Prospect Preview: Rashod Bateman

Position: WRWeight: 210
College: MinnesotaAge: 21
Height: 6′ 2″247 Rating: 4 Stars (0.8914)

By Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

In a class full of talent, especially at the wide receiver position, it’s hard for a prospect to truly stand out among the rest. DeVonta Smith won the Heisman Trophy this past year and Ja’Marr Chase was key to one of the most prolific offenses in college history, there’s a spotlight on the top receivers in this class. Rashod Bateman meanwhile is flying under the radar, despite being one of the better receivers in this class. He’s not flashy, but that may be his best asset.

College Production:

Last week I talked about Rondale Moore and how he dominated as a freshman. Bateman showed up his freshman year at Minnesota and established himself as a top receiver with 51 receptions for 704 yards and 6 touchdowns. His sophomore season he set school records with 60 receptions for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns, leading to a selection as the Big 10 Receiver of the Year. He initially opted out of the 2020 season but came back for 5 games and performed well.

Strengths:

  • Route Running
    • Possibly the best route runner of the class, Bateman’s routes are well-varied and constantly catch cornerbacks out of position. His routes all start the same and the cornerbacks’ guess is as good as the fan’s in the stands. His release off the line is nearly unstoppable and he has a variety of moves he uses to get the defender on his heels. Once he gets off the line the separation he creates is nearly instantaneous, allowing him to find the ball quickly and effectively. This should transition very well into the NFL.
  • Magnet Hands
    • Bateman doesn’t drop many passes. If it’s within reach (and he has a good catch radius) he’s usually able to snag the ball. His hands are soft and he does very well to secure the ball across the middle of the field and complete the catch regardless of contact or the traffic around him.
  • Pro-Ready
    • Bateman’s skillset of route-running, technique, and on the field IQ make him one of the most pro-ready players in the entire draft. He’s the most likely to make an immediate impact at the next level and is someone you could feel comfortable about starting Week 1 if needed.

Weaknesses:

  • Average Athleticism
    • Bateman isn’t going to test the speed of the defense very often. He gets compared to Michael Thomas for his tendency to work the short and intermediate areas of the field. Possibly the next “Slant Boy” that doesn’t necessarily mean you should look at his potential in a negative light. Bateman is a volume receiver and I expect any team that drafts him will understand that. In PPR leagues, Bateman could quickly become a top option.
  • Lack of YAC
    • He may catch a lot of balls, but he’s going to need more than most players to reach the same pinnacles of receiving yardage. Though he averaged 20 yards per catch his sophomore season, Bateman profiles as a player who is more likely to keep an average of around 13 yards per catch at the next level. It’s not that he can’t be explosive, it’s just that being a player who does most of his damage on slants and more technical routes, he’s not usually three steps behind the defense or catching a screen with green grass to work with.
  • Not Flashy
    • Being that Bateman won’t shine with his testing numbers and that he doesn’t have a ton of big “SportsCenter Top 10” plays,  he’s being undervalued in comparison to the rest of the top wideouts in the draft class. This may be a weakness for his overall draft stock, but this is something you can take advantage of as he falls to the end of 1st rounds or even into the second. No matter where you pick him up in your rookie draft, I imagine it will be at good value.

Things to Watch:

Many people will be interested in seeing Bateman’s 40-yard dash time at the Minnesota Pro Day. But I don’t expect anything special, and it doesn’t really matter. What we see on film is a receiver who doesn’t win on speed and uses technique and savvy to get open down the field. If he runs a 4.6 nobody should start dropping him down rankings, it doesn’t change a thing. Also in the same vein if he comes out and runs a 4.4, it doesn’t change much for me either, he’s still exactly what we see on tape.

Projected Round/Contract:

Some people will say Bateman is a first round pick, and I could see it happening, but I’m more likely to bet on Bateman slotting in just short of the first round at the top of the second. While it may hurt his stock to be a Day 2 pick, he’s a player like Tee Higgins ($1,974,270) last year who didn’t have the hype of the offseason leading up to the Draft and went under the radar. It doesn’t take away his immense talent and pro-ready skillset. I expect his contract to be similar to Higgins at around 4-years and $8,686,785. This could give Bateman great value in rookie drafts on the Dynasty Owner platform.

Team Fits:

The first team that comes to mind for Bateman is the New York Jets at the 34th overall pick. Whether or not they keep Sam Darnold ($9,794,271) or draft a new quarterback at #2 overall, the offense could use plenty of help. Bateman would fit well with the current group of wide receivers there and would help any quarterback succeed. He’s a pro-ready player for a team that simply just needs more pro players. The Jets don’t have the opportunity to mess around with project players and how they develop, Bateman gives them someone who they can start Day 1, and truly help them rebuild their team.

Another landing spot I quite like is Philadelphia Eagles at 37 overall. If the Eagles pass on one of the top receivers at #6 overall I believe there’s a really good chance that they take one on Day 2. Bateman once again fits right into the offense and would compliment Jalen Reagor ($3,016,063) well. Bateman’s ability to get open quickly and find soft spots in the zone could work wonders for Jalen Hurts development as a passer. Bateman projects well as a safety blanket on any offense.

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