Any time you’re a clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver for an NFL team, you garner fantasy attention. When that team is the Baltimore Ravens, the attention is presented with a note of caution as evaluators look at wide receiver Rashod Bateman.
The Ravens had their first 1,000-yard wide receiver since 2016 last season when Marquise Brown went over the milestone in the final week of the regular season. How was he rewarded? He was promptly traded to Arizona, opening the door for Bateman to start living up to being a first-round pick in 2021.
Bateman missed the first five games of his rookie season with a groin injury, and when he came back his production was hit-and-miss. In 12 games, he caught 46 passes for 515 yards and one touchdown. He had just one game with more than 80 receiving yards and six games with fewer than 30 receiving yards, which is reason for hesitation to expect a gigantic production leap in his second season.
With Brown (and his 146 targets last year) gone, the Ravens need to find somebody to complement tight end Mark Andrews, who caught 107 passes for 1,361 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Bateman is the first in line to be that tag team partner.
Part of the reason for optimism of a breakout season from Bateman is the lack of quality talent behind him. Devin Duvernay, James Proche and Tylan Wallace combined to catch 51 passes last season, and none of them has the skill set Bateman possesses.
Lamar Jackson has a cannon for an arm, and Bateman has the speed to take over the deep receiver role that Brown had the last few years. Bateman dominated in college at Minnesota and held up against some of the best cornerbacks in the country. After going down in training camp, we didn’t see the best Bateman has to offer. He possesses the prototype size and athleticism you look for in a No. 1 receiver, but his progress was stunted by missing critical time in camp and the start of the regular season with an injury.
With so many receiving targets gone – in addition to losing Brown, Baltimore parted ways with Sammy Watkins and Devonta Freeman’s combined 91 targets – few teams have more of a void that needs filling than the Ravens. Bateman will be given every opportunity to fill that need.
Fantasy football outlook
Most analysts have Bateman rated as a high WR4, which, given his role in the offense, seems too low. He occasionally goes around WR36 but has an aggregate ADP of being the No. 38 receiver chosen in PPR. Baltimore is a run-first offense, but Jackson can air it out with the best of them, and Bateman is a vertical receiver capable of running under Jackson’s bombs for backbreaking plays.
While you don’t want to make too significant an investment on an unproven NFL product, Bateman has enough upside to be a strong breakout candidate that can be had at a reasonable price. View him as a mid-level WR3 (in the 30-35 ranking range) with the potential to be much better than that draft number.