The 2021 NFL Draft is inching closer and closer and it is full of promising prospects at positions of need for the Baltimore Ravens.
Rashod Bateman is the fourth of the professional comparison series for wide receivers that they could target in the early rounds.
Pro comparison: DeAndre Hopkins
At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, the former Minnesota Golden Gopher is not only built like the 6-foot-1 and 212-pound three-time All Pro wideout of the Arizona Cardinals. His style of play on the gridiron resembles the five-time Pro Bowl pass-catcher as well.
Despite Bateman’s reported sub 4.4 time in the 40 yard dash at his Pro Day, neither are considered speedsters but they both can get behind defenses with crisp route running and possess enough speed to run away from defenders once they have the ball in their hands.
Both players excel at beating press coverage off the line of scrimmage with their releases, gaining separation at the top of their route, and making contested catches with defenders tight in coverage. They are also proficient at fighting through contact to come back to and come down with underthrown and 50/50 balls.
A lack in elite vertical speed was a knock on Hopkins coming out of college and caused him to fall to the bottom of the first round in 2013 where the Houston Texans scooped him up. Bateman is not being valued as high Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle for the very same reasons this year.
However, speed isn’t everything as Hopkins and others of his ilk such as Keenan Allen have proved in recent memory. They can be just as explosive and even more productive than many of their peers that were drafted higher than them simply because they ran better times in the 40-yard dash.
Two more similar traits that both Bateman and Hopkins share are that they are just as dangerous running routes out of the slot as they are out wide, and their run-after-catch ability.
Last season was Bateman’s first lining up in the slot predominantly. Even though he only appeared in five games after originally opting out of the season, he averaged nearly 100 receiving yards per game and eclipsed the century mark three times.
What they lack is straight-line speed, they more than make up for with lateral quickness and agility. It shows up when they make the first defender miss and weave through traffic to turn slants into chunk plays. They both are large catch radius receivers and specialize in making the spectacular snag look routine.
Despite playing with a carousel of subpar quarterbacks early in his career, Hopkins hit the ground running when he came into the league and quickly established himself as one of the most complete, consistent, and productive receivers in the game.
Bateman will likely not have the luxury of being groomed by a future Hall of Famer at his position to start his career as Hopkins had with Andre Johnson. However, if drafted by the Ravens, he would be paired with a young MVP-winning quarterback from day one in Lamar Jackson.
Bateman would fit the Ravens’ need for a dynamic ‘X’ receiver perfectly. Hopkins was selected 27th overall out of Clemson and General Manager Eric DeCosta just so happens to hold the same pick in this year’s draft.
Hopefully, history will repeat itself if Bateman falls in their lap in round one come April. If DeCosta lands Bateman, Jackson will have another dangerous weapon at his disposal for years to come.