Rashod Bateman
Rashod Bateman may be the best receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft. (Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)

Rashod Bateman is considered one of the top wide receiver prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, he consistently ranks behind the big three receivers in Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle. Contrary to popular belief, Bateman has all the potential to overtake the latter and develop into the wide receiver 1 of this talented class.

At Minnesota, Bateman made an impact early, amassing 704 yards and 6 touchdowns as a freshman. Expectations were high going into his sophomore year and Bateman delivered. Producing 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns on 60 catches established Bateman as one of the elite receivers in the country. Ready to set the BIG 10 on fire in his junior season, the pandemic hit, and an early opt-out derailed those lofty expectations.

What Bateman displays best is savvy route-running. No receiver is smoother in and out of his routes and creating separation. He runs the most diverse route tree in the class, giving him the opportunity to make an instant impact against cornerbacks at the next level. The elite quickness is also put on display in his release off the line, allowing him to burn press coverage with ease (a problem that occurs with most receivers when transitioning to the next level).

At 6-foot-1 and 210-pounds, Bateman has the size and physicality to go up and make contested catches. Concerns arise regarding Bateman’s athleticism and explosiveness as some scouts say he relies solely on his change-of-direction to get open. Those questions were shut down with a blazing 4.39 second 40-yard-dash time at the Exos Combine. Bateman has shown time and time again that he can burn defensive backs.

Rashod Bateman has all the makings of an NFL receiver and could go earlier than expected in the first round considering the number of teams lacking talent at the receiver position. The Patriots hold the 15th pick and do not have a true receiving threat since N’Keal Harry disappointed. Kliff Kingsbury could acquire more weapons for the young Kyler Murray with the 16th pick to work opposite of DeAndre Hopkins. Even the Dolphins lack talent on the outside, the addition of Bateman would be crucial to the development of Tua Tagovailoa.