There will be many viable options available to the Ravens when they make their selections late in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, assuming they stay in those spots. In his most recent mock draft for Sports Illustrated, Conor Orr had the Ravens selecting Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman with the No. 27 pick.
Orr’s mock draft was released before the Ravens added the No. 31 pick as part of the return for tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
“The reason that I like [Bateman] is that you are going to grade guys off of their 2019 film,” Conor Orr said on Glenn Clark Radio April 16. “I don’t think you are going to do a ton of grading off of 2020, and in 2019 he was arguably one of the top four receivers in the country, maybe even a top-three receiver. He was totally dominant.”
His production during that 2019 campaign speaks for itself. The 6-foot, 190-pound wideout caught 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns in 13 games. He also earned first-team All-Big Ten and third-team AP All-America honors — all while competing for targets with current Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Tyler Johnson.
Bateman only played in five games in 2020 before opting out in late November — but he still caught 36 passes for 472 yards and two touchdowns. However, Bateman’s 2020 season may cause him to slide in the draft, according to Orr.
“In 2020, this guy had COVID in June and was asthmatic, had to use an inhaler for the first time in his life because he couldn’t breathe, but still had a 30 percent target share and was still pretty dominant,” Orr said. “Why I think he might fall is I think there are teams out there that, as hypocritical as it sounds, are going to be critical of opt-outs … and the testing. Maybe he measured a little smaller and shorter than people were expecting.”
The measurements Orr is referring to are Bateman’s pro day measurements. Even though he was listed on the school’s website as 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he officially measured in at 6-foot and 190 pounds. That could cause some concern among teams that Bateman’s style of play won’t translate to the next level, but Orr is still convinced he will thrive on the outside at the next level.
“He can hang on the outside,” Orr said. “He can beat up cornerbacks. He can win the tough balls. He is a complete wide receiver. All these things are reasons why some teams might not pick him, but if I’m sitting in the chair it doesn’t bother me. Everything is there on the tape.”
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has a strong tendency to attack the middle of the field as opposed to the outside, leading some to believe Bateman would not fit in Baltimore. Orr still believes Bateman would be a quality pick but agrees that changes would have to be made for him to thrive with the Ravens. Otherwise, the Ravens will simply have to maximize what Jackson does well, according to Orr — much like the Carolina Panthers did with Cam Newton during his MVP season in 2015.
“If you are Baltimore, you have to make a decision about how much are you going to push Lamar Jackson to start throwing more to outside the numbers,” Orr said. “Or how much are we going to be like the Panthers in 2015 in realizing what his strengths and weakness are and building around it.”
Orr pointed to Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore as a potential fallback plan if Bateman were to be selected before the Ravens pick. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound receiver hasn’t played much the past two seasons but put forth a fantastic freshman season (114 catches, 1,258 yards, 12 touchdowns in 2018).
Still, Orr doesn’t believe the Ravens should look at any receiver but Bateman late in the first round.
“What the Ravens do need is a legitimate downfield, big-bodied target,” Orr said, “and Bateman is going to fill that spot, whereas Moore isn’t going to help you as much.”
For more from Orr, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the University of Minnesota