Ohio State University wide receiver Michael Thomas was chosen in the 2nd round with the 47th overall pick in the 2016 draft by the New Orleans Saints. Thomas was the sixth wideout chosen that year.
He’d had moderate production at Ohio State, but was mainly just known as the nephew of former NFL Pro Bowl wideout Keyshawn Johnson. Several scouts had said that he was a wideout who lacked deep speed, but that didn't have the hands or route precision necessary to be a reliable possession receiver.
Five years later, Thomas has established historical marks for receiving production. He had at least 90 receptions and over 1,000 yards in each of his first four seasons. He led the NFL in receptions in 2018 and 2019, with his 149 catches in 2019 setting a new single-season record. His 331 receptions for 1st downs are more than the total catches than anyone drafted ahead of him has caught in their careers.
Thomas suffered an ankle injury in the 2020 season opener that kept him out for nine games and severely limited his effectiveness when he did play. Without him, the New Orleans receiving corps was exposed. The Saints expect further development from young wideouts Deonte Harris and Marquez Callaway in 2021, but had to release veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason.
New Orleans may look to add another wideout with an early draft pick to complement Thomas. They could look back to the Big 10, where a receiver with similar questions as Thomas had is expected to be selected on Day 2.
RASHOD BATEMAN, WIDE RECEIVER (MINNESOTA)
Pro Day 40m = 4.39
NFL.com Comparison (Lance Zierlein):
Michael Gallup (Cowboys)
Bateman made a verbal commitment to the University of Minnesota prior to his senior year at Tift County High School in Georgia. After an eye-popping senior campaign, he spurned late offers from some SEC schools to honor his commitment to Minnesota. He started as a true freshman and set freshman school records by catching 51 passes for 704 yards and six touchdowns.
Bateman established himself as one of the nation's best receivers in 2019. His 60 receptions for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns not only earned him 1st team all-conference honors, but he was also voted as the Big 10 Receiver of the Year.
He played in five contests during the abbreviated Big 10 season in 2020, opting out for the remainder of the year in November. Bateman caught 36 passes for 472 yards and two scores during the season. He finished his career with the Golden Gophers with 147 receptions for 2,395 yards and 19 touchdowns in 31 total games.
Bateman has had trouble against physical cornerbacks throughout his career. He shows trouble releasing from a strong press, throwing him off his intended route. There were many contests that he simply didn't stand out, like the Minnesota offense needed.
Bateman needs to be more assertive in high traffic areas through the middle of the field. He has just average burst out of his breaks, so will need to continue to sharpen his routes to be effective at the next level. Average running skills after the catch, Bateman doesn't pick up much extra yardage after short receptions.
Playing bigger than his listed size, Bateman uses his body well to shield defenders from the throw. He has shown capable of running the entire route tree effectively and disguises his breaks well. Bateman has a long stride that makes it difficult for defenders to gain ground once he gets a step.
Bateman has elite hands and excellent extension, making him a consistent threat in every situation. He has outstanding body control along the sideline and the leaping ability to win jump balls. Bateman is also a lethal weapon on crossing routes, with the speed to pull away and fearlessness to pluck the ball out of the air in front of defenders.
Rashod Bateman has the hands and route efficiency to make him a reliable possession receiver, but also the speed to take a top off defenses. A sure Day 2 selection who could sneak into the late 1st round, Bateman should be an instant contributor with the upside of a number one wideout.