Big 10 receivers set to return with a bang
Another piece of the college football jigsaw will fall into place on Saturday. The Big 10 conference returns to action bringing some of the most talented draft prospects back into the limelight.
Two players who will be of particular interest are Ohio State’s Chris Olave and Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman. The two wide receivers may be just behind the top tier of draft prospects at their position, but will be seeking to bridge the gap with some stellar performances.
We take a look at which of the two is more likely to end up in the early round conversation come April.
Current Draft Stock
With the delayed start to the College Football season, draftniks had plenty of time to pore over last year’s tape. That was even more true for Gophers receiver Bateman.
He initially opted out of the season and declared for the draft, meaning many had already completed reports on him. When the Big 10 announced they would have a fall season, Bateman reversed his decision.
That may have had a negative effect on Bateman’s stock. While he finished the season as highly touted as a top-10 prospect, closer inspection led to the consensus that there was a gap between him and the top prospects Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle.
For Chris Olave, there appears to be more work to do. Although Olave has made a splash in big games, he remains more of an under-the-radar prospect. With a slew of talent at the position, Olave has had to deal with an offense that shares production out.
How The Stats Add Up
Both players had breakout sophomore seasons in 2019. Olave led the Buckeyes with 840 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. While Bateman played second fiddle to Tyler Johnson in Minnesota, he accounted for 1219 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The two match up fairly evenly in terms of size. Bateman measures 6’2, an inch taller than Olave but the Buckeye receiver has a thinner, more wiry 188lbs frame as opposed to Bateman’s more physical 210lbs. Carrying on the similarities the two have a near identical PFF grade; Bateman at 87.1 and Olave with 85.1.
The Scouting Skinny
If I had to choose one word for Rashod Bateman it would have to be ‘polished’. The knock on him from analysts will be the lack of explosive athleticism, but when you go back to the tape it isn’t hard to fall in love with the rest of his game.
Sudden and well crafted routes, no fear of oncoming tacklers and the ability to find open space in zone coverage soft spots. Bateman’s game contains the majority of attributes that high level receivers need to be a success in the NFL. For what he lacks in physical flash, he makes up for in highlight reel grabs. Once back in action I expect his stock to take an upward swing again.
Olave shares some of those same well-honed route techniques that make Bateman such a threat. For a gangly receiver, he stops dead in his signature comeback route, easily creating separation.
While not a burner, Olave is often seen getting open deep down the field. Engaging deep safeties who can’t match his speed once he hits top gear. Olave fits the bill of a field stretching outside receiver compared to Bateman’s versatility across the formation. Don’t forget those long arms that help Olave high point the ball and make him an obvious redzone threat.
When comparing the two Quarterbacks that will feed Bateman and Olave, it is clear who has the advantage.
Olave will be supplied by one of the most exciting signal callers in College Football. Justin Fields will be looking to secure his status as a top 5 selection and his partnership with Olave will help that.
There is talent at the other receiving spots as well. Garrett Wilson flashed great potential last year as a freshman and the Buckeyes added top recruit Julian Fleming. Despite that, Olave should be the main target on the team.
While Tanner Morgan has shown himself to be a talented QB at Minnesota he fits the mould of game manager as opposed to the electric Fields. He can hit open receivers and is proficient on the shorter routes. Although he lacks velocity on his deep ball, Bateman’s ability to separate can mask that to a degree.
Bateman should be the Gophers number one target since Tyler Johnson departed for the NFL but he will have competition. Chris Autman-Bell went into fall camp expecting to be ‘the guy’ and showed enough last year to think he would be the next talent off the conveyor belt. Bateman’s reversal of his opt-out, means the Gophers now have a pair of top receivers, stopping defenses from focussing their scheme solely on one of them.
First Week Matchups
First up for Chris Olave will be the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Expectation is that Scott Frost needs to get Nebraska competing again but Ohio State in the first game is a big ask.
Their secondary will be led by senior and captain Dicaprio Bootle with the versatile Cam Taylor-Britt opposite. With Garrett Wilson and Olave to cover they will both have a big task to slow down the Buckeyes.
Bateman and his Minnesota teammates will fancy pulling a surprise off out of the gate as they face Michigan. Their most experienced cornerback Ambry Thomas opted out, leaving the Wolverines with an inexperienced core to face two of the most explosive receivers in college football.
Redshirt sophomore Vincent Gray will likely take on a lot of the responsibility but the thought of Bateman running free will likely be a cause of concern for defensive coordinator Don Brown.
Whatever the results, all eyes will be on Olave and Bateman especially with them going straight into conference matchups. Both will hope to force their stock up and put their names in the frame as a day 1 selection.
formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at stripehype.com