From now until the 2021 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
Rashod Bateman/ WR/ Minnesota – 6’2, 210lb
-Has the size and length to be deployed anywhere on the field, having lined up wide and in the slot for the Gophers
-NFL-caliber athlete with fantastic leaping ability
-Has good burst off the line and can get onto the defender’s toes, eating the cushion in coverage
-Can create separation out of his routes and stack corners deep when challenging the back end
-Has some solid elusiveness with the ball in his hands showing some shake in the open field to evade tacklers
-Has the ability to run through wimpy tackles in the open field
-Has good focus at the catch point and natural, strong hands to haul in the catch
-His strong mitts and play strength make him a contested catch threat anywhere on the field
-Athleticism and strong hands aid in coming down with some acrobatic catches
-Fairly quick in an out of his breaks, being able to drop his hips quickly
-Can run the full route tree with slants, curls, and drags, to vertical go’s and fades
-True mismatch when lined up in the slot vs nickel defenders and backers in zone coverage
-Dangerous on the double move when selling inside/outside to work back to vertical
-Able to box out defenders with his body and seal them off when cutting inside on slants and in breaking routes
-Has the awareness to get his feet in bounds when close to the sideline or in the back of the end zone
-Shows willingness and competitiveness as a blocker
-Does not have elite deep speed or burst
-Won a lot against zone coverage looks and on soft coverages on RPO concepts
-Had several games where he was held in check against mediocre competition
-Junior prospect from Tifton, Georgia
-All state receiver in high school also played basketball as a prep
-Cousin, Shayon Green, played football at Miami from 2009-2013 and played for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers
-Started all 13 games and hauled in 51 receptions for 704 receiving yards 6 TDs
-Played in all 13 games as a sophomore and caught 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11TDs
-Played in five games and caught 36 passes for 472 yards and 2 TDs
-Announced on Nov. 25, 2020, that he was forgoing his remaining eligibility to focus on preparing for the NFL Draft
– All-Big Ten First Team (2019), AP Third-Team All-America (2019), All-Big Ten Third Team (2020)
Rashod Bateman decided to follow the lure of PJ Fleck’s recruiting prowess away from the state of Georgia to take his talents up north to Minnesota. The decision proved to be a good one, as Bateman saw the field right away and started every game as a true freshman, breaking freshman records at Minnesota for receptions and receiving yards. That was just the setup for a breakout sophomore campaign where he went over 1200 yards and double-digit scores as part of the Gophers’ 1-2 punch at receiver with Tyler Johnson.
Bateman is an extremely well-rounded prospect as a receiver, having the ability to line up anywhere in the formation. He primarily played on the outside for the Gophers, but also excelled in the slot vs lesser athletes lined up on him. Here are two plays he made in the game vs Indiana in 2019 where he lined up on the right side of the formation winning a contested ball on the deep over route, then following it up by being matched up with the safety in the slot, taking advantage of the defender’s eyes in the backfield by running past him in coverage and bringing in the easy score.
He may get knocked at times for not being the fastest receiver in this draft class, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Bateman is slow. He has good straight-line speed, burst and acceleration to pull away from defenders. Here in the 2020 Outback Bowl Game vs Auburn, he catches the tunnel screen on the right, and immediately hits the jets to accelerate past defenders, running through the trash in the middle of the field to get to the goal line to set up the goal-to-go.
Batman can work in all quadrants of the field and run a full route tree, ranging from shallow drags, slants, and curl routes, all the way to vertical go routes and double moves deep downfield. He has great run after the catch ability with the ball in his hands, having the ability to make defenders miss in open space or show the aggressiveness to fight through tackles for extra yardage. Here is a play from his game against Purdue where he catches a quick slant over the middle, shows off the burst after the catch, and slips away from and attempted tackle as he races to the end zone.
Bateman has strong, reliable hands at the catch point as well, focusing on the ball through the process of the catch and routinely coming down with contested catches in coverage. His strong hands, play strength, and leaping ability make him a strong bet in 50/50 ball situations, as well as a highlight reel of highlight catches. Here is an example from the same game against Purdue where QB #2 Tanner Morgan throws it up to him in the middle of the field and he comes down with the combative catch while smothered by the defensive back, grasping the ball and not allowing the defender to knock it out of his hands.
Along with his hands, he has great body control when in the air to play the jump ball and come down in bounds. Here is a perfect example vs Maryland where he gets an outside release against press man coverage, works up the sideline, and catches the 50/50 ball on a back-shoulder throw in the end zone with his feet in bounds while controlling his fall to the ground.
While he is a good athlete, Bateman has also shown the ability to be a technician when using his body to leverage and box out defenders on jump ball and inside slant situations. He shows some savvy route running ability on occasion for being a bigger receiver, having the quick transitions and clean cuts to create separation in coverage. In this example in the game vs Penn State in 2019, Bateman hits the post corner route on the right side, selling the post, making and clean cut to the outside, snags the ball outside of his framework, and keeps both feet in bounds along the sideline.
When it comes down to negatives on Bateman, there isn’t a lot to point out on tape. As stated earlier, he has great burst and acceleration as a runner, but his initial straight-line speed should be considered world-class, as he’ll rely on winning contested catch balls instead of consistently stacking corners on the outside burning them deep. Minnesota’s offensive system also got him a lot of “schemed touches” including screens and rub routes with another receiver in a duo/stack set where basically a designed pick play we used to get him the ball in space with room to run.
Again, this is nitpicking a little as Bateman is merely executing the system he was utilized in, but it should be noted that some of his production was more schemed up rather than all of it won on his own accord. Bateman also had moments where he would go silent against inferior competition. For example, in a close vs Purdue in 2020, he walked away with only 4 receptions for 59 years despite tearing up the same team a year prior. However, these inconsistencies can likely be attributed to both the Minnesota Football Program dealing with Covid-19 issues all season and also the fact that teams would bracket Bateman in coverage in 2020, not allowing them to single-handedly beat them.
Overall, Bateman may not have elite deep speed or be the most physically imposing prospect, but the guy is an impressive athlete and has the size and strength to be a problem for defensive backs at the next level. He has the ability to challenge defenses deep downfield and also the ability to take a short slant 50+ yards to the house. There aren’t currently many weaknesses to Bateman’s game, and his ability as a route runner is only going to improve with more experience. He’s dominated early in his college career at a young age and should continue that track to make a quick transition to the league.
When watching Bateman, I initially saw a lot of similarities to he and Michael Thomas, given his ability to win contested catches, pick up yards after the catch on slants and screens, when in all areas of the field, and also the knock of not having supreme speed. However, Thomas is more physically imposing at this point than Bateman, so a safer “floor” comp that came to mind was Michael Gallup of the Cowboys, who in his own right has posted over an 1,100-yard season as the second or third option in that offense. Bateman may not be the best choice for the Steelers 1st round pick but depending if he tends to slide because of the other receivers in this class and what holes the team fills in free agency, he would the ideal JuJu Smith-Schuster replacement should he sign elsewhere who can operate both inside and outside and develop into a clear #1 passing threat at the next level.
Projection: Mid-Day 1 – Early Day 2
Games Watched: vs Indiana (2019), vs Georgia Southern (2019), at Purdue (2019), vs Penn State (2019), vs Auburn (2019), at Maryland (2019)