Bengals Draft: 3 prospects who can replace Jessie Bates

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Kaevon Merriweather, Iowa 

Another safety in the 2023 NFL Draft who could help fill a chair left empty by Bates’ departure is Iowa safety, Kaevon Merriweather. 

The Bengals, along with every other team, will love him for his versatility. He spent almost just as many snaps deep as he did in the box. He can cover like Jessie Bates but loves to hit like Vonn Bell. He is the best of both worlds. If selected by the Bengals, Lou Anarumo would be comfortable using him as he sees fit. 

What Merriweather must be aware of, however, is sometimes his aggressiveness can take him out of running lanes. He can be a heat-seeking missile, but if the target is running the other way, it does him no good. In that same vein, his aggressiveness is also what allows him to run down unsuspecting running backs from behind when the play flows away from him.  

Merriweather plays faster than his 4.62 40 would suggest. He has enough playing speed to run with elite receivers like Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba. And, as previously mentioned, he is quick enough to track down running backs from behind. 

The coaching staff trusted him enough to have him line up in the slot as well. In fact, in his 2020 season, Merriweather spent more time in the slot than at safety.

The Iowa coaching staff continued to use him in that capacity at times even after he took over the starting safety role. Nevertheless, think of him as strictly a safety at the NFL level. But because of his experience in the slot, that should enable him to cover tight ends and running backs in the pros. 

Perhaps the most impressive stat that he has is his 24.2 QB rating when targeted, according to NFL Draft Buzz. That is elite. 

He finished the 2022 campaign with 47 total tackles and three interceptions. Merriweather had another interception versus potential first overall pick, Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud that was called back because of a penalty. 

Right now, PFF has him as an undrafted free agent and ranks him 302 overall. However, Mock Draft Database has the safety as a seventh-rounder (247th). ESPN ranks him 265th. 

The Bengals could get a versatile player in the seventh round, or maybe even in free agency after the draft if they were to land Merriweather. Thus, helping fill a spot in the safety room left behind by Bates. Furthermore, being such a late addition would not add stress or doubt to last year’s first-round pick or this year’s free-agent pickup, Nick Scott.