Unfortunately, the Cincinnati Bengals lost safety Jessie Bates in free agency to the Atlanta Falcons. The good news is that the team prepared for this day when they selected Dax Hill with the 31st overall pick in last year’s draft. However, there are some players in this draft who the team could select to help fill out the free safety depth chart next season.
Jason Taylor II, Oklahoma State
Jason Taylor II played the same role at Oklahoma State as Bates did in Cincinnati. Taylor II is a classic free safety. He plays deep in the defensive secondary and spends a lot of time as a single high safety.
Taylor II is fast, rangy, and able to cover a lot of ground quickly. This makes him excellent in coverage on the back end. He is also a capable defender when he finds himself one-on-one with receivers. Against TCU, he had a few nice pass breakups including one when he found himself alone versus soon-to-be first-round receiver Quentin Johnston.
Taylor II is not a run-enforcer type. He was not much of a blitzer either. There are plays on film where he needs to play the deep ball better. However, the potential he brings is undeniable.
In a predominately passing league, being able to cover as a safety is paramount. Taylor held opposing quarters to a 66.9 rating when targeted, according to NFL Draft Buzz. That is excellent for a safety.
The young defensive back finished with 99 total tackles and six interceptions last year. That is the same number of interceptions as potential first-round corner Emmanuel Forbes.
Early in the draft process, Jason Taylor II was ranked 356 by Pro Football Focus. He has since catapulted to 159. Mock Draft Database ranks him 253rd overall and has him as a seventh-rounder. ESPN has him ranked 164th overall.
Look for Jason Taylor to come off the board starting in the fifth round, where the Bengals are set to make their selection with the 163rd pick. If the team has not addressed the safety position and he is still on the board, Taylor II would be a perfect fit to add to a safety room without Jessie Bates. Selfishly, it would be even better if he were still there in the sixth round at 206.