Rashod Bateman had a phenomenal year in 2020. He accrued 60 receptions for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns as a true sophomore. Bateman was also named Third-Team All-American and First-Team All-Big Ten. Minnesota’s star wideout was the recipient of the Big-Ten Receiver of the Year Award and was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.
Bateman managed to earn all of those accolades while being one of many young star receivers in college football. The 2020 NFL Draft was historic for wide receivers, and 2021 is shaping up to be just as impressive.
The Golden Gophers will be returning their quarterback, Tanner Morgan, who has developed a nice rapport with Bateman. They lost their other go-to receiver in Tyler Johnson. This loss creates more opportunities for Bateman, who is entering his junior year. If all goes to plan, P.J. Fleck’s squad could be contending for a conference championship, if not more.
Bateman uses his quick feet and a variety of moves to release off the line of scrimmage. He is a great route-runner who knows how to throttle his speed and get defenders out of position. He knows how to split zone coverage to get open deep down the field and can sit down in open space when he finds it. Bateman shows good, reliable hands and catches the ball well away from his body. He has made plenty of highlight-reel grabs, whether it be a one-handed wonder, or merely overpowering the defensive back over the top.
There isn’t much that Bateman doesn’t do well. I didn’t see Minnesota use him much as a blocker in the run game, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do it. Bateman is not the most physical receiver when faced with press coverage, but he wins jump balls with dominance. He also isn’t the fastest guy, but he still has plenty of juice.
Earlier, I said that 2020 was a historic draft for wide receivers. There wasn’t an elite Julio Jones or Calvin Johnson-type prospect, but there was a ton of depth. 2021 is shaping up to have a lot of star power at the top. There are a lot of names you likely already know, and Bateman needs to be one of them. I fully expect him to be a first-round prospect next April if he decides to declare.
LSU and Alabama just lost their star quarterbacks. We may see some of the best receivers in the country dropoff a tick in production. That doesn’t make them any less valuable. They just might not be putting up the insane numbers they did in 2019. That isn’t the case for Bateman. He should be in the running for the Biletnikoff Award again this year as he becomes the focal point of their passing attack.
As I mentioned before, Minnesota is returning its starting quarterback Tanner Morgan. The defense lost some big-time playmakers, but the offense remains mostly intact. Outside of Tyler Johnson, the only other players they are losing on that side of the ball are two running backs. That means an 11-2 team in 2019 should be a force to reckon with again this fall, should there be college football. And if there is college football, keep your eye on Rashod Bateman.
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