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Following the recent departures of Corey Davis and Adam Humphries, the Tennessee Titans must continue to improve the depth in the receivers room behind their superstar wideout A.J. Brown and recently-acquired Josh Reynolds.
Considering the first two weeks of free agency have now gone by and over $100 million has been rightly invested on the defensive side of the ball, it’s apparent that the draft is the likeliest option for the team to add another quality receiver or two.
Up until draft weekend, I will be breaking down some of the players that have been tied to the Titans the most and/or those prospects that intrigue myself.
This week’s prospect profile is going to be on the talented and reliable wide receiver, Rashod Bateman. Let’s take a closer look at what intrigues scouts the most about the former Minnesota standout.
Name: Rashod Bateman
Position: Wide Receiver
Weight: 210 pounds
Collegiate Career and Accolades
Bateman introduced himself to the country right out of the gates as a true freshman. The former four-star prospect caught 51 passes for 704 yards and six touchdowns in his debut season in the BIG 10. His stellar freshman year was only a taste of what was to come from the Tifton, Georgia native.
Expectations were through the roof for Bateman as he entered his sophomore year and the Golden Gophers receiver somehow managed to shatter them.
Bateman earned First-Team All-Big 10 honors after totaling 60 receptions for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had clearly established himself as one of the best receivers not only in the Big 10, but in the entire country. Bateman also earned the Richter–Howard Receiver of the Year award for being the top receiver in the conference following his dominant 2019 campaign.
Going into his junior year, Bateman’s hype was palpable and it was all seemingly getting stripped away from everyone. Due to COVID-19, the BIG 10 initially decided to postpone their season, which ultimately led to the talented Minnesota receiver choosing to opt out to focus on the NFL draft instead.
Fortunately for football fans everywhere, the BIG 10 eventually decided to hold a shortened season in the fall and shortly after Bateman decided he would be a part of it. The conference only played in five games but Bateman made sure to make best of them despite being on a highly-inconsistent offense.
As the go-to receiving threat, his versatility allowed him to do it all. He lined up in the slot, out wide, and was even involved in the backfield on occasions. In three out of the five games he played in, Bateman eclipsed the 100-yard threshold and ended his collegiate career by securing Third-Team All-Big 10 honors after finishing with 472 yards and two touchdowns on 36 catches.
Bateman possesses the size and skillset to be an extremely productive and possibly dominant receiver at the next level, especially if put into an offense that doesn’t expect him to be the sole savior right away.
The Minnesota product was an alpha figure from the second he stepped on the field as a true freshman and that remained the same throughout his entire collegiate career. Using his unique combination of size, speed, and crafty route-running, Bateman developed into one of the best all-around threats in all of college football.
The Minnesota product consistently displays a blend of savvy route-running, reliable hands, YAC ability, creative and complex releases off the line, and wins on his contested catches an astounding 64 percent of the time over the last two seasons.
Bateman is not shy about attacking the middle of the defense or making the difficult catch in a crowd while embracing contact.
One of his most impressive attributes is his instinctive ability to pluck the ball from the sky at its highest point. The Georgia native is a natural hands catcher who consistently extends his arms to grab the ball away from his frame and tends to shy away from relying on his body to make catches.
Bateman is an extremely smooth and fluid receiver who sells his routes as good as anyone. He knows how to set defenders up for failure, whether he’s selling what looks like a vertical before making his break on a dime, or performing one of his absurdly efficient double moves. Bateman often leaves the opposition covering grass due to his ridiculously sudden movements.
The Minnesota product has displayed a genuine cognizant understanding of attacking different coverages as well. Bateman consistently finds the holes in zone coverage and is a natural when things break down and turn into backyard football.
The Georgia native also helps his quarterbacks out with his big catch radius, which allows him to adjust to any errant throw to save what could be a busted play.
The talented Minnesota receiver is a tireless worker who gives it his all even if the play is being made on the opposite end of the field. Much of Bateman’s game is expected to translate to the pro game seamlessly.
As talented as the Minnesota receiver is, he does have some flaws in his game. Bateman is a willing and able blocker on occasion but he must do a better job at finishing blocks once they’re engaged.
There are times that he can get his hands on someone and for whatever reason he decides to let them go. With his frame, he has the ability to wipe out the opposition on any given play. He must show more urgency as a blocker because it often seems more like an effort issue as opposed to an ability issue.
Also, over his last season at Minnesota, he did have an issue with an occasional drop. According to Pro Football Focus, Bateman had a 14 percent drop rate in 2020. Granted, it was a much smaller sample size and not exactly a normal season, but he must get that drop issue under control the way he has for much of his collegiate career.
Bateman is a good and explosive athlete for his size but in no way is he considered elite in that category. That doesn’t mean he is considered slow because he is far from that. The Minnesota product is able to build up to top speed when running down field and into open spaces.
Where he comes up short is he tends to play to one speed and doesn’t create that instant burst of acceleration that you would ideally like from your versatile wide receiver. If his route-running isn’t precise, he likely won’t be able to create the adequate separation that a quarterback is hoping for.
Fit with the Titans
Following Davis’ departure, the Titans are in need of finding another quality receiver who can take some of the pressure off of Brown and Derrick Henry. Davis averaged an underwhelming 712 yards and 2.7 touchdowns per year during his four-year career in Nashville — numbers that are hardly irreplaceable.
Should the Titans select Bateman, he will be fortunate to have the benefit of playing third fiddle on this explosive offense to Henry and Brown, which will lead to him seeing much softer coverages than he would on many other teams.
As pro ready as the Minnesota product is, he would greatly benefit and likely excel in a role that doesn’t force him to be the top threat immediately out of the gates, and Tennessee definitely provides that luxury.
Bateman will mostly play on the outside but he has experience in the slot as well. His addition would give the team a promising young trio of receivers, along with Brown and Reynolds.
In reality, the Minnesota product — or any rookie, for that matter — likely won’t immediately replicate the production the team got from Davis in 2020. However, Bateman’s upside on an offense as potent as Tennessee’s could yield better results than anything we ultimately got from Davis during his time in two-tone blue.
There is this false narrative going around that the Titans are inevitably doomed unless they find a way to get another high-quality (expensive) veteran receiver.
Although that would be nice, that is more of a luxury than a necessity for this specific offense that includes a Pro-Bowl quarterback, legitimate superstar wide receiver and running back, and four All-Pro caliber offensive linemen now that Taylor Lewan is returning from his unfortunate knee injury.
Back in 2019, the Titans made the AFC Championship after getting a combined 975 yards and four touchdowns from Davis and Humphries — hardly irreplaceable production for Reynolds and a talented rookie to replicate and/or exceed as Tennessee aims to get back to that stage and further in 2021.
Should the Titans draft a talent like Bateman in order to add to this star-studded offense, combined with their revamped defense via free agency and inevitably the draft, Tennessee could find themselves back in legitimate title conversations again much sooner rather than later.