Way-too-early 2021 NFL mock draft roundup: Gophers’ Bateman a first-round pick?

The NFL draft is now a week behind us … so time to look at the 2021 draft, right?

When it comes to the Minnesota Gophers, it appears as though they’ll have one of the more highly sought-after prospects in a long time.

Many outlets did 2021 mock drafts shortly after the end of the 2020 draft and appearing on many of them is wide receiver Rashod Bateman.

Bateman will be a junior next season – so obviously he’d have to declare for the draft – but he’s coming off a sophomore season in which he had 1,219 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns and was named the Big Ten’s receiver of the year, as well as first-team All-Big Ten and third-team AP All-American.

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The highest any Gophers wide receiver has been selected in the draft is the third round in 2010 when Eric Decker was taken by Denver. Bateman seems a surefire bet to top that.

No Minnesota player has been taken in the first draft since running back Laurence Maroney in 2006. Can Bateman be the next? Let’s see what the early mocks have to say about that:

(Listed in order of selection; keep in mind some mocks used odds to make Super Bowl for their draft order, others used their own power rankings and so on.)

CBSSports.com’s Chris Trapasso: No. 6 to Giants. “Bateman is a DUDE. Big, fast, quick, high-point dominance, run-after-the-catch brilliance. Perfect addition to the G-Men receiver room.”

NFL Draft Blitz’s Alex Khvatov: No. 11 to Jets.

247’s Charles Power: No. 14 to Dolphins. “He was the best receiver in the Big Ten as a sophomore and figures to have a huge final season at Minnesota alongside quarterback Tanner Morgan. I don’t think it’s out of the question Bateman could be in the mix as the draft’s top receiver before it’s all said and done. Bateman has a complete skill set with plus ball skills, the ability to separate within his routes in addition to picking up yards after the catch. He has the look of a future number one target for a NFL offense.”

Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller: No. 15 to Titans. “Speed on offense is a primary need for the Tennessee Titans as they look to get back to the AFC title game. Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman is a legitimate superstar who broke out in 2019 to the tune of 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns while showing the athleticism needed to be a first-rounder. Bateman and the Gophers offense will be loaded in his junior season with quarterback Tanner Morgan returning. A stock-climbing season isn’t out of the question, and Bateman could find himself drafted much higher next April.”

The Score’s Mark Cooper: No. 17 to Jaguars. “Tyler Johnson led Minnesota in receiving last season, but Bateman was arguably the more impressive wideout. He averaged 20.3 yards per catch, finishing with 60 grabs for 1,219 yards. The 6-foot-2 receiver has star potential.”

CBSSports.com’s Ryan Wilson: No. 18 to Titans. “Bateman was the best WR on the Gophers last season, and he played alongside Tyler Johnson. The Titans could be looking for another outside threat with Corey Davis nearing the end of his rookie deal.”

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler: No. 22 to Packers. “Averaging 20.3 yards per catch last season, Bateman was a cheat code with his dominance at the catch point. There are three Big Ten receivers in this mock, but it was Bateman who was named the conference’s top receiver last season.”

FOX Sports’ Jason McIntyre: No. 24 to Cardinals. “Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingbury shock the world in season two, and then must replace the ageless Larry Fitzgerald”

Tankathon: No. 24 to Packers.

San Diego Union-Tribune’s Eddie Brown: No. 25 to Patriots. “Bateman is a big receiver (6-2, 210) with excellent hands who was eighth in the country with 20.3 yards per catch. He’s in line for an even bigger season his junior year with Tyler Johnson in the NFL”

The Sports Banks’ Paul M. Banks: No. 30 to Ravens. “Tall, fast, productive, exciting. Look for this dude to row the boat into the first round. Ski-U-Mah!”

Draft Wire’s Luke Easterling: No. 31 to Ravens.

DJ Boyer of Draft Site: Second round, No. 38 overall to Dolphins. (Bonus: Tanner Morgan, third round No. 81 to Falcons.)

Pro Football Network’s Neil Driscoll: Second round, No. 40 overall to Lions.

Mock drafts which did not include bateman

SI.com’s Kevin Hanson

The Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer

Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner

WalterFootball’s Walter Cherepinsky (2 rounds)

WalterFootball’s Charlie Campbell

For the Win’s Henry McKenna

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Reuben Frank

SB  Nation’s Dan Kadar

NJ.com’s Joe Giglio

Cleveland.com’s Matt Goul

The Game Haus’ Joe DiTulio