Any list of underrated NFL players better place Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates III at or near the top.
During his first three seasons, the former second-round pick has proven that he's a playmaking force on the back end of the Bengals defense, owning hella range in coverage and the ability to play downhill against the run. He's the ideal safety for the modern game: a ballhawk unafraid to make hits, who can line up all over the field without being a liability anywhere.
The 24-year-old is in line for a massive pay raise as one of the top safeties in the game. After Jamal Adams, Harrison Smith and Justin Simmons got paid this year, the price tag on Bates is only going up.
"I wish it would have gotten done, obviously," Bates said Monday, per SI.com. "They got Sam (Hubbard) done. I was hoping to be the next guy up. But like I said, it is what it is. I'm going to play my part. I'm going to be a captain of this team, and next year, we'll see what happens."
It's little surprise the perennially stingy Bengals haven't yet backed up the Brink's Truck for Bates. But the cost is only going to go north the longer the club waits. The franchise tag could be in his future if sides can't agree on a long-term deal before next offseason.
"I think I'm going to continue to show it with my play and be a little pissed off, for sure," he said. "That's kind of how I've been my whole life, honestly. I haven't really been a big name. Some of the people that were my people probably didn't believe I would make it this far. That's why my slogan is 'Just Believe.' It's going to continue to be that. We're going to see, like I said, what happens next year."
The made-in-a-lab safety generated 109 tackles, three INTs, and 15 PBUs last season, also earning Pro Football Focus' top grade at the position. In Sunday's season-opening win over Minnesota, Bates led Cincy with nine tackles.
If you're not a fan familiar with Bates: Do so. One way or another, he'll be one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL before long.