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.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.