The Baltimore Ravens added to their passing game in a major way Thursday night, selecting Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman with the No. 27 overall pick. PFF’s 17th-ranked player on the Big Board, Bateman stands out as one of the more pro-ready outside receivers in a class filled with Mickey Mouse-esque slot types.
What follows is a breakdown of what made Bateman a first-round prospect, whether he fits the mold of a great fantasy football WR, as well as what we should expect from him and this Ravens offense in 2021.
View PFF's 2021 NFL Draft position rankings:
Bateman has the look of a true No. 1 WR
PFF stated the following about Bateman in our 2021 Draft Guide:
“I'll take the chance on physical receivers who are gifted route-runners all day, every day. There is nothing to suggest that Bateman — who led the country in yards per route from an outside alignment as a sophomore — won't continue that success at the NFL level. While he played more in the slot this past season in order to see more schemed targets, Bateman can win as a true “X” receiver. His timed speed may not be excellent, but that didn't stop him from hauling in 14 deep passes in 2019.”
Bateman earned a Keenan Allen pro comparison thanks in large part to his never-ending supply of releases. True top-end speed might not be readily available, but it’s reasonable to expect him to overcome this thanks to his already polished route-running ability. We’re looking at a player who gets you pumped when the WR-CB isolation cam appears on TV.
Minnesota's Rashod Bateman (6-2, 210) is an advanced route-runner with strong hands in open and contested-catch situations.
He’s not a rare athlete, but he still creates separation quickly at and away from the LOS — very smart football player and likely top-50 pick. pic.twitter.com/lInR8uwWhp
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) January 8, 2021
The Ravens have needed someone like Bateman — a true alpha receiver capable of getting open at will against man coverage. He’ll need to work on drops; 19 on 166 career catchable targets is unacceptable. Still, as we saw with Diontae Johnson and Jerry Jeudy in 2020, drops can often be more of a sign that a player is getting open a lot as opposed to a true indictment of their ability to catch the ball.
Further helping matters for Bateman is the reality that his draft position has historically produced fantasy-friendly first-year receivers.
WRs aren’t drafted in the first round to sit on the bench
Since 2010, only two rookie WRs have been drafted outside of the first three rounds who finished as a top-24 PPR performer: Mike Williams (the Tampa Bay one) and Tyreek Hill. The latter player undoubtedly would've been a Day 1 selection if it weren't for off-field issues, while the former benefited from incumbent No. 1 WR Antonio Bryant’s retirement.
Keenan Allen is the only third-round WR to thrive as a rookie. The rest were second-round selections or better. The one thing the group (generally) has in common is the reality that each WR is extremely talented and went on to post multiple great seasons:
- Williams (sort of)
- A.J. Green
- Julio Jones
- Odell Beckham Jr.
- Mike Evans
- Kelvin Benjamin
- Amari Cooper
- Michael Thomas
- JuJu Smith-Schuster
- Calvin Ridley
- A.J. Brown
- Justin Jefferson
- Chase Claypool
- CeeDee Lamb
The 2020 WR class was touted as one of the best in recent memory. They accordingly make up 19% of this list; just realize it’s rarer to see first-year pass-catchers rise up to the top of their teams' depth charts compared to rookie RBs.
Of course, volume is usually the primary concern with expecting a big debut campaign from any rookie receiver, and Bateman could have some issues in this department in a sneaky-crowded Ravens passing game.
Expect Bateman to be a better real-life player than fantasy asset in 2021
The Ravens have ranked No. 1 in rush attempts in back-to-back seasons with Lamar Jackson as their full-time starter. Mark Andrews (98 targets in 2019, 88 in 2020) and Marquise Brown (71 in 2019, 100 in 2020) have been the only players to see even 50 targets in a season since then. Willie Snead IV and Dez Bryant are out of the picture, but the Sammy Watkins signing looms large, and 2020 third-round pick Devin Duvernay also figures to see more snaps.
I’ll largely be fading Bateman based on projected volume — not because of Jackson’s passing ability. If anything, adding Bateman to the equation could get Jackson closer to his 2019 efficiency levels through the air. Either way, your unironic RB playing QB jokes are incorrect and old.
Lamar Jackson throwing the football pic.twitter.com/OAN73s2ZhE
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) April 21, 2021
Bateman is a fine late-round target, particularly in best-ball formats, where we don’t need to worry about his weekly volume as much. It’s just generally good practice to not reach on anybody involved in a crowded passing game who regularly takes a backseat inside of the league’s most run-heavy offense.