Atlanta Falcons safety Jessie Bates III has a strong case for being first-team All-Pro after his first season in Atlanta.
ESPN’s Michael Rothstein asks the question if he’s been the Falcons’ best free agent signing in recent years, and frankly that question almost feels rhetorical.
“One of the biggest moves the Falcons made early in free agency was signing Bates to a four-year, $64 million contract,” writes Rothstein. “The safety was a critical reason the Falcons beat the Saints on Sunday and took the NFC South lead. Bates intercepted a Derek Carr pass for a 92-yard touchdown (Atlanta’s first pick-six this season), had a team-high 12 tackles and forced and recovered a fumble in the red zone to help keep the Saints without a touchdown.
“It’s his second straight game with 12 or more tackles. The 26-year-old has been the catalyst for two division wins this season: Sunday and the season opener against Carolina, when he had two interceptions, a forced fumble and two passes defended.”
Bates has the splash plays with the interceptions and forced fumbles. However, he also adds consistency. Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranks him the No. 2 rated safety in the NFL at 90.5. He only trails Miami’s Jevon Holland. The Falcons passed Holland on when they traded down in 2021 and selected Richie Grant in the second round.
Bates’s impact for the Falcons is especially important because of the disappointing play from Grant. The third-year safety was Rothstein’s “stock down” player following the victory over the Saints.
“The Falcons appeared to platoon Grant, who had been one of Atlanta’s two starting safeties the past season and a half,” wrote Rothstein. “Rookie DeMarcco Hellams had seven tackles and was playing in critical situations in the fourth quarter.”
The Falcons may decide to give Hellams more of an opportunity the final third of the regular season. Grant hasn’t made the spot his own, and Hellams made a good partner with Bates vs. the Saints.
Meanwhile, Jessie Bates III should be in line for some hardware at the end of the season, a Pro Bowl at worst, and possibly an All-Pro nod.