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Why Rashod Bateman? Harmony and balance

The former Golden Gopher will be an exciting weapon for Lamar Jackson

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens nabbed Rashod Bateman with the No. 27 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Bateman, a versatile receiver from the University of Minnesota, is the well-rounded pass catcher Baltimore has sorely needed over the past few years. Marquise Brown is an electric, twitchy, speed receiver with a limited catch radius. Miles Boykin is a long, leggy vertical threat who blocks his tail off rep after rep. Devin Duvernay is a vertical threat who can run away or through defenders. With the additions of Sammy Watkins and now Rashod Bateman, the Ravens (finally) have a diverse, well-rounded receiver room that will give opposing defenses matchup problems.

Where Bateman (and Watkins) help specifically, is the ability to win when isolated in formations. An excerpt from Pro Football Focus:

“Furthermore, and this is where we get back to the isolation route aspect, teams are living in these two-high worlds and not respecting whoever is lined up as that isolated receiver. The Ravens threw 77 times in formations where there was an isolated receiver in 2020, including a nub tight end, and only seven of them went to that isolated player. Four of them were on drag routes coming back to the other side of the field, so we can even eliminate those from our count. That leaves three Marquise Brown true isolation routes during the whole season. The Ravens don’t have a guy who they can count on in these situations.”

Defenses started using shallow two-high structures to attack the Ravens run game, while dedicating 10 players to crowding the middle of the field, without respecting iso receivers. Enter Rashod Bateman. The former Golden Gopher can beat single coverage and is able to defeat press, off coverage and anything in between. Rashod is a highly intelligent receiver who attacks blind spots, doesn’t give away his routes and can make a wide variety of routes look eerily similar before he breaks. Bateman was no stranger to being the isolated, on-ball receiver for Minnesota.

Bateman’s ability to sink his hips and explode when he breaks at the stem of routes creates consistent separation. He’s a thoroughly polished route runner for a 21-year-old. Functioning in the shallow, intermediate and deep areas of the field, Bateman has had success over the middle of the field as well as outside the numbers. Against off single or match coverage, Rashod can absolutely smoke defenders on double moves.

Bateman can play inside (76% of his 2020 snaps) or outside (71% of his 2019 snaps). His release package is diverse and allows him to attack coverage in a variety of ways. This is reminiscent of Justin Jefferson, who spent the majority of his 2018 on the boundary before spending 2019 in the slot, which made him pro-ready as he entered the NFL. Modeling his game after Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams and Keenan Allen, Bateman brings immediate professional level balance regardless of alignment or assignment. With pace variation, agility and flexibility, Bateman will be one of the more polished route runners to enter the NFL in quite some time.

At 6-foot-0, 198 pounds with a 76-inch wingspan, Bateman had enough size and length to win vertically or in contested situations. He’s comfortable taking shots over the middle of the field, showing the ability to consistently adjust to poor ball placement. Bateman sinks his hips about as well as any receiver, which allow him flatten out routes and create difficult transitions for defensive backs while he works back to the ball. He keeps his toes low to the grass as he’s breaking which minimizes drag and maximizes the efficiency of his movement.

Bateman plays with nuance in his release, his set up, stems then breaks. Scouting report after scouting report questioned speed. What many failed to realize was Bateman’s “run through the catch” speed. He’s a natural hands catcher who plucks the ball out of the air and doesn’t feel the need to slow down at the catch point. This maximizes his ability to gain yards after the catch, where he also excels. Sometimes this results in the occasional drop. Receivers drop passes, especially when given a high target volume. Among the NFL drop leaders, per Sports Info Solutions: D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Diontae Johnson, Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill, Jerry Jeudy, Ceedee Lamb, Marquise Brown, D.J. Moore, Chase Claypool, Tyler Lockett, Mike Evans and Calvin Ridley. Each had seven or more drops in 2021. Bateman has dropped 14 passes over the past three years. That’s normal.

The only qualm in Bateman’s entire game is a false step that recurs in his release. It appears that his stance is too wide and the distance between his feet simply needs to be reduced. When he releases, the width after the false step is where his stance should be. False steps cause a delay in the release, which will allow press defenders an extra beat on jamming and thwarting Bateman. Again, simply reducing his stance to a more narrow split should resolve the false step. Nathan Cooper of Sports Info Solutions profiled the issue well in this video report.

Rashod will fight for snaps immediately. He’s the Goldilocks of the Ravens receiving room. Checking every box, Bateman has size, fluidity, releases, length, contested catch ability, suddenness, length, versatility, intelligence, speed and hands. His size and skillset are reminiscent of Reggie Wayne coming out of Miami. With a three level game, Bateman should push Miles Boykin and Sammy Watkins for iso and boundary snaps early on, while finding slot snaps as well. His ability to create after the catch will elevate a Ravens receiving group that failed to do so last year. Bateman forced 36 missed tackles on 136 career receptions at Minnesota, showing quick reactions and spatial awareness with physicality and a touch of runaway speed.

The Ravens finally have their chain mover who can work the intermediate and free up Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews. Sammy Watkins figures to take a strong snap share in 2021, while Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman figure to be a well rounded receiver room in 2022.

Over the course of Bateman’s rookie contract, expecting him to become Lamar Jackson’s go to receiver in terms of moving the chains feels likely. The long-term pairing of Andrews, Duvernay, Brown and Bateman feels well balanced and brings harmony to a receiving group that has sorely needed it. A high school basketball star in Georgia, Bateman’s contested ability will bring another dimension to a Ravens offense that sorely needs tough catches in clutch situations. Bateman can dunk on DB’s when needed, and will do so for years to come.

Simply, Bateman is a glove-like fit for the most scrutinized passing offense in the NFL. If the Ravens solidify their offensive line ahead of the 2021 season, they’re doing as they should; putting a Lamar Jackson in a vacuum and seeing how far he can take them. Inserting a dynamic, balanced receiver softens the blow of losing a disgruntled Orlando Brown Jr., especially if the Ravens can find an adequate replacement line Alejandro Villanueva while spending a Day 2 pick on a tackle that can develop into a long term starter. This is one of the few times in Ravens history that they’ve drafted their fan bases favorite prospect. Enjoy, Baltimore. It should be a fun year with a (finally) adept receiving corps.