Over the next few weeks, the Broadway staff will be taking a closer look at prospects the Titans could look to target in the 2021 NFL Draft based on positional need.
Today I am looking at one of my personal favorite players in this draft, who also happens to play a position at which the Titans need an upgrade.
Rashod Bateman | WR | Minnesota
Games I watched: Maryland (2020), Purdue (2020), Michigan (2020), Iowa (2020), Penn State (2019), Purdue (2019), Georgia Southern (2019), Auburn (2019).
Like several other players around the nation, Rashod Bateman originally opted out of the 2020 season before opting back in and playing in five games. Bateman opted out again after a few cases of COVID-19 were found within the team.
It didn’t take long for Bateman to make an impact in Minnesota. He recorded an impressive 51 catches for 704 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman in 2018 despite playing second fiddle to Tyler Johnson. Johnson was still in the fold in 2019, but Bateman exploded as a sohpohmore by recording 60 catches for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns in his second season.
Unfortunately, we have to use our imaginations when it comes to what kind of numbers Bateman would have put up in a full 2020 season. I imagine they would have been incredible given that he was the true No. 1 receiver with Johnson now playing in the NFL.
Bateman will turn 22 years old during his rookie campaign.
I watched eight Bateman games between 2019 and 2020 to get a really good feel for the player. The first thing that jumped out at me while scouting Bateman is how polished his game is. It all starts with his abilities as a route runner. He uses a variety of subtle movements and head fakes to set a DB up before revealing his true plan of attack. His natural feel for coverages allows him to find space while working to every area of the field effectively.
Bateman tore up Penn State in 2019 for 203 yards on seven catches. The below play wasn’t his biggest or best of the game, but it’s one that perfectly showcases several of his impressive traits on a single rep — smooth, clean and crisp route running, strong hands and sideline awareness. Bateman sells this route to the inside beautifully before breaking it back outside:
My favorite Bateman trait is his ability to pick up yards after the catch. There isn’t a wide receiver in this draft that is more difficult to tackle than Bateman is. He’s incredibly physical after the catch and has excellent contact balance. It’s more than just his physical nature that leads to run-after-catch opportunities. Bateman has great vision with the ball in his hands and he makes good decisions in this area. He also has more than enough wiggle to make a man miss in the open field.
Because I love this part of his game, let’s showcase several clips of him doing something special with the ball in his hands.
His performance against Purdue in 2019 had a bunch of them.
Come for the lovely extension and plucky hands, stay for the vision in the open field:
Does this remind you of a receiver that already wears two-tone blue?
In this same game, Bateman’s yards-after-catch ability got him into the end zone for his first of two scores on the day. If you don’t take the right angle on Bateman in the open field, you’re in trouble. This is simply too easy:
Why not one more? It was this fourth quarter grab against Georgia Southern in 2019 that allowed the Gophers to record a come-from-behind victory. This one moreso showcases his ability to make a man miss, whereas the other clips showcased his vision and speed in the open field. Look at how Bateman can turn such a simple route and catch into a big play:
I love this player. You can probably tell. Why wouldn’t I? There’s a lot to like here. Bateman is a great route runner. He has an excellent release package and gets in and out of his breaks smoothly and efficiently. He’s very tough to deal with at the top of a route. He understands how to create separation against man coverage, and consistently finds space against zone coverage as well.
You’ve seen the yards after catch ability. He’s tough, physical, is difficult to tackle, has great vision, has enough breakaway speed and can make defenders miss in the open field.
Bateman also has great versatility. He’s played a ton in the slot, but he’s also put some great things on tape while working outside. At 6-1 and 210 pounds, it would be silly to view him as a slot-only player at the next level. That’s where the majority of his “wins” have come from, but Bateman has every ability and trait to thrive on the outside as well.
When it comes to ball skills, Bateman has great, strong hands. He uses his length to extend his body and pluck the football out of the air. He’s what you call a natural hands catcher. He positions his body well and catches the ball in a way that allows him to quickly work after the catch.
This is going to be short because I don’t have much to say here. Let’s attempt to nitpick. Bateman doesn’t have elite speed. He can work and win vertically, but it’s more due to his ability as a technician than it is “burner speed.”
Despite his ability after the catch, he’s not the type of player you’re going to manufacture many touches for. Minnesota did so with varying levels of success.
I wish he played a full season in 2020, but it wasn’t in the cards and I don’t blame him. He was very productive in the five games he played in this past season.
But it would have been nice to get a full sample size of how he handled being the No. 1 receiver for the first time at Minnesota. His 2017 and 2018 teammate Tyler Johnson plays for the Bucs now, and was a big-time player in college. There’s no doubt that Johnson was the main focus for defensve coordinators, and Bateman did a great job taking advantage of that.
Does he fit the Titans?
YES. Yes. Yes. Bateman-to-Tennessee is actually one of my favorite prospect-to-team fits in this entire class. The Titans have prioritized getting physical players on offense that are big and fast. Guys like Jonnu Smith, A.J. Brown, Corey Davis and Derrick Henry didn’t become Titans by accident. Bateman is very much in this mold.
Even if the Titans bring Corey Davis back, they’re going need to add at least one more wide receiver this offseason. Somebody has to replace Adam Humphries in the slot. In my opinion, somebody that can work both inside and outside like Bateman would be a terrific addition to this offense.
I can’t share my All-22 film here, but you can form your opinion on Bateman by watching a few of his YouTube cutups:
Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!