Minnesota is not traditionally viewed as a factory for quality NFL Draft prospects, but head coach P.J. Fleck has done wonders for the program with his “Row the Boat” mantra. In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Golden Gophers set a school record with five draft selections, the most all-time in one draft class. Rashod Bateman, the school’s star wide receiver, has the potential to not only be the first Minnesota first-round selection since 2006, but he also has a chance to be the school’s highest drafted player in the modern NFL Draft era.
Rashod Bateman NFL Draft Profile
Weight: 210 pounds
Position: Wide Receiver
Current Year: Junior
Rashod Bateman’s NFL Draft journey is not the typical “five-star prospect goes to national championship contender” story. He was a four-star recruit but was not heavily sought after by the Alabamas and Clemsons of the world.
When Bateman made his commitment to Minnesota, he did so with the intent to make an impact early, and he did. As a true freshman, Bateman caught 51 passes for 704 yards and six touchdowns. He set massive expectations for his second year, where he and partner Tyler Johnson would form one of the nation’s elite pass-catching duos.
After setting a high bar in his freshman year, Bateman became one of college football’s elite sophomore receivers. Posting 60 receptions for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns, Bateman established himself as one of the conference’s elite weapons and arguably the best deep threat in the college ranks. Bateman displayed a blend of savvy route running, elite hands, YAC ability, complex releases sets, and a high contested catch win rate.
Going into his third season, the hype for Bateman was at an all-time high. Then the Big Ten announced it would not be playing college football in the fall, and Bateman decided to opt-out of the 2020 season to prepare for the NFL Draft. It seemed as though a final year from Bateman would be stripped from us. That is, until the Big Ten decided to reverse course and give Bateman the chance to play one more year.
After awaiting a decision from the conference, Bateman announced that he would be eligible to play this year and change his number from 13 to 0 – a change fueled by the desire to make a statement against the racial inequality displayed across the country.
Bateman said this about his number change: “I feel like I have a platform that I was blessed with, and I can use to spread positive change. There’s zero tolerance for racism here in Minnesota. There should be zero tolerance in the United States and in the world when it comes to racism. I feel like I could use my jersey number for positive change.”
Rashod Bateman opts out of rest of season, will begin preparation for NFL Draft
After precautionary cancellations in team activities, wide receiver Rashod Bateman has decided to opt out of the remainder of the 2020 season and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Bateman has the talent and production to be a first-round selection. Given the poor offensive game planning by Minnesota and current global circumstances, it makes total sense Bateman would make this decision. The next time we see him, it’ll be on an NFL field.
Bateman quiet in win over Purdue
All eyes were on the wide receiver position in Minnesota’s game against Purdue game, as potential 2021 first-rounders Rashod Bateman and Rondale Moore faced off. While Purdue made it a point of emphasis to get the ball in their superstar’s hands, Minnesota did not, as Bateman only had four receptions for 59 yards. Minnesota continues to choose running the ball over running the offense through Bateman.
Bateman produces, but Gophers offense falls flat
In Minnesota’s matchup against Iowa, Rashod Bateman was the only real difference-maker on the offensive unit. Bateman registered eight receptions for 111 yards and the Golden Gophers’ lone touchdown. Bateman is averaging over 100 yards per game, but Minnesota can’t get out of its own way with poor play-calling and offensive execution. Minnesota’s poor offensive performances may prove detrimental to Bateman’s NFL Draft stock.
First touchdown of the year for Bateman comes in a dominant performance
After seeming like an afterthought to Minnesota’s offense last week, the Golden Gophers made sure to heavily involve Bateman in the game plan. Bateman hauled in ten catches for 139 yards and his first touchdown of the season, a beautiful over the shoulder catch in the corner of the end zone. Ideally, Minnesota will learn from its mistakes and continue to run the offense through its best player and likely 2021 NFL Draft first-round pick, Rashod Bateman.
Rashod Bateman takes a backseat to Minnesota run game
Minnesota has decided that they want to be a run-first football team in 2020, which means that the Minnesota receiver’s opportunities will come few and far between. Bateman saw this in the Gopher’s loss to Maryland, where he registered only five receptions for 62 yards, as the Gophers only completed 10 total passes.
Despite not getting much attention from the Minnesota play-callers, Bateman still displayed his natural separation and strong hands. It was a quality performance from Bateman, but it isn’t easy to take over a ball game without competent play calling.
Rashod Bateman featured heavily against Michigan
In the Gophers’ loss to the Michigan Wolverines, the offense made it a point to run through Bateman. He finished with nine total receptions for 101 yards and picked up right where he left off. However, the Michigan pass rush proved to be too much for the Minnesota offensive line. The Gophers weren’t able to protect quarterback Tanner Morgan long enough to target the Bateman deep. Hopefully, moving forward, Morgan will get enough protection to be able to target Bateman deep.
Rashod Bateman’s draft fits
Bateman should have a dominant season this year, which will only solidify his standing as a first-round prospect. However, given the perceived strength of the 2021 NFL WR class, it’s hard to predict just how high the NFL will value Bateman. The most likely scenario seems to be a selection somewhere between picks 15-28, where teams like the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and Green Bay Packers could all look to improve their receiving corps.