Is Ravens WR primed for a breakout in 2022?
One of the most talented receivers to enter the league last season, Baltimore Ravens WR Rashod Bateman showed he has all the innate skills and upside to be a highly sought-after dynasty fantasy football asset for 2022 and many years to come. What is the expectation for Bateman in 2022, and is he still a value in dynasty for managers looking to acquire the second-year receiver?
Rashod Bateman’s dynasty profile for 2022
What Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, and A.J. Brown have done in recent years has skewed our perception of what a “successful” rookie season is for a receiver. They are the outliers, not the norm. While Rashod Bateman did only play in 12 games, I can’t help but be bullish on the receiver, which I felt was one of the most pro-ready of his entire draft class.
Surgery slowed him down in 2021
A core muscle surgery delayed Bateman’s start of his NFL career. Yet, once he was on the field in Week 6, he showed all the signs of being the Ravens‘ No. 1 WR of the future. Bateman recorded 34 targets in his first five games, ending the season with 68 targets overall (16% target share), catching 46 passes for 515 yards with a TD. He posted 50 yards or more in five of those games, finishing as a top-36 receiver in each game.
Bateman has massive upside, and he has no fear of catching the ball in traffic. In fact, he was No. 7 in contested catch rate last season. He is a polished route runner, has a nose for first downs, and is a threat for yards after the catch. We also need to remember that Lamar Jackson only played in 12 games (really, 11 full games, as he attempted just 4 passes in Week 14 before his ankle injury).
With Sammy Watkins a free agent, Bateman is uncontested for his boundary role on the Ravens. He will remain a top-three target with Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews, both of which crossed the 1,000-yard mark in 2021. Even in a lower-volume passing offense when compared to other teams, Bateman has the upside of a long-term top-36 receiver in dynasty. Given the premium of youth in fantasy, the current cost to acquire Bateman heading into 2022 might never be lower if he explodes.
Fantasy projection for Bateman
I believe Bateman can be a dominant force at receiver when targeted without question. Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the elephant in the room, which is the lower ceiling of Bateman, due to the Ravens’ offensive philosophy and personnel.
For one, we know this is not a team that will chuck the ball around. I feel the No. 9 ranking in 2021 in passing attempts (611) might be a touch of an outlier and come back down in 2022. If it doesn’t, expect Bateman, Brown, and Andrews to blow expectations out of the water. All of that would be a bonus.
Bateman will not be the No. 1 option on the field
My second area of concern comes down to how Bateman will be used in the red zone. Between Weeks 6 and 13 — when both Jackson and Bateman were on the field — he was tied for fourth in red-zone targets with 2, well behind Andrews (10).
Also, the Ravens run the ball when close. Inside the 20, they ran the ball 30 times compared to 24 passing attempts. Inside the 10, Bateman drew only a single target. Andrews has been and will be the top target in the red zone. No one will argue that, certainly not me.
I don’t have delusions of grandeur regarding the likely projections for Bateman in 2022 for fantasy. The Ravens’ passing game likely comes back to reality a touch. Yet, I also don’t expect Brown to be on pace for 1,449 yards and 6 touchdowns as he was at one point last season. Furthermore, it’s unlikely Brown sees 140 targets again. So, there is a bit of a balancing happening.
It’s hard for me to push Bateman into the 1,000-yard range for 2022. He might need an injury to Brown for this to happen. Bateman feels like a safe mid-WR3 but likely will struggle for consistent high-output games. Don’t get me wrong, I expect a better season from Bateman and will remain high on his skills. Yet, compared to the rest of the fantasy options around the league, other players bring more weekly upside to your team in 2022.