AP Photo/Terrance Williams
This is the third article of my “Dynasty Breakdowns” series. I’ve gone into more detail on the idea of dynasty football in previous articles. There will be a link to the complete collection of Dynasty Breakdowns at the end of this article. As do the other articles of the series, this piece will attempt to depict Rashod Bateman’s current value in the world of dynasty football and determine if owners should make an attempt to buy or sell him.
Very similar to Kyle Pitts, the center of focus in my previous article, Rashod Bateman is a second-year receiver whose injuries and situation have sidelined a much anticipated breakout season. Selected with the 27th overall pick of the 2020 draft, the former Golden Gopher was drafted for his crisp route running and field-stretching ability. Just over a year after Lamar Jackson’s MVP season in 2019, he was finally getting a weapon to use in the passing game and the dynasty community couldn’t have been more overjoyed. Bateman went around pick 1.09-1.10 in 1QB rookie drafts, close to other receivers such as Elijah Moore and Rondale Moore. His draft stock fell in August due to an injury in training camp labeled as a grade two inguinal groin strain. The injury would end up sidelining him for the first five games of his rookie campaign. In the 12 games he was able to participate in, Bateman recorded 103.50 PPR points for an average of 8.63 points per game. Rookie receivers not drafted in the early first round aren’t really expected to generate too much production in their first year, therefore his lack of production wasn’t seen to be too scary, especially considering his leave of absence. Going into the 2022 season, Bateman had a clean slate and had many factors going in his favor: both he and his quarterback were healthy once more; the Ravens traded their other primary wide receiver in Marquise Brown, leaving Bateman as the lone WR 1; and receivers have a trend of breaking out in their second season. At the beginning of Bateman’s second season, it seemed as if it was all coming together. Bateman scored 34.70 points in his first two games before unfortunately suffering a grade three pedal plantar fascia tear in week four. This injury would then evolve into a much more significant Lisfranc injury, taking Bateman out for the remainder of the season. As we approach Bateman’s third season, it is interesting to reflect back on the many different changes in dynasty value Bateman has had over the course of his career.
Graphs courtesy of KeepTradeCut
The first major change in his value is a sizable decrease of 1000 in August 2021. This is explained by his injury in training camp; his value was restored as he began playing in late September/early October. The next major change in his value is at the end of April 2022 where his value increased 800 points. This change in value is the result of the Ravens trading Marquise Brown. Finally, the biggest and most recent change is the major fall in October 2022 when Bateman suffered his season-ending injury.
Although Bateman is very young and is heading into only his third season, there are still many calls for concern. Despite being Lamar’s number one option outside of Mark Andrews, Bateman receives very few and inconsistent targets. For example, in week 14 of 2021, Bateman got seven catches on eight targets for 103 yards while only playing 65% of snaps. In the next four weeks (weeks 15-18), despite playing in at least 81% of snaps in each game, Bateman only averaged five targets and 27.75 yards per game. Let’s dive into the different factors that may help us predict Rashod Bateman’s current and future values.
The first important aspect to dissect in Rashod Bateman’s value is his injury history. The two different patches of injuries he has suffered in his NFL career are completely unrelated (groin and foot). His recent Lisfranc injury can take many months to return from after surgery, but he is set to easily be ready in time for the 2023 season. According to experts, not all players return to their pre-injury playing levels after a Lisfranc injury. Thankfully, medicine is constantly improving and Bateman is still very young, providing a lot of room for optimism. He has managed to stay away from what I refer to as ‘the big three,’ referring to ACL, MCL, and Achilles injuries. With ample time to recover, I wouldn’t be too worried about his injury status in the near-future.
