Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman may be wide receiver No. 4 in this 2021 NFL Draft class, but he’s much better than that label would indicate.
It seems that every draft class is absolutely loaded at wide receiver as of late, and the 2021 NFL Draft is no different. DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and Ja’Marr Chase are all expected to be top-15 selections, and there could be 20 who are taken in the first three rounds. Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman has been overshadowed some, but that’s no fault of his own; he has all the makings of a legitimate No. 1 option at the next level, and should be a steal wherever he is selected.
Bateman had an excellent sophomore campaign while splitting targets with Tyler Johnson, who was a sixth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, far lower than most expected him to go. That season, Bateman hauled in 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging over 20 yards per reception.
He was limited to just five games in 2020 due to the Big Ten starting its season late and Bateman contracting COVID-19. The illness did a number on him, as it did to many athletes, and it was clear he didn’t have the same burst he showed in 2019. He also played at a lighter weight, weighing in at 190 pounds as opposed to the 210 pounds he was listed at. Bateman measured 6-foot while being listed at 6-foot-2, which is a significant difference but not one that drastically affects his projection. He put any long speed concerns to rest by running a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, and while his agility testing wasn’t great, his short-area quickness on tape is more than good enough.
What Bateman brings to the 2021 NFL Draft
Bateman is an outside receiver with very good route running and excellent footwork. He’s quick and agile after the catch and has a good understanding of body positioning at the catch point. He can win across the field or over the top, and has the ability to turn screens and short throws into long gains.
If there is one negative with Bateman’s game, it’s that his hands are inconsistent in contested situations. He’s made plenty of spectacular catches through contact, but there are also many catches that he didn’t make that he probably could or should have. Concentration drops can also be an issue, but this is not to say that Bateman’s hands are bad; they are typically quite good.
Cory Kinnan believes that Bateman is too good for the Cleveland Browns to pass up at pick No. 26, but in reality, he shouldn’t last anywhere near that long. He makes a lot of sense for the New England Patriots at pick No. 15, and if all three of DeVonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase, and Jaylen Waddle are off the board at that point, Bateman is good enough to go that high.
Rashod Bateman is an excellent wide receiver prospect who will likely go lower than he should. That means his NFL team will be getting an instant contributor with wide receiver No. 1 upside at a discount, which will make them very happy.