Failed Breakout: Cordarrelle Patterson

Jacob Feldman


The 2014 fantasy football season is over and it is time to figure out what changes you need to make this offseason. Before you can decide what you are going to do moving forward, it is important to look back at the past season as well as the past offseason.

Where were we right? Where were we wrong? What did we miss? These are just a few of the questions we need to be asking and answering.

For me, I find it extremely important to spend some time looking back at the players I thought were poised for a breakout, but who ended up falling flat this season. These are some of the most important players to look back on because there was obviously something we really liked about them last offseason. Were we completely wrong about them or was it simply a case of things not going the right way for the player? If it was the latter, they are likely to be one of my offseason targets because they can be purchased at a discount and could still have that breakout one year later. If it is the former, then I’m trying to sell them to a believer for whatever I can get.

One of the best examples of a potential breakout player in 2013 who fell flat and then came back in 2014 is Lamar Miller. Heading into 2013, Miller was being valued at or near the top 10 running backs in the league. Then disaster struck his team and most notably his offensive line, making the year a lost year for pretty much everyone on the offense. Enough people were burned by him that his price crashed and I was able to buy him up in most of my leagues at a massive discount. While Miller hasn’t been elite, he has managed to be a top 15 running back in PPR leagues even while playing one of the toughest schedules in terms of run defenses and having his coaching staff make extremely questionable play calls and player packages. Considering the price it took this offseason, it was a great return on my investment.

There are a lot of players who need to be looked at from this last season. Previously I took a chance to look back at the following:

Rueben Randle
Kendall Wright

Currently on the docket is the player who might have had the most hype out of any potential breakout player, Cordarrelle Patterson. Prior to the 2014 season, Patterson was actually being drafted in the first two rounds of dynasty startups, and in some cases he was actually going in the top 15 picks. This was absolutely insane on several levels, but the biggest in my eyes is he was being drafted as if he already was a WR1 when people needed to take a step back and realize that was his ceiling. If you are paying full price for potential, then the best case scenario is breaking even. That clearly didn’t happen given Patterson’s production or lack thereof during the 2014 season. Let’s take a closer look at the Viking wide receiver.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR MIN
2014 Stats: 33 receptions for 384 yards and 1 score. 10 rushes for 117 yards and 1 more score

There were several people in the fantasy community who expected 2014 to be the year Patterson joined the group of elite wide receivers. That definitely wasn’t the case as his 2014 was actually a fairly big step back from his rookie season. Before we get into that, it might help to review how we arrived at that point. Patterson spent his first few years of college at the JUCO level before transferring to Tennessee to play alongside Justin Hunter. Hunter was the more productive and polished wide receiver in just about every way, but Patterson was viewed as having unique dual threat ability and untapped athleticism. For those reasons Patterson was often drafted higher in fantasy leagues than his college teammate.

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Patterson’s rookie season started very slowly which is what most people expected from a raw receiver like Patterson. Over the course of the first ten weeks, Patterson never topped three receptions or 50 receiving yards. It wasn’t until Thanksgiving weekend that Patterson actually became involved in the Vikings offense. Over the last six games of the season Patterson had 24 receptions for 273 yards and three touchdowns while adding in 10 rushed for 156 yards and three more scores. That’s a touchdown a game and I haven’t even mentioned his proficiency as a kick returner. It is no wonder his arrow was pointing upward, but it seemed to have gone way too high.

What We Liked: There is no denying Patterson’s ability when the ball is in his hands. He was dynamic enough in his one year at Tennessee that the Vikings traded back into the first round to get him in 2013 even though he was universally labeled as a very raw prospect. As a rookie he definitely showed supreme playmaking ability. Four of his six touchdowns from scrimmage in 2013 came from at least 30 yards out, most of them short passes or rushes where he made the play happen on his own. Add in a 53 yarder in the 2014 pre-season and a 67 yarder in week one and people were really excited. The icing on the cake was him averaging over 32 yards per kick return as a rookie, including a 109 yard touchdown. He’s definitely a playmaker!

