The Green Bay Packers haven’t selected a wide receiver in the first round since 2002. This year’s wide receiver class may tempt the Packers to put an end to that streak and Rashod Bateman could be the target.
There was a time not that long ago that the Green Bay Packers top three wide receivers were all former second-round draft picks (Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams). Those days seem like a distant memory.
Outside of Adams, a top-five wide receiver in the league, there are a lot of question marks surrounding the wide receiver position as the Green Bay Packers head into the 2020 season.
Can Allen Lazard continue to build off the success he had during the second half of last season? It’s a make or break season for 2017 day three draft picks, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown. Can either one of them establish themselves as reliable targets for quarterback, Aaron Rodgers?
With all those question marks and the fact that Adams is set to be a free agent following the 2021 season, one can bet that upgrading the wide receiver position is on the to-do list for general manager, Brian Gutekunst.
The good news is the 2021 NFL Draft class is loaded with talented wide receivers. Rashod Bateman is one of the top wide receivers in that talented class.
The Minnesota Golden Gopher was the selection for the Packers in Dane Brugler’s way too early 2021 Mock Draft. The Athletic’s NFL Draft analyst had the Green Bay Packers selecting Bateman with the 22nd pick.
“Averaging 20.3 yards per catch last season, Bateman was a cheat code with his dominance at the catch point. There are three Big Ten receivers in this mock, but it was Bateman who was named the conference’s top receiver last season.”
Bateman enjoyed a stellar 2019 season, recording 60 receptions for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those numbers helped him earn Big 10 Wide Receiver of the Year. He also set the program record for receiving yards and receiving touchdowns by a sophomore .
As a freshman in 2018, Bateman reeled in 51 receptions for 704 yards and six touchdowns. The 51 receptions set the program record for receptions by a freshman in a season and the receiving yards were also a freshman record.
With the Big 10 canceling the 2020 season and possibly pushing it back until the spring of 2021, Bateman has opted to enter the 2021 NFL Draft. It would have been exciting to see how Bateman would have built off his successful 2019 season with Gophers quarterback, Tanner Morgan. However, there aren’t many holes in Bateman’s game and he is likely a top 40 pick, even without playing another down at the collegiate level.
Bateman might be the best route runner in college football. He’s a smooth operator, much like Adams he has a master’s degree in route running. There is no wasted motion for Bateman as a route runner. He does a great job of setting up double moves and his footwork is outstanding.
Bateman’s ability as a route runner earned him high praise from Devin Jackson, a producer for WTAJ News in Pennslyvania, and a contributor for multiple draft websites.
“He is very nuanced and detailed as a route runner,” Jackson said in our recent interview. “He reminds me a lot of Michael Thomas on his ability to create separation and the range of his route tree are tremendous.”
While Bateman’s game reminds Jackson of Thomas, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, Bateman reminds me of a Keenan Allen. Like Allen, Bateman isn’t the most dynamic athlete.
When Allen was going through the pre-draft process, he ran a 4.71 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Bateman likely will run faster, but like Allen, Bateman is going to create separation at the next level with his outstanding route running.
In Dane Brugler’s summer scouting article on the wide receivers in the 2021 class, he mentioned that Bateman reminds him of both Thomas and Allen.
“I’m not making apple-to-apple comparisons, but Bateman’s film gives off vibes of Michael Thomas or Keenan Allen — two established wide receivers who win with their savvy and physicality. Like Thomas and Allen, Bateman doesn’t have elite speed or suddenness, but his ability to manipulate coverage and finish are why his game projects well.”
While Bateman may be the best route runner in this class, he may also have some of the best hands in this class. He plucks the ball out of the air without throttling down. Bateman does a great job of making contested catches, utilizing his big frame, and outmuscling defensive backs at the catch point. According to Pro Football Focus, he hauled in 12 of his 19 contested targets in 2019.
“He has great body control and understanding of how to use his big frame to set himself up to win jump ball situations,” Jackson said. “He just wants it more than the defensive back. “
In terms of after the catch, Bateman isn’t the most dynamic, however, he does have some juice. He is a big-bodied receiver (6’2”, 209 pounds) that can be a handful for defensive backs to take down on their own, utilizing a strong stiff arm. According to PFF, he had 17 broken tackles in 2019.
“He doesn’t have breakaway speed,” Jackson said. “But he can still earn YAC with his play strength and his explosiveness after the catch.”
The Green Bay Packers haven’t spent a first-round pick on a wide receiver since they selected Javon Walker with the 20th overall pick in 2002. If Bateman is on the board when the Packers are on the clock in the first round, it may be time to put an end to that streak.
Bateman is about as clean of a wide receiver prospect as you are going to get. He checks all the boxes. He has great hands. He’s a savvy route runner and he can make plays after the catch.
It’s time for the Green Bay Packers to reload at wide receiver and it could all start by taking Bateman in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Bateman is a polished wide receiver and could come in and be the number two wide receiver opposite Adams from day one.