2021 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Rashod Bateman (Fantasy Football)
Four-time Olympic gold medalist and track and field star Jesse Owens once said: “In the end, it’s the extra effort that separates a winner from second place. But winning takes a lot more than that, too. It starts with complete command of the fundamentals.”
When looking at this 2021 rookie class, a wide receiver that exemplifies “winning with fundamentals” is Rashod Bateman. While not profiling as the fastest or most athletic receiver, Bateman possesses sound route-running and skill that make him just as dangerous as the more explosive Ja’Marr Chase. Taking into account his size, advanced skill set, and impressive market share numbers at a young age, Bateman projects as one of the more complete WRs in this loaded 2021 class.
Let’s dive in!
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2021 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the brand-new UDK+ for 2021.
College Production Profile
Coming out of Tift County High School (GA), Rashod Bateman received offers from schools such as Ole Miss and Georgia before eventually committing to the Golden Gophers. Bateman would prove to be an immediate contributor, accumulating 704 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns in his first year at Minnesota. Accounting for 27% of his team’s receiving production as a true freshman, he broke out at an age of 18.8, placing him in the 95th percentile among all WRs in PlayerProfiler’s database.
As a Sophomore, despite playing behind Tyler Johnson, Bateman would have an even better year. He improved his receiving yards (37%) and receiving touchdowns (35%) market share while increasing his total yards by 73% on only 9 more touches. He would lead the CFB with 46 catches on throws 10+ yards downfield, while also averaging the most yards per route run (3.6) when lined up out wide. He would finish his Sophomore year being voted as a first-team All-Big Ten player alongside Jonathan Taylor, J.K. Dobbins, and fellow teammate Tyler Johnson.
While there were some concerns as to whether Bateman would even play in 2020, he would eventually opt-in and play five games for the Gophers. He operated as a true focal point of the offense, setting a career-high in dominator rating with 47% while leading the team in total receiving yards. What I absolutely love about Bateman’s production profile is that he not only improved every single year but also broke out at an extremely young age. While DeVonta Smith and Ja’Marr Chase sit atop most draft boards, I believe Bateman’s impressive profile puts him in the conversation as a top-3 receiver in this talented class.
40-yard dash (HS)
Coming out of high school, Bateman weighed in at 185 pounds while measuring a little under 6’2”. In his college career, he would add nearly 25 lbs, making him one of the more NFL-ready receivers in this draft class. His size was extremely evident in his film, often using his physicality to win in contested and tight coverage. Per 247 Sports, Bateman ran a 4.40 40-yard dash in high school, which is mind-blowing considering his physical stature. At his current measurements, his weight-adjusted speed score would be roughly 112.1, which would place him at around the 91st percentile among all wide receivers. Something to note, however, is that Bateman did not always display blazing speed in his college film, which makes me think that his 40-yard dash could have been slightly inflated. I still expect him to clock no worse than 4.50, which is still relatively impressive given his size. Couple his physical profile with his production metrics and I would not be surprised if Bateman turns out to be one of the more successful receivers in this class.
What’s on Tape
If you followed along with my weekly Dynasty Report, you might already be familiar with my film-evaluation process. In short, I try to watch 4-to-6 games per player, analyzing every snap in each of those games. Let’s dive into Rashod Bateman’s tape and analyze how productive he can be for fantasy managers.
Games Viewed: Penn State (2019), Purdue (2019), Northwestern (2019), Iowa (2020), Maryland (2020)
1. Rashod Bateman is a route technician.
When you watch Bateman on the field, one trait that immediately stands out is his advanced route running. He is extremely efficient and intentional with his footwork, using timely movements to manipulate his defender. Bateman also does an outstanding job of selling multiple routes to deceive the defense before executing his move. Oftentimes, it’s the quick jab steps and hesitations that allow him to easily gain separation against opposing DBs. Furthermore, Bateman showcased a diverse route tree in the five games that I reviewed, proving that he is not just a “slant receiver” or “deep threat.” So whether he lines up out wide or in the slot, Bateman has a variety of ways to shake his defender. Below is just one of the many examples of his deceptive route running. He fakes the slant to force the DB to commit to the middle of the field. As soon as the defender turns his hips, he smoothly transitions to an out route for the wide-open reception.
