GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers haven’t drafted a receiver in the first round since 2002. That fact alone would make it seem unlikely they’d break a two-decade streak by drafting a receiver in the first round next month.
But that’s the route Cynthia Frelund, NFL Network’s analytics expert, took in her mock draft. With the 29th selection, she selected Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman.
“Route-running precision is a metric my model values likely more than most, and Bateman thrives at it, especially when aligned on the outside,” she wrote. “I've found that route-running precision leading to separation in college is correlated to the same things in the NFL. Bateman ranked No. 3 amongst wide receivers in terms of route-running efficiency (as measured by reliable timing and the ability to create separation) on routes run from outside alignment in the FBS over the past two seasons.”
In some ways, Bateman’s scouting report reads like Davante Adams’ coming out of Fresno State. Bateman, a former basketball player, is a superb route-runner, can win outside and in the slot, and has a knack for breaking tackles. Listed at 6-foot-2 by the school, he said he recently ran a 4.39 in the 40. He also dropped too may passes.
“Off the snap, Bateman shows an impressive variety of releases to beat off-man coverage. He possesses the burst to challenge the defense vertically and understands leverage well to attack defensive backs at the hip. Quick, jittery feet allow him to execute deceptive moves,” reads part of his scouting report at ExpandTheBoxScore.com.
Bateman caught 51 passes for 704 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman, 60 passes for 1,219 yards (20.3 average) and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore and 36 passes for 472 yards (13.1 average) and two touchdowns in five games as a junior in 2020. He opted out of the season after Minnesota’s game against Wisconsin was canceled due to positive COVID tests.
While Green Bay led the NFL in scoring, expect it to draft a receiver – and perhaps more than one – in this year’s draft.
Will that receiver be selected in the first round? In his career, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has completed only seven passes to receivers selected in the first round: five by Tavon Austin this year and two by Koren Robinson. He has thrown four touchdown passes to players selected in the first round – all to tight end Marcedes Lewis the past two seasons.
The Packers’ last first-round receiver was Javon Walker with the No. 20 selection in 2002. Before that, they hadn’t selected a receiver in the first since grabbing Sterling Sharpe at No. 7 overall in 1988.