Madden 22 recently released their safety ratings across the league, and Bengals fans should be pleased to see Jessie Bates positioned comfortably in the top ten of the NFL. Bates earned a grade of 91 from Madden—the highest rating on the team—and tied for fourth among all safeties for highest overall rating.
It’s hard to take issue with Madden’s assessment of Jessie Bates heading into this season; a rating above 90 is certainly a sign of respect. Since entering the league in 2018 as the Bengals’ second-round pick, Bates has flashed the potential to be a true “center fielder” type of free safety. Last year, everything coalesced for Bates as he assembled an All-Pro season at free safety.
The stats reflect just how dominant Bates was for the Bengals last season. He put together 109 tackles and three interceptions, in addition to a wild 15 PBUs. The advanced analytics agree that he had an incredible year, with PFF giving Bates an elite 90.1 overall rating.
Beyond just his impressive stats, Bates was the superglue holding together the fraying Bengals defense last season. Like Spider-Man holding together a sinking ship with his webs, Bates patrolled the field expertly, keeping streaking receivers in check and monitoring the quarterback’s reads while the pass rush attempted to generate pressure. That the pass defense finished only 22nd (by passer rating) last year should highlight Bates’ impact, as the surrounding talent was pretty poor.
This season, opposing offenses—both in Madden and real-life—will know to look out for Bates, and the Bengals’ defense will need every ounce of his 91 rating. Though the defense should improve this season, Bates’ talent and leadership will be paramount to that success.
As noted, I have absolutely zero issues with Bates’ 91 rating nor his T-4 ranking among safeties, although reasonable minds could move him a little higher or lower. What is odd about the ratings, though, is that the players around Bates have seemingly been incorrectly rated.
Bates and his fellow 91, Denver safety Justin Simmons, are great benchmarks for the inaccuracies across the other ratings. Only three safeties clock in with a higher rating than 91: Tyrann Mathieu (Kansas City, 95); Budda Baker (Arizona, 93); and Devin McCourty (New England, 92).
Admittedly, Mathieu and Baker play a much different role than Bates—both are imposing tacklers with the ability to match up with receivers and tight ends on the line of scrimmage—but Bates is the objectively better player entering 2021. Same goes for McCourty, who has long been one of the league’s best safeties, but now begins the post-prime stage of his career.
Conversely, players rated lower than Bates have a very credible argument to move ahead of him. Steelers haters, cover your ears, but Minkah Fitzpatrick earning an 89 criminally underrates one of the most versatile secondary players in the NFL. With incredible turnover instincts and great coverage ability, Fitzpatrick anchors an impressive Steelers defense.
Likewise, Chicago free safety Eddie Jackson plays a very similar style of coverage as Bates, and Jackson’s lightning-quick speed allows him to span an impressive area in a short time. Even players like New York’s Marcus Maye and Los Angeles’ Derwin James could sneak into the top five if I were rating safeties.
Fortunately, the Madden creators did not whiff on Jessie Bates, properly assessing his skills and rating him relative to his safety peers. The excitement surrounding Bates’ 2021 season is accurately reflected in his Madden rating, which is a rare occurrence.