As many receivers do, Bateman was used more as he progressed further into his rookie season. Oddly enough, his increased snap share didn’t continue into 2022. In his first three games (those before he suffered any injuries), Bateman averaged a 63% snap share. This is a sizable decrease from the last four games of his rookie season, in which he averaged an 86% snap share. Thanks to his poor usage, Bateman only averaged 5.3 targets over the span of his first three games. Although he didn’t see the ball often, he made the most of it when he did, averaging 3.57 fantasy points per catch. At first glance, this efficiency may seem like a positive, although it is far from a good sign. More than 50% of Bateman’s total PPR fantasy points this season came on only two plays. Players like Tyreek Hill have plenty of long touchdowns, but also have a healthy target share to create a much higher game-to-game fantasy floor. Bateman’s production has been very unpredictable thus far, and he will need more consistent shares of both snaps and targets before owners can feel confident in starting him.
Targets per route run (TPRR) is often a good stat for visualizing how much wide receivers are targeted, removing how snap share can impact targets. In 2022, Rashod Bateman had a TPRR of 25.5%, a more than 5% increase from 2021. This tells us that the problem with his lack of targets is solely based on his lack of snap share; in other words, Lamar is getting him the ball when he’s on the field.
Ravens System/Lamar Jackson
Ravens head coach, John Harbaugh, and his staff have always imposed a run-heavy offense, often finding themselves well over the league median in their rate of run plays. When Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback in 2018, Harbaugh and his coaching staff took their run-first approach to another level, completely changing the scheme and set up of the offense to fit Jackson’s scrambling play style. This worked very well for the Ravens and, in Jackson’s first year as a full season starter in 2019, he won the league’s MVP award for his efforts. Since then, their offense hasn’t flowed the same way it did in 2018, the result of teams figuring out how to better contain Jackson’s scrambling ability as well as his recent injuries. Running the ball a lot unfortunately means the Ravens aren’t passing the ball – a tragedy for the production of their receivers.
The Ravens recently fired four-year offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, replacing him with Todd Monken. Roman’s offensive philosophy focused heavily on the run, as can be seen in the previous graph. Monken, on the other hand, specializes more in the passing game. Most recently, Monken served as OC for the Buccaneers in 2018, OC for the Browns in 2019, and OC and quarterbacks coach for the Georgia Bulldogs from 2020-2022. All three teams were focused around the passing game; therefore, I see two potential reasons for this hiring: either the Ravens plan on drafting Stetson Bennett to be their franchise quarterback and wanted to ease the transition, or the Ravens want to focus more on the passing game going forward. Personally, I find the latter of the two options more likely, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If this is true, this is obviously a major positive for the fantasy implications of Ravens receivers.
In Jackson’s time with Baltimore no individual wide receiver has had more success than Marquise Brown. The 25th overall selection out of Oklahoma, nicknamed “Hollywood” due to his birthplace in Hollywood, Florida, was drafted for his speed and threat as a vertical route runner. Because of Brown’s role as Jackson’s primary, young target in the beginning of his career, I find it very effective to compare Brown with Bateman, who is now in a much similar position.
Similar to Bateman, Brown didn’t find very consistent snap shares in his first season. In his second season, Brown’s snap percentage gradually rose as the year went on eventually translating to more consistent production. As history has told us, young receivers tend to break out in their second and third seasons; this trend was especially true as Marquise Brown improved his fantasy points per game (FFPG) by nearly three points between his second and third seasons.
Due to his injuries, we’ve only seen the equivalent of one full season through Bateman’s first two years in the league. While we’re unsure of whether or not Bateman may make a similar jump, Marquise Brown’s successes show that it is not out of the realm of possibilities. However, it is very apparent that Marquise Brown started his career in a better position for fantasy.
Going further into comparing Bateman and Brown, there are some noticeable differences. Bateman is roughly four inches taller and 16 pounds heavier than Brown. While unable to run the 40-yard dash in the combine, it is projected that Brown would have run a time of 4.35 seconds – 0.08 seconds faster than Bateman’s 4.43. Brown’s smaller frame and faster speed completely changed the way each receiver was used. Brown ran nearly double the amount of snaps out of the slot in comparison to Bateman. Brown also ran many deep routes, often having a much higher average depth of target (ADOT) than Bateman.
