Before it reached 15 years, Rashod Bateman ended the Gophers’ drought without a first-round pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday.
The University of Minnesota wide receiver was taken by the Baltimore Ravens with the 27th pick. The junior from Georgia is the first U player taken in the first round since running back Laurence Maroney in 2006.
“Ready to give my all to the #RavensFlock,” Bateman tweeted. “Baltimore, you ready? Let’s get to work.”
Bateman is also the first Gophers receiver to go in the opening round since the draft started in 1936 and his selection means Minnesota has receivers taken in consecutive drafts for the first time after Tyler Johnson went to Tampa Bay in the fifth round in 2020.
“(Bateman) is a magician at the line of scrimmage,” ESPN analyst Louis Riddick said. “He is a masterful route runner. Great, down-the-field ball skills.
“When you talk about home-run picks, (Ravens quarterback) Lamar Jackson has got to be going, ‘That is exactly what I need,” Riddick continued. “That’s exactly the profile I need.”
Bateman was forecast to be the fourth or fifth receiver taken, excluding Florida tight end/receiver hybird Kyle Pitts. Bateman was behind LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, Alabama pair DeVonte Smith and Jaylen Waddle and either just ahead of or behind Mississippi’s Elijah Moore.
Chase was the first receiver picked, going fifth to Cleveland, with Waddle off to Miami with next pick. At No. 10, Philadelphia took Smith.
But that projected order was upset when the Giants went with Florida’s Kadarius Toney with the 20th pick
In five mock drafts, Bateman was picked to go as soon as 24th to Pittsburgh, two had him going 29th to Green Bay or 31st to Baltimore. One, NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah, had Bateman not among the first 32 picks.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said NFL front-office personnel wanted to know about Bateman off the field, from his social, life, to his academics, his body language and everyday habits as well as the recruiting process.
“Why’d he pick you?” Fleck said. “What was his options? What was the final decision when he said I’m coming. Did he go on other visits? What happened. Tell me about the ‘Row the Boat’ tattoo on his arm. They want to know about everything. It has nothing to do on whether he can run that route or that break point or can he create separation, release at the line of scrimmage go up and go up and over, play big, it has nothing to do with that. That is all done. They’ve seen practice film. They’ve seen game film. They’ve done that for a long time. It’s the other things.
“I think that is where Rashod has really shined,” Fleck continued. “He is a tremendous person and whoever gets him is getting a phenomenal person that is going to make their locker room better. I’m really proud of him and can’t wait to hear his name called.”