When the Washington Football Team selected John Bates in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, many people were thinking it was a reach. Sounds like déjà vu since “the experts” said the same thing about Antonio Gibson last year.
Look, I’m not an eternal optimist, I’ve been a Washington Football Team fan since the time they had a real name. But in all seriousness, I’ve seen the team reach and fail, ignore red flags and fail, bring in high-priced free agents and fail. Failure after failure, it became the norm for Washington football fans.
Desmond Howard, Taylor Jacobs, Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, Josh Doctson. The team has been plagued by poor decision-making when it comes to drafting receiving options.
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But the last few years, the tables have started to turn with Terry McLaurin, swiss-army-knife Antonio Gibson, and hopefully Dyami Brown, and John Bates.
With Ron Rivera in charge, things that seemed questionable before seem to hit differently. I’m not going to question the decision-makers who brought in Logan Thomas and made him a viable tight end option or turned J.D. McKissic into one of the best receiving threats out of the backfield.
That’s one of the reasons I don’t think Bates’ selection was a reach. But it goes deeper than that.
Why John Bates wasn’t a reach for the Washington Football Team.
One of the negatives most “experts” talk about is his lack of production throughout his collegiate career. But if you break down his stats, he only played in 23 career games, finishing with 47 receptions for 579 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite that limited production, only five tight ends in Boise State history finished with more career receiving yards, so a part of the production is due to the system.
Does a lack of college production predicate limited success in the NFL? Not necessarily. Let’s look at the career collegiate stats of a few other tight ends around the NFL.
Player 1: 25 career games, 48 receptions, 737 yards, 10 touchdowns
Player 2: 35 career games, 59 receptions, 875 yards, 10 touchdowns
Player 3: 33 career games, 51 receptions, 971 yards, 9 touchdowns
Overall, these three players averaged less than two receptions per game and about 30 yards per game. Not lighting up the stat sheet by any means, but did they go on to be successful in the NFL?
Well, Player 1 is 49ers TE George Kittle, player 2 is Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, and player 3 is Raiders TE Darren Waller.
Three of the elite TEs in the NFL right now had fairly similar stat lines to John Bates in college, outside of receiving touchdowns.
Both Waller and Kittle were given prospect scores of 5.90 out of 10 by NFL.com, which falls under the back-up/special teamer category. Bates received a slightly lower but similar score of 5.50. Suffice to say, the experts can be wrong and scouting is an imprecise science.
So what is working in Bates’ favor? Well although he didn’t test too well at his Pro Day, his measurables are fairly comparable to Kittle.
Kittle measured in just under 6-foot-4 and 247 pounds, with 9 1/4-inch hands, while running a 4.52 40, and finishing with a 35-inch vertical and 18 bench press reps.
Bates measured in at 6-foot-5 250 pounds, with 9 5/8-inch hands, while running a slower 4.84 40, and finishing with a 31 1/2-inch vertical and 19 bench press reps.
Another thing that works in Bates’ favor is he has two things that Coach Rivera loves in a player: versatility and a team-first attitude.