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Minnesota Football: Will Rashod Bateman be the all-time greatest Gopher receiver?

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If not the greatest, will Bateman be the elite-est receiver in Gopher history?

NCAA Football: Maryland at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the list of the Gopher’s top 10 all-time receivers, Rashod Bateman ranks 8th. The list is by yards. He is also 6th in touchdowns and 10th in receptions.

He has played only 2 seasons.

As the Big Ten was heading towards cancelling their fall season, Bateman opted to sign with an agent, forgo his junior season and prepare for the NFL Draft. Finishing among the best Gopher receivers while playing just 2 seasons.

But the Big Ten deciding that there is reason to re-kick the opening of the 2020 fall season, Bateman is reportedly making an attempt to come back to play for your Minnesota Gophers.

He is enrolled in classes, he was granted a waiver to practice beginning Friday the 18th and is working through the process to be reinstated by the NCAA for the 2020 season.

This is absolutely elite news for Gopher fans. The fact that Bateman was not going to play this season was almost as disappointing as the team not playing either. He is a special player and I was very much looking forward to seeing him play as a junior.

Now we all get to see this special player for one more, partial, season.

There is zero question as to if he’ll be the all-time elite-est Gopher receiver of all time. But the question remains, where will Bateman rank among the all-time greatest wide receivers?

I gave you his current ranks. But what will it take to move up each list? Bateman is hindered by the facts that he will only play 3 seasons and his third season will be much shorter than a typical season. Guaranteed 9 games this season and after that, we have no idea what will happen. Potentially a 10th game, but whether they play bowl games or whether Bateman decides to play in that bowl game are complete unknowns.

But let’s look at the numbers.

Receptions

Currently Bateman is 10th among the top 10 all-time Gopher receivers in terms of receptions. He has 111 in two seasons. Last year, with Tyler Johnson on the other side of the offense, he had 60 receptions. So the question here (as well as with yards and touchdowns) is will his numbers go up with the loss of Johnson or go down because the defense will be able to give Bateman far more attention.

Let’s assume that Bateman gets the equivalent of what Johnson had last season. When you factor in the fact that we’re getting 9 games this season, that puts Bateman right around 60 receptions in 2020.

Bateman needs 61 receptions to pass Tutu Atwell and become 4th in career receptions. He would need 87 to catch Ron Johnson for 3rd. That seems unlikely in this shortened season.

Most likely, Bateman finishes 5th in career receptions, possibly as high as 4th. Keeping in mind that he’d be the only guy in the top 5 who didn’t get to play four seasons.

Yards

Currently 8th in career yardage (did I mention that he’s 8th with only 2 seasons under his belt?). Looking back to last season is pretty fair when you consider the quarterback and offensive line remain the same as it was a year ago. Also, there will be a talented receiver on the other side. In 2019 Bateman had 1,219 yards. Once again factoring down for 9 games that would translate to 840 yards in 2020.

To get himself from 8th to top 5, Bateman would need just 511 yards. This would move him ahead of Ernie Wheelright for 5th. He’ll need 717 for 4th, where Atwell sits and over 1,000 yards for 3rd. Again, 1,000 yards in a 9-game season that will be exclusively against Big Ten defenses, that seems challenging.

4th place in yards seems very doable.

Touchdowns

Currently Bateman is tied for 4th in touchdowns. He hit the endzone 11 times last year, Johnson had 13. Johnson is the Gopher’s all-time leader with 33 and Ron Johnson is a close 2nd with 31.

Can Bateman go from 17 career touchdowns to 33 in a 9-game season? I mean...it’s possible, but I doubt it. Bateman is going to be Tanner Morgan’s favorite target, particularly in the red zone. I suspect that we are going to see #13 catching a number of balls in the end zone during this shortened season.

10 touchdowns puts Bateman solidly into 3rd place all-time, but it’ll take 14 to tie Ron Johnson for 2nd.

The Legacy

Bateman has a very strong chance of finishing 4th all-time in all three stats. Top 5 in each seems very likely.

And where will that land him in the conversation for all-time greatest Gopher receiver? Considering he is going to finish that high with not quite 3 full seasons? Personally I think the conversation comes down to Tyler Johnson, Eric Decker or Bateman (apologies, Ron).

It isn’t even recency bias that is going to put Bateman at the top of the list for me. This kid is special on the field. He is the single, most exciting aspect of this upcoming season for me.

And I’m only talking about his on-the-field production. Nevermind that Bateman is so devoted to the culture and is such a leader within the Gopher program. He is certainly the elite-est receiver, possibly among any position.

But I, for one, am extremely excited that we may get to see Bateman for one more season. He’s a special kid, a special receiver and watching him is something we should all be thankful for.

Until October 24th, enjoy this.