What a rollercoaster ride Cordarrelle Patterson has been on the past few years – let’s review what’s happened.
First, he started at a junior college for two seasons and then went to the University of Tennessee. All Patterson did was break the Tennessee single season all-purpose yardage record and the SEC combined punt and kick return average yardage record. I loved his ability to make defenders miss and even ran an in-depth study. After only one major college football season, he declared for the NFL Draft and was selected 29th overall by the Minnesota Vikings.
Patterson didn’t receive a lot of playing time as a rookie, but that didn’t stop him from making explosive plays when he had opportunities. Fantasy owners drooled over his upside and it drove his ADP through the roof. Fellow DLF writer Jeff Miller was cautious supporter of Patterson, but most proponents only wanted to see the positives.
Norv Turner was hired prior to the 2014 season and was soon implementing specific plays for Patterson. The Vikings then drafted Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and that took the hype out of control.
The 2014 season started promising for Patterson after a good first game, he had over 100 yards rushing with a few receptions as well. However, he crashed to earth shortly thereafter and was pushed to the back of the depth chart behind the likes of Charles Johnson and Greg Jennings. Patterson received 49 targets through the first half of the season, but only 18 targets in the second half.
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Which Cordarrelle Patterson will show up for the 2015 season? I wasn’t sure, so I investigated the 2014 season in more detail. Clearly, Turner gave up on him at some point in the season and the frustration was easy to see. Should fantasy football owners give up on Patterson? To give an accurate answer to that question, I decided to watch every play from the 2014 season that had a football go in the direction of Patterson. Hopefully it will shed some light on this volatile topic and the results were actually fairly surprising.
- Teddy Bridgewater is pretty bad throwing the deep ball. He puts too much air underneath it, which gives too much time for fast NFL defensive backs to react. Teddy also is inaccurate throwing deep with some passes behind too far in front, while others Patterson had to stop and wait to attempt a catch. I like Bridgewater’s accuracy and touch on shorter passes, but he doesn’t have the skills to be a successful down the field passer. It may be easy to blame Patterson, but Teddy didn’t help him at all.
- While Patterson has the size and speed, I don’t see him being successful deep down the field. He doesn’t track the football great and chooses to catch the football behind defenders. Instead, he should stepping in front of them to use his athletic ability and size let him “win” in this area. At times, he rose up to high point the football, but it was too inconsistent to call it a strength.
- I was pleasantly surprised by his route running and releases off the line of scrimmage. He’s not great at creating separation, but I did see him successful set up defenders. I would like to see more consistency in this area, but it was a good improvement from what was classified as a “raw” receiver.
- I didn’t like how often Patterson chose to catch with his body in college and during his rookie season in the NFL. However, I saw a good improvement in this area and he extended to meet the football in 2014. His hands were soft and he didn’t double clutch as he was securing the pass. Patterson did body catch some receptions, but the number was reduced. I was also pleasantly surprised with his catch radius and his ability to extend to meet the football in many different directions.
- When Patterson went in motion into or through the backfield, teams paid a lot of attention to him after week one. His rushing attempts didn’t see a lot of success and wasn’t given much opportunity either. I also saw Patterson double teamed often deep down the field, but that also could be the effect of lots of air under Bridgewater’s deep passes as well.
The off-season has brought forth lots of activity with the Minnesota Vikings WR corps. They traded for speedster Mike Wallace from the Miami Dolphins and released the highly paid Jennings. The initial thought process would have Patterson owners concerned with Wallace joining the team because he’s shown to be a good player in the past. I think it’s a blessing in disguise because now Wallace will be the deep threat and let Patterson play to his strengths as a possession receiver. The Vikings now have that spot available with Jennings being released. Now it comes down to who will fill that role between Charles Johnson or Patterson. I watched a fair amount of Johnson’s touches in 2014 and it’s interesting how he was used – they used Johnson how Patterson should be utilized. Now down the field, sure that makes sense because Johnson has a long frame and great speed. But they used him on many WR screens and reverses…come on Norv! Johnson flashed his speed at times and can really threaten a defense deep. That also opens up good separation for a hitch, comeback, or a dig to the middle of the field. However, Johnson plays soft and smaller defenders can disrupt his catch point. He has issues with change of direction and making defenders miss in short areas.
Patterson could be successful in the NFL and on your fantasy teams if he is utilized as a possession receiver. The ideal scenario would be short passes, crossing patterns, intermediate routes and the occasional deep target. Mix in some screens and reverses as well to see optimal results. I still see low end WR1 to WR2 potential for Patterson in fantasy football. Now that Jennings is gone and Wallace is the deep threat, the time to buy low on him will either be now or in the middle of the 2015 season. If you believe in Patterson, I would buy him now as his price is very low. However, if you think Norv Turner will continue to misuse Patterson in 2015, then just wait for his owners to grow frustrated, then go capitalize.
Nick can be found on Twitter at @_NickWhalen