Rashod Bateman is Leaving College for the NFL Draft Due to COVID Concerns, Now the Gophers Have to Find a No. 1 Receiver

Photo credit: David Banks (USA TODAY Sports)

It’s true, Rashod Bateman is opting out of the 2020 NCAA football season to prepare to go pro. It’s devastating news to a team that, if the season is played, should be one of the best in the Big Ten and the entire nation again this season.

Now as the prospects of a college football season begin to dwindle, Minnesota’s most valuable receiver will not suit up in the team’s colors once again.

“I’m making the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life,” Bateman said via video posted to Twitter on Tuesday morning. “Minnesota, you have my heart forever.”

Citing the very fluid situation with regards to health and safety within the college football season, he decided to prepare for the NFL Draft in 2021 to prevent endangering himself physically.

While it is devastating news for the program and fans alike who were anticipating another extremely competitive season, this move for Bateman should be considered a no-brainer. As the uncertainty with the virus continues on into the summer and into early fall, Bateman may just be one of the first of the top NFL prospects that will end up sitting out for these same uncertain circumstances.

Bateman has a chance that many college football players won’t: Play football at a higher level and get paid quite well to do so.

Slowing the progression of his career for a season that every day becomes more at risk of even starting is one thing, but to risk his physical health if he contracted COVID-19 or a devastating on-field injury would be detrimental to his upcoming professional football career.

In regards to college academics and athletics, the mantra historically has been to prepare students for a desired field or overall just to prepare them well for the next phase of life. Due to the coronavirus, Bateman’s next phase of life is beginning sooner than expected, and Minnesota gave him every opportunity to be considered one of the top NFL prospects coming into the next draft.

With Bateman’s explosion in production for 2019, he was expected to have an even better 2020 without Tyler Johnson in the mix for receiver. Bateman was set to be the No. 1, which no one will get to see. Either way, he set himself up to be a potential first-round draft pick.

According to a article with an early projection of the 2021 NFL Draft, Bateman went 23rd overall. According to DraftWire at USA Today, their 2021 mock draft had Bateman going as the 14th overall selection. These will continue to bode well for Bateman’s stock as a first-round pick. As the season becomes increasingly delayed — or the prospects of it even happening are diminished — Bateman’s stock should stay relatively stable.

Bateman is set to become an explosive NFL wide receiver. Tuesday’s news was just the first inkling, although earlier than expected for many, that he is dedicated to fulfilling that path.

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