The Green Bay Packers failed to find a WR2 in last year’s draft, and once again Aaron Rodgers was left without a reliable target not named Davante Adams. Despite lacking a consistent secondary target, Rodgers was still able to have an MVP season and lead the green and gold to the NFC Championship.
But their need for a bona fide WR2 became evident in that loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs devoted all of their attention to Adams, and Green Bay’s other wideouts had trouble holding on to the ball.
Last season the Packers drafted for the future, adding Rodgers’ successor in Jordan Love. But this season they should capitalize on another talented wideout class and give Rodgers the weapons he needs to make another deep playoff run.
One option is conveniently just across the border. University of Minnesota wideout Rashod Bateman would be a trustworthy second option for Rodgers.
Bateman tore up his pro day with an impressive 4.39-second 40-yard dash and a vertical jump of 39″. While he isn’t in the top tier of this year’s wideout class, he is an incredibly talented player who bears some similarities to a certain divisional foe who took the league by storm last season.
Bateman profiles incredibly similarly to Justin Jefferson, according to draft experts. Like Bateman, Jefferson wasn’t considered among the top-three wideouts because he didn’t have Henry Ruggs‘ speed or Jerry Jeudy‘s route-running ability, and he supposedly wasn’t a complete player like CeeDee Lamb. Similarly, Bateman is not as fast as Jaylen Waddle, as good of a route runner as Smith, or as complete a wideout as Chase.
And like Jefferson, Bateman’s pro comp is Keenan Allen.
Although he doesn’t possess the attributes that distinguish the three highest-rated wide receivers in his draft class, Bateman is precocious in his ability to sell his routes — another similarity to Jefferson. Whether it is on a contested grab or a double move, Bateman always looks to make a play.
The wideout from Tifton, Ga. chose to attend the University of Minnesota over traditional SEC powerhouses like Georgia, Texas A&M, and Tennessee. In his sophomore campaign, he formed one of the nation’s best wideout duos with Tyler Johnson, who was taken by Tampa Bay in the fifth round last year, in a season where they both eclipsed 1,200 yards.
Bateman initially opted out when the Big Ten announced there would be no fall football last year, but he decided to come back when they decided upon an abbreviated schedule.
The Gophers were a lot less successful last year due to a combination of players graduating, opt-outs, and COVID cases. But in the five games he played, Bateman had 472 yards on 36 catches in Johnson’s role, playing more out of the slot than he had in previous years. Due to this change in role and the loss of Johnson, Bateman wasn’t the same big-play threat that he was the year prior and saw his yards per reception go down from 20.3 to 13.1.
At 6’2″, 210 lbs., Bateman already looks like a pro receiver. Last season, Gophers coach P.J. Fleck moved him inside to the slot to allow him to create a mismatch with shorter slot cornerbacks, and Bateman used his size to either gain separation or make contested catches all year.
He is also a skilled route runner who has shown an ability to run every route. Bateman’s initial move off the line of scrimmage puts defenders on their back foot early. He also generates a lot of separation from cuts and breaks in his routes.[videopress PrACF1cp]
Bateman has finished top-10 in yards per route run in the FBS (3.48 and 3.45, respectively) in his last two seasons. Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith is the only other wideout to finish above the 3.4 mark the previous two seasons.
If the Packers are able to land Bateman in the draft, he could serve as a great complement to Devante Adams, thanks to his ability to play both in the slot and outside the numbers. Bateman is capable of having an important role in his rookie season on a team with Super Bowl aspirations.