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Super Sophomore: Who is Washington's Best-Kept Secret?

Why last year's fourth-round pick in the NFL Draft could be a hero in 2022

In the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Washington Commanders selected Boise State tight end John Bates. 

Expected to increase his position group's ability to contribute to blocking schemes, Bates not only held his own in that area of the game but also stepped up in the wake of mounting injuries to turn in 20 catches for 249 yards and one touchdown. 

John Bates, TE, Washington Football Team, Commanders
John Bates, Tight End, Washington Football Team
Washington Football Team Commanders Tight End, John Bates

Not record-setting or enough to warrant using a high-round fantasy football draft pick on necessarily, but the supposed one-dimensional tight end proved to be much more versatile than anyone expected. 

In fact, many would say Bates was the best draft pick of Washington's entire class after year one. 

Despite being the third tight end on the depth chart to start the year he finished as the team's seventh-leading receiver, enough to make him Washington's best-kept secret, according to Bleacher Report

"The Commanders could tap into Bates' potential in a pass-catching role as (Logan) Thomas goes into his age-31 term following an injury-riddled campaign," says the site. "Which may usher in a changing of the guard at the position."

Logan Thomas' situation could contribute to Bates' status here more than anything. 

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Missing 11 games last season - the NFL's first featuring 17 regular-season games, Thomas' status as a contributor can only be listed as 'unknown' as they enter this next chapter with quarterback, Carson Wentz. 

While his ability on the field is known, it's Thomas' availability that presents cause for concern.

John Bates, Washington Commanders, TE, Football Team
WFT, TE, John Bates, Washington Commanders
Washington Commanders Helmet, 2022

It's also likely one reason behind the team selecting Nevada tight end Cole Turner in the fifth round of this year's NFL Draft. 

A much more polished receiver coming out of college than Bates, the two young tight ends present opportunities to find long-term solutions at the position that Thomas can't fill well beyond 2022, even if he's healthy this season. 

On a team without many areas for outsiders to point to with admiration, the Washington Commanders' tight end room is stocked with proven veteran talent and leadership, and younger players who have thus far shown a lot of promise to contribute well beyond the upcoming NFL season. 

And, the ability of Bates and his teammates to step up for his team this year will help significantly in deciding the future of the team's quarterback position.