Interestingly enough, Bateman’s ADOT surged in his first season without Brown, perhaps filling the gap he left in the deep passing game. In the few games he played this year, Bateman saw 1.2 deep targets per game, doubling this number from 0.6 in 2021. This is a very positive sign and heavily increases his ceiling if he’s able to continue receiving more downfield targets in the future.
The true best case scenario for Bateman is a ticket out of Baltimore via trade, similar to that of Marquise Brown. It has become increasingly apparent that the Ravens and their offensive scheme are not favorable for receivers to consistently thrive in from the fantasy perspective. While it is unlikely that general manager, Eric DeCosta, will move on from Bateman any time soon, the two parties are definitely not on the best of terms. Recently, DeCosta was quoted saying they’ve “Never really hit on [receivers]” in the draft. Bateman rightfully felt that he caught a stray, firing back on Twitter saying “How bout you play to your player’s strength and stop pointing the finger at us.” I don’t believe there’s any current threat to Bateman’s future as a Raven, although it’s something to monitor going forward.
The more likely trade, of course, would be one involving Lamar Jackson. If the Ravens were to deal him away, I could see one of two possibilities going forward. The first option would be trading up in the draft with their newly acquired capital in order to take one of the top-four quarterbacks. This would be a major positive if they selected Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, or Will Levis as all three quarterbacks are much more geared towards the passing game than Lamar. However, if they were to draft scrambler Anthony Richardson, I’m afraid the offense would continue to be more of the same. Additionally, Richardson seems like he’ll need at least a year to fully mature as a passer. The other option would be a bridge quarterback such as Jimmy Garoppolo or Andy Dalton coming in. While the Ravens offense would not be as strong, most of the quarterbacks in the free agency pool would force the Ravens offense to conform to a more pocket-passer friendly scheme, in turn helping Bateman get more targets.
Draft Another Receiver
If the Ravens end up keeping Jackson, adding a receiver with the 22nd overall pick could be a very likely possibility. At first, the thought of adding another receiver to the offense may scare some Bateman shareholders; however, I think this could be very beneficial for his fantasy outlook. With J.K. Dobbins’ contract expiring after this season, adding a receiver like Jordan Addison or Zay Flowers could be a step in the direction of a more receiver-friendly offense. As Lamar Jackson gets older, his legs will age faster than his arms, as they have for other mobile quarterbacks in the past. Adding a receiver could extend Jackson’s shelf life as a top quarterback in the league.
Where Does Rashod Bateman’s Value Fall?
Most likely, Lamar Jackson and Rashod Bateman remain Ravens for this season at the very least. Marquise Brown was good (not great) in his best season with the Ravens; his three seasons as a Ravens receiver are somewhat useful to create a more tangible sense of Bateman’s floor and ceiling. In the end, no matter his skill as a receiver, Bateman’s ceiling will always be capped by Lamar Jackson’s play style as a mobile quarterback. Hopefully, with some coaching changes on the offensive side of the ball and potentially a receiver-friendly draft, the Ravens may be looking to shift priority to the passing game.
As a third-year (and most likely healthier) receiver, Bateman is in line for a breakout season once more. While I’m confident in his abilities, I’m not nearly as confident that the Ravens can scheme him into more opportunities. A very polarizing player, it is very reasonable to be optimistic about his future dynasty value just as it is to be out on him.
Buy or Sell?
If you currently have Rashod Bateman, I would hang on for now. Odds are you’ve been holding onto him all year and have invested a lot more into him than you would get out at this point. Depending on the moves that transpire in the following weeks, his value could skyrocket, just as it did when Marquise Brown was traded on draft night last year. I think there’s a lot more that could work to restore his value than could hurt his value in the near future.
Unless you’re a Bateman truther, a University of Minnesota fanatic, or fall somewhere in between, I don’t think Bateman is worth investing in. However, if the Ravens trade Lamar or draft a wide receiver, others may see him losing value and may be trying to get rid of him for cheap, where it may actually be a positive to capitalize on. As a Bateman owner and a fan of football in general, I’m very excited to see how free agency pans out, especially in the case of Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.
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