The Bengals could find some serious athletic ability in the second round if Rashod Bateman falls that far.
In his sophomore season in 2019, Bateman broke the Golden Gopher’s single-season record for receiving yards, beating his teammate Tyler Johnson’s mark from the year before. Johnson did end 2019 with 99 more receiving yards than Bateman, taking the record back, but he needed 26 more receptions to do it. In both of Johnson’s record setting seasons, he needed 78 or more receptions, whereas Bateman only had 60.
In his sophomore year, Bateman had 60 receptions, 1,219 yards, and 11 touchdowns. He was primed for an absolutely monstrous junior year that would eventually be derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bateman initially opted out of the 2020 season when the Big Ten cancelled fall sports. He revealed at his pro day that he contracted the coronavirus in the summer, and didn’t feel well enough to return in the fall. However, he opted back in for five games, though still suffering from the aftermath of COVID-19.
Position: Wide receiver
Weight: 190 pounds
Projected Round: Late First/Early Second
Bateman does not lack potential. At his pro day, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds, recorded a 10’3” broad jump, and showed off a 36” vertical.
His athletic ability is on display when he runs routes downfield. Bateman is a smooth and fluid route runner, and he never telegraphs his cuts to the defenders. He is an expert at finding soft spots in zone and does a great job of trailing the quarterback during off-script plays.
Bateman also possesses elite body control, which helps him grab balls up high or keep his feet in bounds. Minnesota’s quarterback had consistency problems, especially with accuracy, so Bateman had to catch passes away from his body as much as he did perfectly thrown balls.
Bateman was such an integral part of Minnesota’s offense in 2019 and 2020 that he frequently drew multiple coverages. But Morgan forced the ball to him anyways, which is one of the many factors in his decreased production last year.
This also bring us to the first part of his game that he needs to overcome. He only stands at six feet tall and has never weighed more than 200 pounds. Size will not be on his side when he gets to the NFL. Bateman did not show much physicality in college, and it seems unlikely that he will begin to seek contact once he gets to the league.
While Bateman has a good set of hands, he did not hold on very well if he was being contacted while making the catch. The extent of his run blocking was to act as a decoy, so he never handled physical play well.
In addition, once he has the ball in his hands, his speed is the only weapon he has. He doesn’t try to force any tackles; he either tries to run past or through defenders. The latter will be difficult to do in the NFL.
Fit with the Bengals
Bateman played all over the field, so he could potentially fit in wherever the Bengals need.
He spent a lot of time in the slot, but the Bengals won’t want to move Tyler Boyd out of that position. But Bateman could play on the outside, lining up as the Z receiver across from Boyd and Tee Higgins at X.
Of course, Bateman would only be the Bengals option for the 38th overall pick of they drafted Penei Sewell in the first round. Ja’Marr Chase is the better athlete and is more well rounded than Bateman. If Chase is indeed the fifth-overall pick, then it makes little sense for the Bengals to take Bateman.