After the Chargers allowed Hunter Henry to walk and eventually sign with the Patriots, they needed to fill a hole many fans thought wouldn’t be empty for another five to six years. Unfortunately, the time to replace Henry came much sooner and the Bolts were able to find a quick short-term fix in veteran Jared Cook.
But at 34 years old, this will likely be Cook’s only season with the Chargers. The team needs a long-term answer at tight end, a position that seems to be becoming more and more vital to a team’s overall success on offense which each new year that comes and goes. However, with several more important positions on the Bolts needing to be addressed early on in this year’s draft, the tight end position isn’t likely seeing a pick until day three.
One prospect in this year’s draft that I’ve been coming around on is Boise State’s John Bates. At 6’5 1⁄2 and roughly 260 pounds, Bates is a people-mover who can also make the tough catches when given the chance. If you haven’t seen any of him up to this point, give the video below a watch. You’ll see just how impactful Bates can be without needing the ball in his hands.
TE John Bates from @BroncoSportsFB is one of my favorites/sleepers. Was at @seniorbowl last week - needs more buzz!— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 5, 2021
Long, Balanced Athlete
Efficient In-Line Blocker
Special Teams Ace
Here’s a few blocks that caught my eye pic.twitter.com/YoYb6PNgoe
Bates is more of a traditional Y-tight end that mainly stays connected on the line of scrimmage next to the offensive tackle. While his athleticism is good enough to use him flexed out in the slot, he works best from the in-line position when he’s able to work leverage angles against linebackers and box safeties. He’s got a knack for setting up second-level defenders and this helps him find the soft spots in zone, especially the Cover 2 honey holes up the season.
Notre Dame’s Ian Book starting to rip it. Nice throw from the pocket to Boise State TE John Bates.— Boom or Bust: The Draft Show (@BoomOrBustDraft) January 28, 2021
One of Book’s weaknesses is he isn’t decisive enough but on 3 straight snaps delivered the ball quickly and accurately. Good sign for Book’s draft stockpic.twitter.com/rOR8KyteoJ
Over his four-year career with the Broncos, Bates started 28 games out of the 45 total that he played in. His best season came during his junior season in 2019 when he recorded career-highs of 22 receptions and 273 receiving yards to go with a lone touchdown. For his efforts, he was named an honorable mention All-Mountain West selection. Overall, he finished his career with 47 total receptions for 579 yards and two touchdowns.
Now this isn’t a selection the Chargers should make with the thought of filling the future void at TE1. Bates would be brought in as a developmental player with high upside in the blocking department. Two tight end sets are becoming all the rage and it would be a phenomenal boost to the red zone offense if the Bolts were able to have two to three tight ends all capable of getting the job done when called upon.
If I had to guess, I’d say next year is the right time for the Chargers to find an early round tight end, but this is a prime draft for them to find the guy to provide solid depth at the position for the foreseeable future.