5 best No. 54 overall picks in NFL Draft history: Browns can find a stud

The 54th pick in the NFL Draft has had some success stories
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3. Jessie Bates, S, Wake Forest (Cincinnati Bengals, 2018)

Another Cincinnati pick at No. 54 that turned out well came in 2018. That year, they took Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates III. Known for being a ball hawk for the Demon Deacons, Bates was also a capable punt returner.

In his redshirt sophomore season, Bates had nearly 18 yards per punt return and ran one back for a touchdown.

That proved to be his final collegiate season as well and Bates declared for the NFL Draft with just two years of playing experience. That lack of time on the field wasn't an issue, however.

As a rookie, Bates started all 16 games for the Bengals and had 111 tackles, seven pass defenses, and three picks. He put up triple-digit tackles in each of the next two seasons and had 479 along with 14 interceptions in five years for Cincinnati. 

He then hit the open market in 2023 and the Atlanta Falcons broke out the checkbook. The veteran safety signed a four-year, $64.02 million deal with the Dirty Birds, who landed a game-changer for the back end of their secondary.

Bates earned his second All-Pro appointment in his first season with Atlanta after putting up 132 tackles and six picks — both career-highs.