Ravens Key Playmaker Named ‘Overvalued’ Heading Into 2022

Rashod Bateman

Getty This key Ravens player has been named "overvalued."

Trusting a second-year player to make a significant leap is quite the risk from a team that missed the playoffs last season. The Baltimore Ravens don’t seem to care, though, not based on their expectations for one of 2021’s first-round draft picks.

This player needs to shake off injury concerns and overcome a lack of playing time to emerge as a productive leader. If he can’t, a key facet of the offense will fail to spark and leave the unit worryingly one-dimensional.

The difference between what the Ravens are expecting and what the player has already delivered, has one writer naming him as “overvalued.”

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Key Pass-Catcher Needs to Prove Doubters Wrong

There’s no way to diminish the pressure Rashod Bateman is under entering his second season. He’s expected to be the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, but not everybody is convinced Bateman will deliver.

Among the doubters, Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports thinks there’s not enough talent around Bateman: “Right now, they’ll go into the season with Rashod Bateman, James Proche, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace and Binjimen Victor as their top five receivers. None of Lamar Jackson’s top wide receiver targets have over 53 career catches (Duvernay).

As Kerr noted, Bateman’s numbers last season were solid, at best: “Since Bateman debuted in Week 6 of last season, he was tied for fifth among rookies in receptions (46), sixth in receiving yards (515) and fourth in receiving first downs (29).”

An ongoing groin injury limited the player the Ravens drafted 27th overall a year ago to a mere four starts. The numbers don’t provide much reason to be confident, but Bateman at least offered glimpses of his ability to stretch the field.

His talent for the big play was summed up by this 30-yard reception against the Cleveland Browns in Week 14:

Bateman hauled in a season-long 36-yard grab in the same game and averaged 11.2 yards per reception over the course of his debut campaign. The Ravens need somebody to win consistently on the outside and replace the vertical threat Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown offered this passing game.

Brown was traded to the Arizona Cardinals on draft day, a deal that took away franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson’s go-to wideout. For Bateman to step into the role, he’ll have to be more than just somebody Jackson can target deep.

Fortunately, Bateman also showed snippets of how he can win on inside routes. He scored his first pro touchdown from the slot against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16:

Having a receiver who can move around and still beat coverage will increase what offensive coordinator Greg Roman can call in the passing game. It will also boost Bateman’s number of targets, so there’s reason to believe he will take a leap forward, but will it be far enough?

Leaving the question unanswered is a risk the Ravens don’t need to take based on the receivers still available in free agency.

Free Agent Market Can Solve Ravens’ Lingering Problem

It makes little sense for the Ravens to stand pat with what they have at receiver when they could sign one of many proven pass-catchers. As Spotrac.com shows, the list is full of former All-Pros and Super Bowl winners, including Odell Beckham Jr., Emmanuel Sanders and Julio Jones.

The other prominent names are no less impressive, with T.Y. Hilton and Will Fuller also up for grabs. It’s difficult to believe there isn’t one name here capable of helping solve a lingering problem for the Ravens.

Ignoring the issue is a risk not just because of what it would mean for Roman’s run-heavy offense. His play-calling would become predictable and defenses will load the box against the ground game if there’s no threat of anybody going long beyond the last line. There’d also be the not-so small matter of tight end Mark Andrews continuing to draw a crowd underneath without a receiver to take coverage away.

The All-Pro is Jackson’s favorite target, and keeping the quarterback sweet during what could be a contract year will be key for the Ravens. Jackson has yet to sign a long-term extension and if he grows weary without a truly elite wide receiver to throw to, his frustrations could push him to test free agency or perhaps settle for the franchise tag a year from now.

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