Late for Work 5/5: Rashod Bateman is Ravens' 'Second-Most Important Player' This Season

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WR Rashod Bateman

Bateman is Ravens' 'Second-Most Important Player'

ESPN's NFL Live crew was asked Tuesday if the Ravens did enough in the draft to help Lamar Jackson.

Dan Orlovsky went as far as to say the offense's success could largely depend on rookie first-round pick Rashod Bateman.

"I think he's the second-most important player on the football team this year, outside of Jackson," Orlovsky said. "... For it to actually pay off, Bateman has to have a Justin Jefferson-type of impact for Lamar. … If he does that, it's a two-team race in that division (with the Browns)."

Jefferson is an extremely high bar to set. The 22nd-overall pick in last year's draft posted an NFL rookie record 1,400 receiving yards. In the Ravens' run-heavy offense, it would be very difficult for Bateman to put up those kinds of numbers. The Ravens have had only one 1,000-yard season from a drafted receiver in franchise history.

Having a big impact, however, is certainly attainable for Bateman. Many pundits felt Bateman was the right selection for the Ravens at No. 27. He earned one of the highest average grades among first-round picks.

"Top-to-bottom, the Ravens were not able to sign wide receivers in free agency outside of Sammy Watkins," ESPN's Mina Kimes added. "I love what they did in the draft. … I think it was the right thing to do in this offense for Jackson."

The Athletic's Ted Nguyen ranked Bateman as one of his favorite player-team scheme fits for the 2021 draft class.

"The Ravens offense is predicated on option runs, but teams are starting to defend the option more soundly," Nguyen wrote. "However, when they dedicate more resources to stopping the option, defenses leave themselves exposed to the pass. Although Jackson has grown in the mental aspect of playing quarterback every season, his accuracy and ball placement could be spotty. Having an X receiver with a big catch radius can be beneficial for Jackson.

"Bateman has prototypical X receiver size. He has a nice package of releases to get off press coverage, using quick footwork, deceptive shoulder fakes and a sudden first step to burst past defenders. He doesn't have explosive speed, but he's smooth in and out of breaks and can run a full route tree. He has strong hands, catches the ball away from his body, isn't afraid to catch passes over the middle, and can hang on to the ball through contact. Bateman has inside/outside versatility — he'll give Jackson the big target he hasn't had on the outside and can also be used in a 'big slot' role."

More Reaction to Alejandro Villanueva Signing

The Ravens didn't take long after the draft to continue to address the offensive line when they signed tackle Alejandro Villanueva to a two-year deal.

"[Eric] DeCosta is always tinkering with the roster, so he'll probably have a few more moves to make before training camp starts in late July," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "Villanueva's addition does fill the last gaping hole on the roster."

With Villanueva's addition, the Ravens could have a starting offensive line that consists of every player 315 pounds or heavier. That's a physical force to be reckoned with, especially for an offense that wants to run the ball more than any other team.

The signing won't count against the compensatory pick formula for the Ravens since it came after the May 3 deadline. It also means the Steelers won't get a compensatory pick for losing Villanueva, which didn't sit well with some fans and pundits of the AFC North rival.

Zrebiec gave the signing a C-plus grade.

"The two-time Pro Bowl selection will now have to switch sides heading into his eighth NFL season. He also turns 33 in September," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens, though, do have an offensive line-friendly scheme and one of the most mobile quarterbacks in NFL history. That gives Villanueva some margin for error. Villanueva has been solid in pass protection for much of his career and he's been durable. When you don't have a right tackle in early May, you only have so many options. The Ravens don't need Villanueva to play at a Pro Bowl level. They just need him to be steady and serviceable. Villanueva is plenty capable."

More Offensive Line Help for Ravens in 2022 Mock Drafts

It's never too early to start looking towards next year, and that's exactly what The Athletic's Dane Brugler did when he introduced his 2022 mock draft.

With the draft order based on current Super Bowl odds, Brugler has the Ravens landing Georgia offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer.

"Over the last two seasons, Salyer has lined up at left tackle, right tackle and left guard, and it will be interesting to see where he lines up as a senior," Brugler wrote. "It doesn't always look pretty, but his wide base and natural power help him overwhelm defenders."

Salyer played 92 percent of the offensive snaps during the regular season for Georgia in 2020. He did it alongside Ravens third-round pick Ben Cleveland.

In another 2022 mock, Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski has the Ravens drafting Kentucky offensive tackle Darian Kinnard.

"Kinnard is one of the nation's best run blockers," Sobleski wrote. "The 6'5", 345-pound lineman started 24 straight games at right tackle, but he'll move to the left side this fall. His size and versatility are a perfect fit for what could be a major need area."

DeCosta Optimistic About Long-Term Deal for Lamar Jackson

With the draft in the books, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Ravens is an extension for Jackson.

That's what DeCosta was asked about in an appearance on SiriusXM's Mad Dog Sports Radio, and said it's something the Ravens are hoping to address over the next few months.

"We've got some things to take care of. Lamar being really near the top of that list," DeCosta said. "... Hopefully, at some point, we'll get a deal done. I believe we will. I'm optimistic about it."

The Ravens exercised Jackson's fifth-year option last Friday, which will keep him under contract through the 2022 season.

Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, and Patrick Mahomes were the latest young quarterbacks to be paid, all earning mega extensions north of $150 million. For Jackson, an extension is not a question of what, but when.

"Lamar is obviously a very patient guy," DeCosta said. "He wants to be the best he can be. He wants this team to be the best it can be, and he wants to win very badly. So, we're aligned that way. I'm confident that we'll continue to discuss this, and I think at some point, hopefully, we'll have some good news for everybody."

Did Odafe Oweh Call Landing With the Ravens?

The Ravens' selection of Odafe Oweh may have been a surprise to some, but not to Oweh himself.

The first-round pick kind of called a move to Baltimore during a pre-draft appearance on the "On Up Game" Podcast with LaVar Arrington and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

"In terms of teams that talked to me the most, I'd have to say the Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, and Raiders – the sneaky Ravens," Oweh said on April 24.

"If you go to the Ravens, it's over," Arrington said. "It's a plug-and-play."

Houshmandzadeh, who spent the 2010 season with Baltimore, said, "It's the best organization in the league. It's nothing like it. You get to the Baltimore Ravens with what they have going on, it's unbelievable."

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