Soon, Rashod Bateman will be catching passes from 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson.
The Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night selected Bateman, a highly productive wide receiver for the Gophers, with the 27th pick of the first round of the NFL draft. Bateman is the Gophers' first first-round draft pick since running back Laurence Maroney in 2006, and he'll join a team that has advanced to the AFC playoffs for three consecutive years.
"I can't even put it into words right now," Bateman said during a video conference after he was picked. "Obviously, I look up to Lamar a lot. To be a teammate, I know I'll learn a lot from him. I'm just excited to get to work with him."
Bateman, the fifth receiver selected in the first round, believes he's ready to make an immediate impact with Baltimore. The Ravens were last in the NFL with 182.4 passing yards per game last season, and Bateman joins a team whose top receiving targets are Marquise Brown (58 catches, 769 yards, eight touchdowns last year) and free-agent signee Sammy Watkins (37 catches, 421 yards, two TDs with Kansas City last year).
"I feel like they're getting the whole package, most definitely," he said. "I feel like I can play both outside and inside. My work ethic just helps me become a better football player each and every day, so whatever the team needs, I feel like I'll be that receiver who'll be the best teammate and help out in any situation possible."
Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta last week was defensive when reporters suggested the team needed more help at wideout. After selecting Bateman, he said "things fell the way we wanted it to fall. We're excited."
Bateman had a breakout season in 2019, helping lead the Gophers to a 10-2 record. The 6-foot, 190-pounder was named Big Ten Receiver of the Year while catching 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns and teaming with Tyler Johnson (86, 1,318, 13) to form a potent 1-2 receiving punch.
Last season, Bateman originally opted out of the season on Aug. 4, citing health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic and later disclosing that he had COVID-19 last summer. Less than a week later, the Big Ten canceled its 2020 season.
The Big Ten reversed course on Sept. 16, announcing a nine-game season would begin Oct. 23. Bateman opted back in to play his junior season for the Gophers. He led Minnesota with 36 receptions for 472 yards and two TDs before opting out of the final two games to prepare for the draft.
"I definitely knew this was possible when I got to college," Bateman said of being a first-round draft pick. "… When I got to college, my main focus was to work hard and get to the next level. It's definitely a blessing."
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said NFL teams were familiar with Bateman's on-field production. When they consulted with Fleck, they wanted to know about Bateman as a person, and he gave a glowing recommendation.
"He's a tremendous person, and whoever gets him will get a phenomenal person that's going to make their locker room better," Fleck said Tuesday. "I'm really proud of him."
Bateman is pumped to join a team that has lofty playoff goals.
"I've definitely been watching the Ravens the past couple years, and I've seen nothing but amazing things," he said.
"I'm just excited to be part of a hungry team so we can get ready to chase a Super Bowl.''