The Baltimore Ravens are not known as a team with a lot of history of drafting well at the wide receiver position. While they haven’t historically often taken a lot of big swings early in the draft, however, they have had their share. This year’s roster will actually feature three wide receivers who were first-round picks, though one, Sammy Watkins, was added via free agency.
It was clear to all from the outside that addressing the wide receiver position was a priority for the Ravens this offseason, and Watkins was the veteran presence that they brought in after pursuing other options. They also used one of their first-round picks on Rashod Bateman, on whom Watkins was asked to comment during OTAs last month.
“Honestly, I’ve been watching him for the last two weeks, and I think the guy is pretty good”, the veteran said at the time. “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”.
Along with third-year Marquise Brown, another former top pick, the trio is expected to receive the lion’s share of snaps from the wide receiver position this year for Baltimore. Others, such as Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, and Tylan Wallace, will be competing for roster spots and roles.
Bateman has a lot of natural physical gifts, and ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at his Pro Day at Minnesota. All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey also discovered one day during practices that he has “a little wiggle” to his game as well.
“I think he’s a very special wide receiver; he just has to put it together, take coaching and be able to maximize opportunities and go out there and play when all 11 are out there on the field”, Watkins said of the rookie. “I think if he can do that, he can definitely have a bigger role in this offense, if ‘G-Ro’ [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] dials him up”.
Bateman recorded 147 receptions over three seasons for Minnesota out of the Big Ten, putting up 2,395 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging 16.3 yards per reception. He only played in five games last season, but still caught 36 passes for 472 yards and two scores (the Golden Gophers only played seven games).
The Ravens have ranked last in wide receiver production since Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback, but they are also a team that throws the ball less frequently than everybody else, so there is a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.
It seemed everyone was in agreement, however, that the position needed to be upgraded, and players from both sides of the ball have mentioned over the course of June seeing a difference in how the wide receivers were running around in comparison to previous years. Bateman is expected to be a key part of that.