The Baltimore Ravens used their top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to select former University of Minnesota standout wide receiver Rashod Bateman No. 27 overall. The rookie is already starting his career on the right foot by displaying all of the intangibles on and off the field to his coaches and teammates alike.
During rookie minicamp last month, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said he is “as advertised from a talent standpoint” after watching him hit the field for the first time as a pro.
Bateman appears to have picked up where he left off in OTAs (Organized Team Activities) as he continues to receive rave reviews for his impressive performances in practices. This time it came from new Wide Receivers Coach Tee Martin and veteran wideout Sammy Watkins.
Martin was a part of the infusion of up-and-coming and established coaches hired this offseason to help improve and elevate the team on both sides of the ball. He is a renowned position coach who has helped develop some of the NFL’s most dynamic wide receivers and believes Bateman is right on track to be the next success story.
“He’s doing what you want rookies to do—first-round rookies,” said Martin. “That’s stay hungry and have a thirst for knowledge, have a thirst for more work, have a thirst for the attention to detail, and really start setting the stage for your whole career.”
One of Bateman’s best attributes is his ability to run routes and make plays from anywhere on the field. He can operate out of the slot as well as outside on the perimeter which is the type of positional versatility that will keep him from becoming what Martin calls a “one-trick-pony-type of guy”.
“We’re pushing the envelope with him,” said Martin. “I’m not letting him get comfortable, really allowing him to play all the different positions and really pushing the depth of where he can go before we start playing this season.”
“I really like where he’s at mentally, [and] I like where he’s at physically. He’s a very talented young man, and I look forward to continuing to work with him.”
Watkins is also heading into his first year with the Ravens, is a former first-round pick himself and has plenty of big-game experience under his belt. He knows all about the pressure of being a top pick with big expatiations and he sees a veteran-like maturity to Bateman’s game.
“I’ve been watching him for the last two weeks, and I think the guy is pretty good,” said Watkins. “He runs just about every route at a professional level; he’s doing just about everything I’ve seen myself doing as a young receiver or any top guys. I think he’s a very special wide receiver.”
He believes that Bateman needs to continue to do what Martin said he is already doing well which is being receptive and soaking up every bit of coaching he gets as well as maximizing every opportunity he has when he steps on the field. If he can do that, Watkins foresees a “bigger role” in OC Greg Roman’s offense in year one.
The Ravens have been able to develop homegrown talent that they either drafted or signed as undrafted free agents into Pro Bowlers at every position except wide receiver. While they have taken their fair share of swings early in drafts—especially as of late under General Manager Eric DeCosta—none have been able to live up to the hype or produce at a high level consistently.
The jury is still out on Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown who has improved each year, came on strong down the stretch last season, and continues to trend in the right direction according to practice reports.
However, the first impressions that Bateman is already making on people in and around the building, as well as the media, should give fans of the team hope. He could finally be the wideout who wasn’t traded for or signed in the twilight of their career that encroaches upon or actually achieves elite status. If both he and Brown turn out to be blue chip picks then the Ravens offense will truly be a dynamic force to be reckoned with for years to come through the air as well as on the ground where they are already the league’s best by a wide margin.