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Rashod Bateman is quietly off to a hot start

Despite missing the first five games after groin surgery, Bateman is ready to make noise.

The Baltimore Ravens selected wide receiver Rashod Bateman with their first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Bateman, a fan favorite throughout “draft season”, seemed like the perfect wideout to pair alongside Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown. Andrews is a powerful and determined force in the middle of the field that has acted as quarterback Lamar Jackson’s security blanket and biggest red zone threat for the Ravens. Brown is a lightning quick jitterbug with outstanding nuance in his breaks at the stem of routes and some of the best deep tracking ability in the sport. Bateman brings balance between the two.

Brown doesn’t possess the size to shield the ball from defenders or play above the rim. Andrews lacks weakness in the receiving game as a tight end/big slot but doesn’t possess the speed to blow the doors off of deep coverage and is usually taken away by competent defenses forcing Jackson to look elsewhere.

Insert Bateman, who thrives against any variation of coverage and has the size to play above the rim and make tough catches over the middle of the field. He also has the speed to make defensive backs respect his ability to run by them, yet the nuance and change of direction ability to suddenly throttle down and work the blind spots of defensive backs. The former Minnesota Golden Gopher is a threat at all three levels of the field and can work on the boundary or in the slot, outside the numbers or between them. He’s bigger than Brown and takes pressure off of Andrews. Bateman is Goldilocks for the Ravens — just right.

While he’s yet to find the end zone, he’s been an extremely successful receiver on a per-target basis and in terms of moving the chains. While the sample size is small, the Ravens first-round pick is off to a hot start, despite the fact that he missed the majority of training camp, the entire preseason and Baltimore’s first five contests after groin surgery due to an injury.

The rookie has been über successful considering his late arrival and being only three months removed from groin surgery. Bateman spoke about how the surgery has impacted his game on The Lounge Podcast.

“It just takes me a little bit longer to get warmed up now, I’m much more detailed. . . Since my surgery, my body is not what it was before surgery. I’m doing everything I possibly can to make it through the year before I can basically go back to get the hard training that I need and get an offseason with the Ravens.”

It had to be a meticulous challenge for both Bateman and the Ravens training/coaching staff; being patient enough to ensure that Bateman was healthy enough to make his injury and surgery was a thing of the past. Would Bateman be eased into the Ravens lineup? How significant was the injury? Would he be able to stay healthy moving forward? Organically, all of these inquires come to mind.

The result? Only Brown has played more snaps among the Ravens’ wide receivers, with Bateman on the field for 196 out of the Ravens 313 offensive plays over the four games he’s been active. That includes 139 of their 198 passing plays (70.2%). Coming off of surgery as a rookie, that’s a high percentage.

Bateman delightfully checks every box. His intelligence, effort, hustle and creativity after the catch have been a pleasure to watch. He’s been excellent on broken plays this year, and hustles to work the scramble drill.

As things stand, Baltimore finds themselves 6-3 headed to play a Chicago team that could be without Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson, Eddie Jackson and Akiem Hicks. Jackson’s status is in question with an illness that has lingered throughout the week. Brown is out for the first time this season due to a thigh injury. The Ravens are currently five-point favorites on the road despite coming off of a somewhat shocking loss to the Dolphins.

In order to propel forward down the stretch, which includes five divisional games as well as the 7-3 Rams and 8-2 Packers, Bateman be among the most important factors that will determine if the Ravens make it to the postseason. There’s a lot of football left, and with each game, Bateman seems to grow more confident. It would be quite surprising if the rookie doesn’t set the franchise mark for receiving yards and receptions. Those marks are currently held by Torrey Smith (50 receptions for 841 yards in 2011).

It’s far too early for closing remarks on whether or not 2021 draft picks are “good picks” or “busts.” With that in mind, pleasantly, Bateman has shown the early return of an impact player with the capacity to be a foundational piece moving forward.

He is here, now.