2021 NFL Draft Profile: Boise State TE John Bates
The Boise State tight end isn’t Kyle Pitts, but he doesn’t need to be as a legitimate NFL Draft prospect.
Can he do more at the next level?
The Washington Football Team selected John Bates in the 4th round, at pick #124.
WASHINGTON!!! Couldn't be more fired up for the opportunity to play for such a great team and organization! pic.twitter.com/khvI3APpVj
— John Bates (@jjohnbates) May 1, 2021
Battlestar Galactica pic.twitter.com/AZclqUkfSB
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) May 1, 2021
ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay praise @WashingtonNFL 4th-round TE John Bates on the broadcast:
Kiper: "I think the best is yet to come for John Bates."
McShay: "I think he catches the ball as well as any tight end in this class besides Pitts."
— Kyle Stackpole (@kylefstackpole) May 1, 2021
The Boise State Broncos have put plenty of players into the National Football League during their two-decade run of success, but it’s been a little while since a tight end made the jump from the blue to the NFL Draft. Derek Schouman was a seventh-round selection back in 2007, but John Bates looks well-positioned to break that drought.
If you wanted to build a tight end from scratch, you’d probably envision someone with Bates’s size and underappreciated athleticism, the latter of which can help him win in the first crucial moments after the snap. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, for instance, notes that Bates “releases quickly into routes” and The Athletic’s Dane Brugler sees that he “doesn’t run stiff”.
He also played an active role in Boise State’s above-average ground game as a blocker and deserves high marks for that, as well. Tony Pauline of The Draft Network writes that Bates “blocks with leverage” and Brugler points to his “tenacity” as a net positive, so it’s easy to envision him doing more of the same in the professional ranks.
Lastly, though he was never a leading option in the Broncos’ aerial attack, Bates isn’t a zero in that regard, either. An above-average catch radius, combined with strong focus and a distinct lack of drops in his college career all mean that he’s as good a choice as any to move the chains on occasion.
One thing that may limit Bates’s overall ceiling is that draft analysts agree he doesn’t have an extra gear with which to beat defenders in the passing game. “Slow” and “one speed” may seem like harsh descriptors, but they’re the ones that Zierlein, Pauline, and Brugler all use to suggest the game speed won’t turn him into a yards-after-catch monster.
Another smaller concern which NFL teams have certainly made note is the fact that Bates missed time in the 2020 season with a hamstring injury, so while he doesn’t have an extensive injury history to speak of, avoiding that same nick in the future is something of which the team that drafts him will be mindful.
Florida’s Kyle Pitts and, to a lesser extent, Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth have taken up most of the oxygen in the conversation about this year’s tight ends, but there are reasons why Bates earned a long look at the Senior Bowl over the winter. He isn’t the flashiest prospect in this year’s class, but you don’t need flash to carve out a ten-year NFL career if you do the little things well.
John Bates may not be the first Mountain West player off the board in this year’s draft, but he’s a safe bet to be selected in the middle of Day 3, sometime in the fifth or sixth round.