2. Bateman has the football IQ and athleticism to beat man, press, or zone coverage.
While Bateman does not have the elite athleticism of some of the other prospects in this class, he makes up for it with his sharp football IQ and his physical play. Simply put, he knows how to get open regardless of the coverage. As I mentioned above, his proficient route running and ability to bait defenders allow him to gain separation versus man coverage. His size also gives him an edge against some of the more physical defenders. What impressed me the most is how often he was open against the zone, routinely finding the soft/blind spot in the defense. Knowing how to effectively and consistently get open is just as important as Bateman’s athleticism and skill, which makes him a true threat regardless of the defense in front of him.
3. While his bread and butter are the short and intermediate routes, Bateman also excelled as a downfield threat in college.
Bateman should excel as a possession receiver at the next level, but he can be much more than that. Per PFF, Bateman had the 3rd most 25+ yard receptions (15) in 2019 among all WRs from this draft class, pacing only behind Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith. While several of those receptions were likely due to his YAC ability, there were plenty of examples in his tape where he displayed his physical and deep threat prowess. In his 2019 season, per PFF, Bateman caught 10 of his 16 contested targets that traveled 10 or more yards, proving that he can beat defenders with both his skill and size. His ability to high-point and track the ball despite tight coverage indicates that he can be more than just a possession receiver. If you couple his physical play with his deceptive route running, Bateman can beat a defense in a variety of ways no matter where he is on the field.
What’s NOT on Tape
1. At times, Bateman lacked consistency and effort as a blocker.
Bateman does not have any glaring weaknesses, so I’m nitpicking here. However, there were a handful of instances where Bateman could have been more engaged during the play. This was primarily evident in the run and screen game when he was asked to block for the offense. At times, Bateman would give up on the block even though the play was not quite over. His inconsistency was certainly not due to a lack of skill or size. There were plenty of examples where he leveraged his frame and toughness as a blocker to create opportunities for his teammates. At 6’2” and 210 lbs, Bateman should have the size to block effectively at the next level, assuming he puts in consistent effort into each and every play.
2. Bateman does not have elite acceleration, like a Jaylen Waddle or Rondale Moore.
I mentioned this previously, but Bateman is not a burner who will beat defenders with blazing speed. Instead, he relies on and excels in his subtle movements to break down a defense. Now this certainly is not a tremendous knock on his game as his projected speed score makes him one of the fastest players relative to his size. But there were a couple of times in his tape where he had the angle against the DB, but could not quite accelerate to get around the edge. While I do not believe that Bateman will ever be the most athletic player on the field, he should have plenty of speed and burst to get open with his route running. And if a DB is able to keep up with Bateman, we saw plenty of examples where tight coverage did not deter him from making the reception.
2021 Fantasy Outlook
To summarize, Bateman possesses one of the most impressive production profiles in this talented WR class while also displaying the fundamentals to beat the defense in a variety of ways. And the more I dig into his profile, the more I believe that Bateman is truly one of the most complete and NFL-ready receivers in this draft. If he were to land on a team such as the Eagles, Dolphins, or Packers, three teams who would provide Bateman with plenty of opportunity, I truly believe he can be an immediate contributor for fantasy managers.
For dynasty purposes, his ADP is hovering around WR5 in rookie drafts. In 1 QB leagues, Bateman could theoretically be available as a late first-round pick. In a SuperFlex league, he might even slip into the second round. While I do expect that ADP to change slightly if he landed in a favorable spot, I do not see Bateman going above both Chase and Smith in most rookie drafts. If we factor in Kyle Pitts and potentially three RBs going ahead of him, Bateman is shaping up to be a value in dynasty leagues considering his potential as a high floor and high ceiling receiver at the next level.