NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at some of college football's top players for 2020. This is the 14th in a series of scouting reports that will run throughout the offseason.
The 2020 NFL Draft's wide receiver class was the deepest I'd seen at the position since I began scouting in 2003, and it looks like I'm going to be singing the praises of the next crop of receivers that enter the league, too. I was extremely impressed with the two wideouts we've already covered in this series -- LSU's Ja'Marr Chase and Alabama's DeVonta Smith -- and I feel the same way after studying Minnesota's Rashod Bateman. This has the makings of a golden era at the position. Here's my scouting report.
Height, weight: 6-foot-2, 210 pounds (school measurements).
2019 statistics: 60 catches for 1,219 yards (20.3 average), 11 touchdowns.
Game tape watched: All of his targets during the 2019 season.
What I liked: Bateman has experience playing outside and in the slot. He uses a variety of releases to beat press coverage and is a very precise/clean route runner. He doesn't drift at the top of his route and generates tremendous separation on double moves. His instincts are on display when the play breaks down, showing a knack for adjusting and uncovering to provide an outlet when the quarterback scrambles.
Bateman also has strong hands and attacks the ball in the air. He rarely lets the ball get into his chest. You can see how much confidence he has in his hands when he's working in the middle of the field. He does not slow down and gather before the catch. Instead, he accelerates through the catch point. He's very physical and aggressive after the catch. He routinely breaks tackles and generates big yards on underneath and intermediate throws.
Where he needs to improve: Bateman builds his speed down the field. He doesn't have elite explosiveness or burst in his release or out of the break point. He's very refined and strong, but you don't feel his speed as much as some of the other top wide receiver prospects in college football.
I love his overall physicality, but he will need to dial it back a little bit at the next level. He initiates a lot of contact down the field with defensive backs and that will draw a flag at the next level. There are subtle techniques he can adopt to utilize his strength advantage without committing penalties.
Biggest takeaway: On the Move The Sticks podcast, we always talk about trying to build a basketball team of wide receivers. You want guys with different sizes and skill sets at the position. With that in mind, Bateman would be the power forward. He uses his size and physicality to overwhelm defenders. He's going to be an outstanding red-zone target at the next level.
He reminds me of: 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.