Rashod Bateman Warned After Ravens Draft Zay Flowers

Rashod Bateman has been warned after the Baltimore Ravens drafted Zay Flowers.

Getty Rashod Bateman has been put on notice after the Baltimore Ravens selected Zay Flowers 22nd overall in the 2023 NFL draft.

Zay Flowers’ arrival as the newest wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens has put Rashod Bateman on notice. Or at least former Ravens wideout Steve Smith Sr. has put Bateman on blast, warning he’ll have to “step up or get stepped out” after the team selected Flowers 22nd overall in the 2023 NFL draft.

Smith fired the warning during an appearance on NFL Total Access. The 43-year-old who tallied 1,065 yards for the Ravens in 2014, told Bateman, “Hey, Bateman. Zay Flowers goes across the middle. Odell Beckham goes across the middle. Sometimes you may think you’re the high-priced cow on the farm. Step up, or get stepped out. You better learn to go across the middle, or you’re going to be sitting on the bench like me cause I’m retired.”

Smith’s reference to Odell Beckham Jr. is also telling. It’s another reminder to Bateman the Ravens are now stacked at receiver and no longer waiting on the player they drafted 27th overall in 2021 to stay healthy and show some consistency.

The decision to draft Flowers in the first round showed the Ravens are ready for new options at a position that’s been a weakness for too long. It’s also no wonder Smith is bullish about what Flowers’ arrival means for Bateman career prospects.

Smith is a noted fan of former Boston College standout Flowers, who compares favoably to the five-time Pro-Bowler.

Ravens Selected a Steve Smith Sr. Clone

Flowers’ name was still echoing through the ether when comparisons to Smith began. The first to make the case was former Ravens scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah.

Jeremiah’s claim has credibility, not least because Flowers shares a similar physical profile to Smith. At 5-foot-10 and 177 pounds, Flowers plays bigger than his size, just the way 5-foot-9, 195-pounder Smith did during 16 prolific seasons at the pro level.

It’s hardly a surprise Smith has been on the Flowers bandwagon for a while. Smith touted him as a “day one plug and play type of player” back in February.

Smith’s endorsement actually helped the Ravens make their decision, according to general manager Eric DeCosta. He revealed a key conversation with Smith at the Scouting Combine, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic: “If Steve Smith has that much respect for a WR, you better pay attention. Like when Ozzie loves a TE, you better pay attention.”

Smith’s words still carry weight, one more reason Bateman needs to take his advice to heart.

Rashod Bateman Entering Make-or-Break Season

Two campaigns mired by injuries have left Bateman still needing to prove himself. A persistent groin problem kept him out five games as a rookie, before a foot injury that ultimately required surgery landed Bateman on injured reserve after Week 8 last season.

Starting a mere nine games represents a modest return on what the Ravens hoped they were getting from a first-round talent. It’s doubly frustrating since Bateman has showcased the potential to be a legitimate field-stretcher, like when he burned the New York Jets for a 55-yard touchdown in Week 1 last season.

The Ravens need a vertical threat to help Lamar Jackson develop as a passer after the quarterback led a pedestrian passing attack in 2022. Jackson’s offense produced just 33 completions of 20-plus yards, the second fewest in the league, ahead of only the New York Giants.

Things might have been different had Bateman managed to stay on the field. Fortunately, Flowers averaged 15.3 yards per reception across four years with the Eagles, and while many see him as a slot specialist, Smith is confident Flowers “can play all over the football field.”

Flowers’ versatility is more bad news for Bateman, who can expect a healthy Beckham to win between the numbers and in the red zone. If Flowers and fellow new recruit Nelson Agholor combine to take the top off of defenses, Jackson will finally have enough weapons to justify the five-year, $260 million deal he got from the Ravens on Thursday, April 27.

Then Bateman will find himself on the outside looking in, particularly after comments made earlier this offseason can’t have endeared him to DeCosta.

Bateman aimed a tirade at DeCosta’s desire for “better receivers” with a fiery tweet the player subsequently deleted, per The 33rd Team: “How ’bout you play to your player’s strengths and stop pointing the finger at us and #8 …blame the one you let do this…. we take heat 24/7. and keep us healthy … care about US and see what happen..ain’t no promises, tho … tired of y’all lyin and capn on players for no reason.”

That’s the kind of talk team brass will soon forget if a player is delivering on the field, but Bateman’s task just got harder after EDC chose Flowers.

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