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2021 NFL Draft: Can Rashod Bateman become the class WR1?

2021 NFL Draft: Can Rashod Bateman become the class WR1?
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 9: Minnesota Gophers wide receiver Rashod Bateman (13) celebrated his first quarter touchdown against Penn State during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

With the Big Ten announcing their intention to play a college football season this year, star Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman announced his plan to return to school and play the year out for the Golden Gophers. His future is currently up in the air as the NCAA must make an official ruling on whether they’ll allow players who opted-out to return to school this season, but the hope is that Bateman will play his junior year in Minnesota. If he does, it will be a huge boost for both the Minnesota passing attack and Bateman’s NFL Draft stock.

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Rashod Bateman’s case for WR1

Obviously, the conversation around who the top wide receiver is in the 2021 class depends on who you ask. The general consensus has LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase as the favorite to take the top spot, but some evaluators love the explosiveness of Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle and the raw upside of Purdue’s Rondale Moore. Bateman seems to be in most evaluators’ top three or five receivers but is seemingly never considered the top wide-out in the class.

Related | Cummings’ 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

This season could change that though, as both Chase and Moore will be sitting out the year as they prepare for the draft. Bateman is one of the top wide receivers in the nation and has a very real chance to bring home the Biletnikoff, which is awarded to the top receiver in that nation that season. Chase won it last year and it sky-rocketed his draft stock.

Minnesota will only play eight regular-season games this year, so Bateman must make a major impact in every game. He has the talent to do so, and putting together a 1,000-yard season in only eight contests would be a strong case by itself.

Add that to a potential 8-0 record as Minnesota doesn’t have to face Ohio State in the regular season, and we might see more eyes opened to just how good Bateman is. I currently believe Bateman possesses the highest floor of any wide-out in this years class, but how high is his ceiling compared to other members of this class?

Rashod Bateman: NFL Draft Scouting Report

Bateman’s most attractive ability is his hands. Whether it’s a contested situation or a throw that is away from his body like the one shown here, if the ball is near him you can be comfortable assuming Bateman is coming down with it. He pairs this with a strong physical profile standing at 6’2 and 210 pounds, and will likely test as a sub 4.5 athlete.

Bateman is also an already developed route runner who can create separation with sharp breaks and varied releases as exemplified in this clip. His floor as a rookie will be extremely high, and his athletic profile gives him a high ceiling as well. This is a blend of skills that translates to early career success. Route running and the ability to create separation are the most translatable way for a rookie receiver to produce, so Bateman should be one of the most productive receivers from his class early in his career.

Bateman’s role at the next level

Bateman projects best as an X-receiver, as he can function as a possession receiver moving the chains or as a deep threat shredding defenses down the field. After the catch, he can be effective as well, and his list of weaknesses is very short. Bateman’s floor is what makes him such a strong prospect, and in a year of uncertainty, a strong season and combine could jump him into WR1 territory.

Overview

Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman is consistently considered one of the top wide receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft class. However, he’s seldom considered the top wide-out in the class. He has a strong blend of size and athletic ability, and his strong hands combined with his developed route running make him a high floor receiver prospect.

After some of the top receiver prospects like Ja’Marr Chase and Rondale Moore opted out of the 2020 season, Bateman has a road to being the top receiver in college football. If Bateman can dominate his competition and prove he’s the top receiver in college football, he could also become the top prospect wide receiver prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft.

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