The hottest topic and biggest perceived need for the Baltimore Ravens this offseason and frankly for the entire history of the franchise has been the wide receiver position. The quest to find a “true No. 1” receiver has been one that the team hasn’t been able to quite address with a homegrown talent.
However, many among the fan base and national media believe that the search could potentially be over and that 2021 first-round pick, Rashod Bateman, is the fabled ‘true No. 1’ whose arrival was foretold in prophecy.
The former Minnesota Golden Gopher is the Ravens rookie that is garnering the most fanfare but he isn’t worried about or focused on fulfilling any prophecies or living up to anyone’s expectations of what he should and could do and be. He is instead, dedicated to bettering himself and helping the team in whichever fashion is required of him.
“My goal is to be the best I can be for this team – whatever that may be,” Bateman said. “Like I said the first time, whatever Coach Harbaugh needs, whatever this offense needs, I just want to be that weapon and that person for them.”
Bateman took the field for the first time as a Raven this past weekend during rookie minicamp and looked “as good as advertised” according to reports and Head Coach John Harbaugh himself.
Being on the field at full strength was both a relief and a joyous occasion for the first-year wideout. A bout with COVID-19 in the 2020 offseason prevented him from being his true dynamic self during his abbreviated final collegiate season but that didn’t stop him from averaging nearly 100 receiving yards per game last year.
“It just feels good to be back on the football field 100% healthy,” Bateman said. “Due to my last college season, I wasn’t 100% healthy. So, just to be back out there having fun, it’s a blessing. I’m taking it all in. So, I’m having fun with it – definitely.”
Making the leap to the pros from the collegiate level is difficult for any player at any position entering the league but especially at wide receiver. Despite the proliferation of pro-style offenses being played in colleges across the country, getting used to lining up and consistently beating grown men who are technicians at their craft is a big adjustment.
The speed of the game and the ferocity of which it is played is intensified significantly and there are hardly such things as free releases off the line of scrimmage in the NFL. Bateman knows that learning the offense and paying close attention to details will go a long way towards getting him acclimated and ready to contribute right away.
“It’s just details that you’ve got to work on all the time. Coming from college to the NFL, there are some things that you’ve got to learn,” Bateman said. “The feels are very different, so I’m just getting adjusted to that – different landmarks and things like that. So, right now, I’m just learning to pick up the playbook, just learning my adjustments and fine-tuning my details.”
He was the first of the Ravens’ two picks in round one at No. 27 overall with outside linebacker Odafe Oweh being the second three picks later at No. 31 overall. Despite his high draft status, Bateman doesn’t believe where he was taken puts any additional pressure on him to play at a high level but rather his own expectations that he knows he can achieve and exceed.
“My job is to go out to perform no matter if I was a first-round [pick], to seventh-round, to wherever,” Bateman said. “I have high expectations for myself, so my job is to go out and to perform anyway. I put that standard on myself, so every day I go to work, that’s what I look forward to doing.”
Intrinsically motivated individuals like Bateman who aren’t primarily driven by doubt or concern themselves with living up to the expectations of others are rare. The Ravens have found a player who is just as mentally tough as he is physically gifted which a core intangible that is needed to survive and succeed in the league.
“He’s a no-nonsense guy. He has a nice demeanor about him. He’s a quick learner,” Harbaugh said. “He’s everything we thought he would be, in terms of the athleticism and the skillset.”