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Why we like the decision to draft John Bates as Washington’s new tight end

Great blocker; competent pass catcher

Connecticut v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Washington drafted John Bates, tight end from Boise State with the 124th overall pick in the draft, midway through the 4th round.

Bates had limited production in his college career.

His best season came in 2019, when he had 22 catches for 273 yards, however he played only a partial season as a senior in 2020.

The Pro Football Network said this about him:

The Boise State tight end is best suited to join a team where the pressure to perform isn’t immense. Somewhere with a set TE1, who could use the extra boost of athletic ability in its depth chart. He’ll need a coaching staff willing to utilize his traits in space.

This sounds like a custom-made fit for Washington, where Logan Thomas is the established starting tight end, and Pete Hoener is a proven coach who knows how to get the best from players at the position. Washington has the kind of offense under Scott Turner that can use Bates’ skills as a blocker – and he is a good blocker. Take a look at these highlights:

But don’t let Bates’ limited production fool you; the fact that he was the 3rd or 4th option in the Boise passing attack doesn’t mean that he can’t catch.

KS4GM’s Take:

Bill, being half-way around the world, had the opportunity to pen this while I was sleeping - and dreaming about writing a similar piece. He graciously agreed to let me piggyback on his article and offer some thoughts.

As Bill says above, Bates IS a good blocker. In fact, he was one of the best in college football last year.

This is critical, because as I’ve written before, blocking is consistently the biggest weakness that college tight ends enter the NFL with. In fact, it’s usually such a weakness it keeps most of them largely off the field for a year or two. Coaches are forced to ask themselves:

Do we risk our pass protection, and our quarterback, by testing a tight end who’s not quite ready? Or do we ease that tight end into the lineup, and hope that slowing down the process produces results down the road?

Most coaches, predictably, choose the second path. By drafting a tight end who is already a very solid blocker - but not just a “blocking tight end” - the most difficult element of getting a young TE onto the field is cast aside.

Add to that the fact that Bates has good hands and excellent short area quickness, as well as a high end ability to read coverages and find the soft spots in defenses, and he could end up being a very nice “relief valve” option for Washington QBs for some time.

Some have made an issue of his apparent lack of long speed (4.84 40yd), so I went back and looked at his athletic comps. He actually matches up very closely with Adam Trautman, one of the top TEs taken in last year’s draft, selected by the Saints in the 3rd round (4.8 40yd). Trautman was able to play in 15 games for the Saints last year - starting 6 - and collecting 171 yards receiving. Not great numbers, but far better than any TE on Washington’s roster not named “Logan Thomas.”

Finally, Washington has one of the best tight end coaches in the league - perhaps the best - Pete Hoener. Hoener has groomed several Pro Bowl caliber tight ends - Vernon Davis, Greg Olsen, and Delanie Walker - and knows what he’s looking at:

“He is probably the best coach I’ve ever had, and knowing so much stuff is part of that,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “He knows anything you could want to want to know as a tight end.”

He’s got an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe going on with Washington’s current tight end room - cobbling together a group of prospects from a varied menagerie of wide receiver, quarterback, and basketball cast-offs - but if he’s willing to get behind the drafting of Bates, I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Like Bill, I love this pick. I was fairly unfamiliar with Bates going into the draft, but digging into it a bit more, I think I better understand the rationale. I look forward to seeing Bates on the field in 2021.

Conclusion:

Washington has proven over the past few seasons to be very good at drafting players in middle and late rounds who turn into contributors. In addition, tight end coach Pete Hoener, who was credited with identifying Logan Thomas as a priority free agent target a year ago, has shown the ability to both spot and develop tight end talent.

It appears that John Bates will have an excellent chance of making the 53-man roster in Washington and playing an integral role as a blocker and part-time pass catcher. He should be a good addition to the offensive attack.