per return) and a touchdown. According to his draft profile on NFL.com, Bates was an honorable mention All-ACC selection. He missed two games due to injury.

Bates is NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiahs’s 38th-ranked prospect. Here’s what Jeremiah had to say:

“Bates is a tall, lean safety for the Demon Deacons. He has outstanding range, instincts and ball skills from the deep middle and he flashed the ability to match up in the slot. He’s a very fluid athlete and has plenty of makeup speed if he’s caught out of position. Against the run, he’s quick to key/read and fill the alley. He is a low, wrap/drag tackler and he does have some misses on tape. His lack of strength shows up at times. Overall, Bates is a very athletic middle-of-the-field defender and he has the versatility to cover in the slot. He should quickly emerge as a Pro Bowl-caliber player.”

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Bates is an athlete and football player. In other words, Bates knows how to translate his athleticism onto the playing field, which many fail to do.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Bates ran a 4.5 40-yard dash, good for ninth-best among safeties who participated. He also recorded a 35.5-inch vertical (tied for 10th-best), 6.78 three-cone drill (fourth-best) and a 4.26 20-yard shuttle (fifth-best). And his tape is just as good. Jeremiah picked out five clips that highlighted Bates’ play on the field. It’s impressive to see a guy so fluid with the instincts, anticipation, range and speed that Bates showed.

Tackling appears to be the one issue with Bates. While he’s not afraid to make contact, scouts say his technique is suffering and he takes poor angles. Hopefully, coaches can help him out in that department.

But overall, Bates is a playmaker, and he would fill a huge hole at free safety for the Chargers. He can also help out in the return game, another area the Chargers could use help in. He’s gone to the Chargers in the second round in several mock drafts, and I’d definitely be happy if that were to happen on draft day.

Round Prediction: Round 2

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