P.J. Fleck has things going the right direction at the University if Minnesota, and the NFL is starting to notice. Multiple players were drafted this year, including wide receiver Tyler Johnson. With Johnson gone, Rashod Bateman is in line to become a star in 2020.
As a sophomore last year, Bateman averaged a Big Ten-leading 20.3 yards per catch (60 receptions for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns). That may make it easy to pigeonhole Bateman as a bit of a boom-or-bust downfield threat, and he certainly is a force downfield as he uses his size to his advantage. But this is a complete wide receiver, with numbers and analysis to back it up.
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah is doing a series where he evaluates 2021 NFL Draft prospects and compares them to a current player in the league. His comp for Bateman is lofty.
I see some similarities to Michael Thomas when he was coming out of Ohio State. Both guys have an ideal blend of size and strength. They have the versatility to play outside or in the slot. Thomas has emerged as one of the premier players at his position. He’s a high-volume pass catcher and his win rate on third downs is outstanding. If Bateman can land with the right quarterback, he could make a similar impact.
Made a bit more concise, here are some of the strengths Jeremiah cited for Bateman.
-Has experience playing outside or in the slot
-Uses variety to beat press coverage, is a precise/clean route runner
-Has strong hands; attacks the ball in the air
-Accelerates through the catch point; is physical and aggressive after the catch.
Rashod Bateman vs. Michael Thomas
To be fair, Bateman’s best traits are similar to Michael Thomas‘. Thomas is 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, so the two are close comps physically too (as measured by the U of M, Bateman is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds).
But Thomas is coming off a season where he set a single-season record with 149 catches and he also led the league in catches in 2018 (125). He holds the records for catches (470) and receiving yards (5,512) in a player’s first four seasons.
Bateman is in line to be a first-round pick next April. If he takes the reigns as the Gophers’ No. 1 guy during his junior season, he’ll bolster his case to be the first wide receiver drafted. Any comparison to Thomas is pretty aggressive and patently unfair based on what he’s done. But Bateman’s talent level and similar skill set make it easy to compare him to one of the NFL’s best wide receivers.