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NFL Draft

John Bates: 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview Series

  • The Draft Network
  • March 21, 2021
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The 2021 NFL Draft features an exciting tight end class, full of talented playmakers with a wide range of skill sets. That could lead to some promising prospects still being available later than usual, giving teams fantastic value at the position in the later rounds.

One prospect who could end up being a gem in this year’s class? Boise State’s John Bates.

Bates is a well-rounded prospect who was utilized as more of a blocking tight end for the Broncos but flashed his untapped potential as a pass-catcher at this year’s Senior Bowl. He spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his experience in Mobile, Alabama, which NFL quarterback he would love to catch a pass from, and what kind of impact he’ll make at the next level.

JM: You were a three-sport athlete in high school, participating in track and field and basketball in addition to football. How did playing those two sports make you a better football player?

JB: Playing different sports works different parts of your body. Being a three-sport athlete definitely made me a better football player. Basketball works every single part of your body. You’re working on jumping to get a rebound which directly correlates to leaping and high-pointing the football.

When it comes to track, it improved my speed and also worked on my ability to jump high. It just helped me so much in general. I get a lot of my qualities as a football player from the other sports I participated in during my high school career. It made a huge difference in the long run.

JM: There’s no doubt about that. You had a terrific week at the Senior Bowl. You really stood out down there. What was that experience like?

JB: That was an amazing experience. I welcomed the opportunity to play against the best competition out there. I tried to go down there and put my best foot forward. I thought I had a strong week. It was great to be surrounded by the best players in the country. I made the most of it. I think I proved that I could be a dual-threat tight end at the next level. I can work both in the running game and as a pass-catching threat. I had a great time in Mobile. I tried to showcase my skill-set. It was an amazing experience.

JM: I thought you had a great week as a pass-catcher in Mobile. That was probably something all 32 NFL teams wanted to see after you didn’t get a ton of opportunities in the passing game at Boise State.

JB: I thought I showed my ability to get open and stretch the field. I made plays whenever the ball came my way. Being a tight end, it’s important that you’re able to both run block and catch passes. 

You may not run a route on every single play so it’s important for you to hold your own as a run blocker too. But when you get an opportunity to make plays in the passing game, you have to be able to do so. In some cases, we don’t get a ton of those opportunities, so we have to capitalize on them when those balls do come our way. I thought I did a good job of making the big play at the Senior Bowl.

JM: You’re an impressive athlete. I personally believe that you have a lot of untapped potential as a pass-catcher, but you were utilized as more of a blocker at Boise State. Why do you think that is?

JB: When I first got there, I really worked hard to become a better run blocker. It was something I hadn’t really done before and I had to get good at it in order to play in our offense. I got really good at it. I worked hard to excel as a run blocker. Being at the point of attack is super important for a tight end. That’s where the run game is won and lost. If you want to win a rep in the run game, the big block has to come at the point of attack. That’s how you spring a hole open for your running back to run through. 

My coaches put our running backs in a position to run behind me on a pretty consistent basis. That eventually led to opportunities in the play-action game. We made big plays down the field that way. That’s how the coaching staff decided to utilize me.

JM: That makes a lot of sense. Do you have a favorite moment in a Boise State jersey?

JB: Winning the Mountain West championship in 2017 and 2019 were probably my favorite moments. There aren’t a lot of players around the nation that can say they won a conference championship, let alone two of them. Those were two very special moments for me. We put in a lot of work. It was nice to see all of that hard work come to fruition alongside your teammates. That was truly special.

JM: That’s great. What’s your favorite part of playing the tight end position?

JB: I really love the physicality that comes with it. That’s probably my favorite part. You know you’re going to do it all while playing the tight end position. We’re going to run routes and catch balls, but we also get to put our hand in the dirt and get physical at the line of scrimmage as well. That’s the best aspect of it. We get to physically impose our will on someone. We also get to run routes and catch touchdowns. Everything we do is physical.

JM: I love that. If you could catch a pass from any quarterback in the NFL, who would it be and why?

JB: I think it’s pretty easy to say Tom Brady, right? (laughs). He’s the greatest to ever do it. To play with a QB like that would be special for anybody. It would be awesome to play alongside somebody like that. I would have to say Tom Brady.

JM: You met with every team at the Senior Bowl. Have you been busy with virtual meetings since then?

JB: I’ve met with a few teams via Zoom and telephone. I can’t go into any specifics, but I’ve had some great conversations so far. I’m receiving some great feedback. Teams really liked me at the Senior Bowl. We’re headed in the right direction. I can’t wait to see what happens come draft weekend.

JM: That’s good news. I’ve appreciated your time today, John. In closing, why should an NFL team use one of their draft picks on John Bates?

JB: You’re getting a versatile tight end when you draft John Bates. You don’t see a lot of that in the NFL anymore. I’m a tight end that can get dirty in the run game, and can also run a route and stretch the field in the passing game. I’m going to be really good in both aspects. I know how to win. When I get to an organization, I completely commit myself to that program. I’m all in on everything that I do.

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