While either drafting a quarterback with the No. 21 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft or trading up for one of the big boys was absolutely on the table for GM Chris Ballard and the Indianapolis Colts, the trade for former Philadelphia Eagles star Carson Wentz has effectively ruled that out.
Instead, drafting a wide receiver, like Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, could be in the cards.
The COVID-19 pandemic did a number on Bateman, as he could’ve put up insane production in 2020 following Tyler Johnson’s departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In five games with the Golden Gophers, Bateman totaled 472 yards and found the end zone twice despite a downgrade at offensive coordinator.
While LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase and Alabama’s Devonta Smith have earned the designation of WR1 and WR2 in this draft class, the rest of the first round could be a gold mine, as this is one of the strongest receiver classes in recent memory, even outside of those two standouts. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah compared Bateman to Michael Thomas.
Bateman is a perfect fit for what the Colts need right now, as he could become a star for a receiving corps that could lose TY Hilton and Zach Pascal to free agency (though Pascal is expected to return).
Would Rashod Bateman fit with the Colts?
Even a basic examination of his film will make anyone fall in love with his ability to run routes. A smooth operator that can accelerate and decelerate with ease, Bateman was used as a runner on in-breaking routes frequently at Minnesota. While he’s lethal as a ball-carrier, his true strength comes when he goes down the field.
Bateman averaged over 20 yards per catch in 2019, a product of the 6-2, 210-pound speedster’s ability to track the ball in the air, make contested catches, and run by opposing cornerbacks if the defense doesn’t help over the top. Very rarely are receivers with his combination of big-play potential, skill as a runner, and production in a conference like the Big Ten hanging out there at No. 21.
As good as Michael Pittman Jr. is, he isn’t the most explosive athlete, and the Colts need to add someone that can replace Hilton’s speed down the field. Parris Campbell could do that, but he’s still an injury risk. Bateman’s soft hands and quick feet will be his meal ticket, and Indy should look to cash in with their first-round pick.
The Colts are in a very winnable division, and they need to add some contributors that can step right in and produce if they want to fend off the Tennessee Titans. Bateman’s ceiling is just as high as any one of the receivers being pegged in this draft range, and Ballard should sprint to the podium if he’s available.