The Future: 2021 NFL Draft Prospects Rashod Bateman
Rashod Bateman has spent the last three seasons dominating at Minnesota. Coming in as a true freshman he was able to not only get on the field but make a significant impact from the moment he took a step on campus. At 6'1", 210lbs, he is a solid receiver with very good hands and the ability to consistently get open. He projects as a starting "X" receiver where I believe he can fit into any scheme but is best in a vertical passing scheme like what it utilized in Bruce Arians offense in Tampa Bay. I will touch on his hands, his ability to separate, his release, his ability to control his body and adjust to the ball, and how well he can create yards after the catch (YAC).
Hands- He has very good, almost sticky hands where he can pluck the ball out of the air. He consistently catches the ball away from his body with strong hands and rarely needs to use his body to haul in catches. His catch radius is very big which allows him to bring in throws that are off-target. He has shown that being in traffic does not affect his ability to catch the ball, especially when going across the middle of the field. Lastly, he has made some mind-blowing one handed catches that are reminiscent of Odell.
Separation Quickness- He creates separation very well to all three levels of the field. On deep routes, he shows good athletic ability, speed, and physicality at the catch point to create separation. On intermediate routes, he sets up his routes well with solid technique, double moves, and selling false breaks. His knowledge of route running is very good and the way he attacks defensive backs leverage and cushion is similar to Keenan Allen. On short routes against man, he is very good when going to the middle of the field as he uses his size and athleticism to create space. He is a polished route runner who can run an extensive route tree to get open. He knows how to find open field against zone coverage and how to attack man coverage.
Release- Bateman's release is good. He isn't the most explosive athlete off the line but he can eat up space when defensive backs are in off coverage. He is big and strong enough to beat jams with a press as well as quick enough to get skinny and beat jams. His feet are his biggest strength on his release as he can sell different fakes and get corners to bite on them. The area where he can improve upon the most is his hands. Against press, with jams, he needs to develop the ability to tie both his hands and feet together so he can consistently use both his feet and hands to beat and jam and release up the field.
Adjust/Body Control- His ability to adjust, especially in the end zone on fade routes is elite. He knows how to highpoint the ball over defenders as well as adjust to complete back-shoulder throws. On deep routes, he tracks the ball with ease over his shoulder and has a sense for the sideline to be able to keep a foot down to make the completion. His big catch radius also helps all over the field where he can come down with inaccurate throws where he needs to adjust either high, low, or behind him.
YAC- In Minnesota's offense, he was often used on screens, especially tunnel screens, where he showed the ability to get upfield quickly. He is a north/south runner when the ball is in his hands and I was surprised at how quickly he can get to his top speed. He is a very tough runner who fights for every yard and isn't afraid of contact. He has a very strong stiff arm and can be used as a runner on jet sweeps/passes. When in the open field he can make defenders miss and has good speed to outrun defenders.
The 2021 wide receiver class is elite. If Bateman were in a normal class he would most likely be a top-two receiver but with the talent of Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith, Bateman comes in at my fourth-ranked receiver and I think a team in the late teens to twenties is going to get an absolute steal of a receiver. He could end up being this year's Justin Jefferson where he lands in the best spot and can show off his talent immediately. Any team in the back end of the draft is going to hope that he falls so they could trade up for him and a team like the Saints, Packers, Ravens or Jaguars could end up trying to trade up for him. If he can develop at the next level I could see him turning into a Keenan Allen type player where he isn't the most dynamic athlete yet he will consistently be able to get open with good feet and sure hands.