Rashod Bateman

Rashod Bateman Opts Out, Enters 2021 Draft

Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman made a decision to opt out of his junior season because of COVID-19 concerns this summer but reconsidered after the Big Ten announced plans to start its campaign in the fall. But recent developments prompted Bateman to again decide to begin early preparations for his NFL career.

The standout pass catcher will wrap his final Golden Gophers slate early, citing the increased coronavirus issues (Twitter link). COVID trouble caused the cancelation of Minnesota’s Saturday game against Wisconsin, with the 100-plus-year-old rivalry representing one of many cancellations or postponements to occur across Division I-FBS over the past several days. Nine Minnesota players and six staffers tested positive for COVID-19 over the past five days. The Gophers played without 20 players due to COVID and injuries last week.

Bateman is expected to be a surefire first-round pick in 2021. Scouts Inc. rates the 6-foot-2 receiver as its No. 9 overall draft-eligible player for 2021. While wideouts Ja’Marr Chase — an LSU summer opt-out — and Alabama’s Devonta Smith rank ahead of Bateman, he will be a coveted target in yet another strong receiver draft.

This season, Bateman is averaging more yards per game than he did during a breakout 1,219-yard sophomore slate. The Gophers’ top weapon was on track to push for another 1,000-yard season, despite Minnesota being set to max out at eight games this year. He caught 36 passes for 472 yards and two scores in five games.

It will be interesting to see if other early-round prospects follow Bateman’s lead, in light of what has become an increasingly unstable college football season.

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WR Notes: Godwin, Lions, Broncos, Bateman

A bevy of wide receiver news has surfaced Friday, with several key weapons either out or likely to be shelved for Week 2. Here is the latest from the wideout ranks:

  • The Buccaneers have given Chris Godwin a doubtful designation. The contract-year wide receiver displayed concussion-like symptoms Wednesday, after absorbing a late-game hit in last week’s loss to the Saints, and remains in Tampa Bay’s protocol. Godwin has missed just two career games.
  • For a second straight week, the Lions will be without Kenny Golladay. Joining Godwin as a contract-year standout on the verge of a big payday, Golladay will miss another game because of a hamstring malady.
  • The Broncos will have their first- and second-round picks together in game action this week, with K.J. Hamler set to join Jerry Jeudy. Vic Fangio said Hamler will play. The second-rounder sustained a hamstring injury during training camp. Denver may have to wait for any Jeudy-Hamler-Courtland Sutton formations, however, with the Broncos’ No. 1 target remaining questionable with a sprained AC joint.
  • During Week 1, DeVante Parker aggravated a hamstring issue he initially encountered during training camp. The Dolphins‘ No. 1 target is questionable to play Sunday.
  • The Texans worked out Devin Smith this week, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes. The Cowboys cut Smith, a former Jets second-round pick, as they trimmed their roster to 53 players. Now 28, Smith has just 15 career receptions since being a coveted prospect in 2015.
  • An interesting situation has emerged at the University of Minnesota, one of several Big Ten teams who saw an impact talent opt out and declare for the 2021 draft. First-round wide receiver prospect Rashod Bateman opted out this summer, but the high-end target is angling to return now. Bateman is back on campus but has signed with an agent, per Yahoo’s Pete Thamel (on Twitter). Due to the unusual circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic has created — particularly in the Big Ten, which announced an October restart this week — the Golden Gophers are attempting to secure a waiver from the NCAA to allow Bateman to play.

Ohio State CB Shaun Wade Opts Back In; Latest On Other Big Ten Opt-Outs

With the Big Ten now on track to begin its season in late October, Ohio State will have one of its top players back. Standout cornerback Shaun Wade said during an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter (via ESPN.com’s Field Yates, on Twitter) he changed his mind on opting out of the 2020 season. He is now set to play as a senior.

Set to follow the likes of Bradley Roby, Eli Apple, Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley and Jeff Okudah as an Ohio State corner to hear his name called in the first round, Wade will do so after playing a fourth Buckeyes season. He ranks as the No. 7 player on Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest 2021 big board.

Wade hired an agent but did not file any paperwork, according to ESPN.com. He is not the only one of the Big Ten opt-outs to reconsider. Ohio State offensive lineman Wyatt Davis, a potential first-round pick, also reversed course and opted back in (Twitter link).

First-round prospects Micah Parsons (linebacker, Penn State), Rondale Moore (wide receiver, Purdue), Jalen Mayfield (tackle, Michigan) and Rashod Bateman (wide receiver, Minnesota) opted out before Wade initially decided to pass on 2020. Not all are committed to skipping the season, though some still are.

Penn State coach James Franklin said the door is open for Parsons to play as a junior, according to PennLive.com, while Purdue HC Jeff Brohm intends to check on Moore’s status now that the conference timetable has changed. Bateman, however, does not plan to opt back in, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Golden Gophers standout wideout has asthma and cited health concerns as a reason he will skip the COVID-19-altered season to prepare for the draft. Despite playing just one full season with the Wolverines, Mayfield plans to stick with his decision to bypass his junior season, per the Detroit Free Press.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman Opts Out, Declares For 2021 NFL Draft

Although each of the Power 5 conferences announced plans for adjusted seasons, the college football landscape remains uncertain. Some lower-level conferences have tabled their seasons. The University of Connecticut canceled its slate.

A season set to be defined by the COVID-19 pandemic will force NFL prospects to make difficult decisions. A potential first-round talent made one. Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman opted out of the 2020 season. He has declared for the 2021 draft.

In light of the uncertainty around health and safety in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have to set my wishes aside for the wellness of my family, community and beyond,” Bateman said. “Because of this, I have decided to opt out of the 2020 college football season and I will be taking the next steps in my journey by declaring for the 2021 NFL draft.”

Bateman will only have played two college seasons, but the 2018 recruit will be eligible for the draft due to being out of high school for three years. The Golden Gophers wideout caught 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He rates 19th on Todd McShay’s early big board for 2021. The 2021 class could include other standout receivers — like LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase or Alabama holdovers Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle — but the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Bateman figures to factor into the first-round mix.

Coming shortly after Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley‘s choice, Bateman’s opt-out decision may impact other players expected to go early in the 2021 draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.