All the picks are in and the 2021 NFL Draft has been in the books since Saturday evening. The Baltimore Ravens have received a lot of high praise for the impressive haul that made up their eight-man class.
The days following the draft are filled with tremendous hope and hype where fans and pundits like to predict and project big rookie seasons for everyone. However, that is often not the case because making the jump from college to the pros can be steep and sometimes arduous one for first year players to make right away.
With that in mind, here’s the first in a series of articles that detail realistic year one expectations for each member of the Ravens 2021 draft class:
WR Rashod Bateman
Round 1 No. 27 overall
The former Minnesota Golden Gopher was a popular prospect mocked to the Ravens during the pre-draft process. The fan base and this media outlet in particular were elated when he not only fell into the team’s lap in the first round but when they actually made him the first of their two picks on opening night.
There was some growing speculation that General Manager Eric DeCosta would bypass taking a receiver in the first round after his “insulting” comments made national headlines the week before following his pre-draft presser.
However, it proved to be a masterful misdirect by the third year GM as he landed a dynamic pass catcher for Lamar Jackson to throw to who has perhaps the highest floor of any wide receiver in the entire class.
While his floor is extremely high and his ceiling is through the roof, expecting him to break the rookie receiving record, like Justin Jefferson did with the Vikings in 2020, shouldn’t be the expectation.
It’d be unreasonable to expect him to come close to that level of production for two primary reasons. The first is the Ravens low-volume passing attack under Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman which is expected to undergo some schematic changes and expansion this offseason, but will still be predicated and centered around a dominant running game.
The second is the other players at his position on the roster that include fellow rookie Tylan Wallace, Devin Duvernay, James Proche, Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown, Miles Boykin, and veteran Sammy Watkins. The Ravens’ offense also heavily features the tight end position so Mark Andrews, who is arguably Jackson’s most trusted target, will continue to be a focal point in the passing game.
“We feel really strongly about our receivers and competition is great,” DeCosta said. “We’re trying to build the best team. He [Bateman] really checked off all the boxes.”
As far as what to realistically expect from Bateman during his rookie season, I’ll save my statistical projections for my ‘bold prediction’ series towards the end of training camp. Nevertheless, his ability to separate at the top of his route stems, make plays after the catch and play in the slot as well as outwide on the boundary will make him a popular target in the Ravens passing attack. Bateman will take some of the pressure off Jackson to make plays with his legs.
“I feel like I’m an all-around receiver,” said Bateman. “I proved that I can play in the inside, I can play in the slot. At the same time, I just want to be what’s best for him [and] what’s best for the team. So, whatever position that may be, I’m just happy to fill that role.”
Bateman’s skill set will complement and open up more possibilities for the other receivers on the depth chart. I expect the Ravens and Roman to utilize him in a multitude of ways because he can do a plethora of things well - working underneath, over the middle and down the field.
Contrary to what a particular “professional” ESPN analyst believes, he doesn’t need to have the prolific production of Jefferson in his rookie season to elevate the offense, help the team win the AFC North crown and achieve their ultimate goal of winning a championship.
Dan Orlovsky: “If Rashod Bateman doesn’t have a Justin Jefferson rookie season the Cleveland Browns are running away with this division”— ⚡️Garrett Ferguson⚡️ (@GarrettSprints) May 5, 2021