As we move toward the 2023 NFL Season, I’m turning my focus to a series of sleeper candidates. I’ll be offering four players at each of the positions—QB, RB, WR, and TE—that I think can make a positive impact for you in fantasy. This will be a list of veteran players, as we already have our expectations set for the class of 2023. Today I continue with my look at wide receivers.
There was plenty of excitement in the fantasy community when Rashod Bateman was taken with the No. 27 overall pick in the First Round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The Ravens need quality receivers, and Bateman was a prospect with plenty of intrigue. Over two seasons, we haven’t seen him deliver on that as hoped. But could 2023 be the year he turns it around?
The Case For Rashod Bateman
It starts with his potential. There’s a reason he was a First-Round pick in 2021. While at Minnesota, Bateman was a solid and reliable receiving target. In his first two seasons, he caught 111 passes for 1,923 yards and 17 touchdowns. While his 2020 was limited—like everyone else—due to COVID, he still produced in the five games his team played. He caught 36 passes for 472 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Another reason for excitement is the change at Offensive Coordinator, as Todd Monken takes over in Baltimore. His mandate is to improve the passing game, which means using the receiving weapons. Monken has served as an Offensive Coordinator twice in the past, with the Buccaneers from 2016 to 2018 and with the Browns in 2019.
With the Browns, Monken used Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr., a player he has again in 2023 with the Ravens, as primary targets for Baker Mayfield. Each garnered more than 100 targets and more than 70 receptions. In his final season in Tampa Bay, he had a combination of Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, with three receivers garnering 95 or more targets in Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries, and Mike Evans. With arguably a more talented quarterback in Lamar Jackson, Ravens fans should be excited about the team’s passing prospects, which is good news for Bateman.
The Case Against Rashod Bateman
He has two things going against him—his history in the NFL and competition. First, we have to consider the Bateman we’ve seen in the past two seasons. He’s been limited to 18 games over those two seasons, which is part of the reason he’s seen just 61 receptions for 800 yards and three touchdowns. We’ve seen flashes—like last season when he had touchdown receptions in back-to-back games to start the season—but we haven’t seen consistent presence or production.
The second issue is competition. Yes, Monken has demonstrated an ability to use two to three targets well in the past. We know one of those targets with be Mark Andrews, who has been the top receiver on the team for the past few seasons. In addition to Bateman, the team added veteran Beckham, who played with Monken in 2019, and a talented rookie in Zay Flowers. It’s hardly a lock that Bateman is the one who will be a focal point in the receiver group.
The Bottom Line
Like many of you, I have held shares of Bateman since the 2021 rookie draft. And, like many of you, I’ve waited for those shares to pay off. The offense appears to be trending in the right direction, but Bateman feels like something of the forgotten man heading into 2023. That’s part of the reason his current ADP has sunk to WR55. If you’ve been holding Bateman, I’d keep holding to see if he can emerge. If you’re able to acquire him for the right price, I could see him poised to break out in 2023.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.