The other big feather in the cap for Patterson which some people (though definitely not all) were using to push his value sky high were the offseason moves the Vikings made. Not only did they draw the quarterback of their future in Teddy Bridgewater, but they also brought in Norv Turner. Turner has a reputation as an offensive guru (though the data really doesn’t back this up) and was supposed to take the passing game to the next level. With Adrian Peterson in the backfield to keep defenses honest, Patterson was supposed to be able to run all over the field and light up defenses, creating a pick your poison kind of situation for defenses.

Warning Signs: For those who looked at the situation from a completely objective point of view, it was very clear there were some things to be concerned about. The biggest red flag in my opinion was his lack of growth as a wide receiver. Patterson showed almost no ability to run routes as a rookie and often times ran the wrong route. He couldn’t read defenses and it was reported he couldn’t understand the offensive system. As a result, the vast majority of his receptions were right around the line of scrimmage or behind it, and he was then asked to just run with it. While a touchdown is a touchdown, it isn’t exactly what you want to see out of a young receiver. He came in very raw and made virtually no growth in 2013. If you can’t run routes, you aren’t going to be a realistic threat in any offensive system.

Another major warning sign came from how he played the position. He isn’t a natural pass catcher and often times he would fight with the ball or let it get into his body. At times this hampered his ability to get downfield quickly because he had to work harder than most to secure the catch. It also led to some drops. Some of this might have been due to a lack of focus or him just trying to do too much too soon, but he did struggle at times catching the ball. In fact, by almost any metric you can find, including the advanced ones from profootballfocus, Patterson was very average if not below average as a receiver. Where he excelled was actually as a returner and rusher, which is why the Vikings started using him in the running game more often towards the end of 2013.

The third major warning sign comes down to who Norv Turner really is as an offensive coach. While he has had his moments over the years, his impact on an offense was grossly exaggerated. The data just didn’t back up the general narrative which was going on last offseason. In fact, Greg Jennings was actually the kind of receiver who was the better fit for Turner’s system. It definitely wasn’t going to be Patterson who fit the role because he can’t play the position yet.

2014 Season: Things started pretty well for Patterson in week 1 when he had 3 receptions for 26 yards and 102 yards on the ground, including a 67 yard run for a score. Little did we know week one would account for half of Patterson’s scores on the season and over a fourth of his yardage. For the rest of the season he had only one week where he had more than four receptions or 60 yards from scrimmage. He caught less than half of his targets on the season and was the targeted receiver on several interceptions for his rookie quarterback. Even his proficiency in the return game dropped off a little bit as defenses seemed to have figured out how to play Patterson. He still flashed the extreme playmaking skills, but it became more and more clear he wasn’t a true receiver. The Vikings had to manufacture ways to get the ball into his hands and it just wasn’t working.

As the season went on, Patterson become even less involved in the passing game, even as it became clear Jennings wasn’t the receiver he used to be from the Packers. Patterson only saw 11 targets over the last seven games of the season and played less than 10 snaps a game over the last five weeks. Charles Johnson had taken over the role Patterson was supposed to be playing in the offense and unlike Patterson, Johnson could actually run the routes and understand the offensive system. By the time the end of the year rolled around, Patterson was little more than an afterthought.

Over the course of just a few months, Patterson had gone from top 15-20 pick in dynasty startups to having very little value in dynasty leagues. It was by far one of the biggest drop offs of any player in the league this year. The question is what to do with him now?

Final Verdict: Unfortunately for the Vikings, their fans, and Patterson’s fantasy owners, things don’t look good for Patterson. At this point he seems to be more athlete than football player, and I have major doubts about his ability to become more than just an athlete. The Vikings also seem to have those same doubts as evidenced by his lack of playing time towards the end of 2014. While it isn’t fair to label any 23 year old player a bust just yet, things aren’t looking good for the former first round pick. If you can find a believer and sell him for anything significant, I’m moving him. At this point in time he isn’t even in my top 100 players. Unfortunately, I think he’s destined to be one of those “what if” players like Stephen Hill. It would have been fun to see Patterson’s athletic ability in a receiver, but I don’t think it is going to happen for the Vikings.


jacob feldman