Fantasy Football: What to expect from Rashod Bateman in 2021

Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens, Fantasy Football
NFL Analysis Network

As a sophomore at Minnesota in 2019, Rashod Bateman put himself on the NFL radar with 60 catches for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns (a Big Ten-leading 20.3 yards per catch). Last year was a cycle of opting out, opting in and finally opting out again, but he finished with 36 receptions for 472 yards and two touchdowns in five games played. The Baltimore Ravens then took him 27th overall in April’s draft. The comps for him have been heady (Keenan Allen, Stefon Diggs, Michael Thomas).

The Ravens remodeled and upgraded their wide receiver corps this offseason, signing Sammy Watkins and also drafting Tylan Wallace in the fourth round. There’s some talk of expanding the passing game and throwing more, with the possibility of more looks for J.K. Dobbins out of the backfield. But deviating from a run-oriented formula is not likely. Marquise Brown is the nominal No. 1 wide receiver, and tight end Mark Andrews is Lamar Jackson’s top target.

With Brown and Watkins best-known as downfield threats, Bateman is easily tabbed as the Ravens’ most well-rounded wide receiver already. He lined up all over the field for the Gophers, with ability to break tackles after the catch and stretch the field as a downfield threat. Jackson has been a far better passer in the middle of the field. So Bateman fits that well. And his contested catch ability, despite not perfectly physically profiling as that kind of receiver (6-foot, 190 pounds), stands to help Jackson be a better passer outside the numbers.

Via Fantasy Football Calculator ADP, Bateman lands at WR61 (pick 14.08) in 12-team full PPR right now. In Fantasy Pros’ consensus rankings (standard scoring), he’s WR60. That screams out as a value, and a nice best-ball option.

Bateman has a lot of competition for target share. Even with a possible uptick in pass volume in Baltimore, that will be remain an issue compared to league average. A small piece of a small pie is not a great combination, but it could become a slightly bigger chunk of a slightly bigger pie fairly quickly. Watkins has not exactly been a picture of durability. Brown is not a No. 1 wide receiver, and he should never see 100 targets again (as he did in 2020). Take the wide receiver targets left behind by Willie Snead and Dez Bryant from last year (59), give a big chunk of them to Bateman. Then let him eat into Brown’s 100 from 2020. With better offensive pace from the Ravens (more plays), 90 targets becomes possible for the rookie. It might be a high-end outcome, but it is possible.

As Bateman primarily battles Brown and Watkins for targets, the three may cannibalize each other’s fantasy value this year. Where Bateman may be able to differentiate himself among Baltimore’s wide receivers is in the red zone. Brown has 15 touchdowns over two seasons, with a fluky-looking six over the final six games last season (two in Week 17). Overall, less than half his touchdowns (seven) have been from less than 20 yards out (two were exactly 20 yards). So if Bateman and Jackson have quick rapport, a chunk of touchdowns could follow.

I like Bateman as a late-round dart throw in fantasy this year. It’s all upside to take a flier on him, even if his ADP climbs toward the top-50 wide receivers and the WR4/WR5 border. Among rookie wide receivers in re-draft leagues, he should be No. 3 off the board behind Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith.

Rashod Bateman 2021 Projection: 50 receptions for 791 yards, 6 TD