Ravens Rookie Named As Second-Half Breakout Candidate

Ravens Rashod Bateman

Getty Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman runs after a catch against the Minnesota Vikings.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman may only be four games into his NFL career, but the rookie is already turning heads around the league with his excellent route running and reliable hands.

The former Minnesota Golden Gopher is averaging more than 60 yards per game and has picked up first downs on 15 of his 18 catches. In fact, the first 11 catches of his career went for first downs, with Bateman demonstrating situational awareness and a football I.Q. beyond his years.

Taken with the 27th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Bateman is part of a new-look receiving group in Baltimore, with veteran Sammy Watkins joining the Ravens in free agency. The rookie turned heads in training camp with clinical route running and reliable hands, though his NFL debut was delayed by a groin injury.

But after four solid games to start his career, Bateman could be primed to build on his performance thus far and pair with Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown to give the Ravens a top-tier receiving tandem for the rest of the season.

Bateman Hype Growing

Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton listed Bateman as Baltimore’s second-half breakout candidate on Saturday, writing:

Rashod Bateman had a delayed start to the season, missing the first five games because of core-muscle surgery. The Baltimore Ravens haven’t wasted any time integrating him into the passing game.

In all four of his appearances, Bateman commanded at least six targets. He’s caught 18 passes for 241 yards. Though the rookie first-rounder hasn’t reached the end zone, 15 of his receptions have resulted in first downs. Quarterback Lamar Jackson can depend on him to move the chains in crucial moments.

Bateman’s debut came the week after Watkins suffered a hamstring injury against the Indianapolis Colts, so he was able to step right into the veteran’s role, playing at least 60% of the Ravens’ offensive snaps in each of his first three games. Even when Watkins returned against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night, Bateman still saw the field for 55% of the offense’s snaps, proving that he has earned a role as a primary receiver in Baltimore.

“The Minnesota product is part of the Ravens’ long-term plan, and he’s building a solid connection with Jackson that will remain intact through the second half of the term,” concluded Moton, referencing multiple Lamar Jackson-Bateman completions on scramble drills.

Bateman: ‘I’ve Impressed Myself’

Bateman is outperforming even his own expectations of himself, telling media last week, “I think I’ve impressed myself a little bit.”

Though he came out of college as a polished, NFL-ready prospect, Bateman’s knack for moving the sticks and connecting with Jackson on broken-down plays has still come as a pleasant surprise to the Ravens.

“It’s definitely cool to see,” said Bateman of his chemistry with his quarterback, noting that he and Jackson worked hard in the offseason to develop a strong connection.

Another reason that Bateman could have an even better second-half of the season is that his teammates have largely excelled this season. Hollywood Brown and Mark Andrews are both in the NFL’s top-20 players in terms of receiving yards per game this season, and despite a rough game in Miami, Jackson remains one of the most dangerous players in the NFL.

With all of the attention on Baltimore’s other playmakers, Bateman could be poised to face favorable matchups in single-coverage, where his advanced releases and route running precision make him a nightmare to defend.