+Rare combination of size and yards after the catch ability
+Raw, but his lack of experience is a valid excuse
+Does remarkable things on end arounds and reverses
-Mediocre route runner, though he has potential here
-Not very physical as a route runner
-Could add strength
He’ll be a high risk selection, but, overall, I like Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. His biggest detractors say he is raw. I’m not going to disagree with that for a second. But, whenever I scout a raw player, I always ask myself the same question: does he have an excuse? Are there any good reasons for the fact that he doesn’t really know how to play football at this point in his career? The answer is yes. He’s only had 1 year of access to FBS coaching. Like Ezekiel Ansah, it’s no surprise that a guy with Patterson’s experience doesn’t know how to play the game. Think about it: a raw physically talented junior who played couple of years at a junior college before playing one year of FBS football and entering the NFL draft. That’s the exact same career path of Jason Pierre-Paul, and is a bit similar to Jimmy Graham. So, unlike Dion Jordan, I am willing to cut Patterson some slack when it comes to his mediocre fundamentals and feel. Jordan has had access to 5 years of the Oregon coaching staff, and even his most staunch supporters, like Mike Mayock, say he is a “raw Aldon Smith.” A “raw Aldon Smith” is a nice way of saying “Jarvis Moss.” He shouldn’t be raw at this point. But Patterson has an excuse, and, for that reason, I’m not too harsh on him for his less than stellar fundamentals and I’m optimistic for his future.
Patterson has incredible measurables. At the combine, he had solid height at 6’2, above average bulk at 216lbs, and very good speed with a 4.42 40 yard dash. He also had an above average 37 inch vertical, but his hands were on the smallish side at 9 inches, and his arm length was average at 31 3/4 in. Some of the best measurables of any receiver at this year’s combine.
Patterson has solid stats. He had 25 kick returns for 671 yards (26.8 yards per return, 21st in the FBS), 4 punt returns for 101 yards and a touchdown, and, shockingly, had 25 carries for 308 yards (12.3 YPC!) for 3 touchdowns on plays that were usually just end-arounds. On the downside, he had as many touchdowns on his rushes and returns as receptions, 5 apiece. In a pass first offense, he had 46 catches for 778 yards, good for a 16.9 yards per catch. His receiving numbers aren’t great, but, from an all purpose perspective, he was a pretty good player.
Patterson is absolutely incredible with the ball in his hands. His change of direction skills are amazing for his size, his vision is phenomenal, he uses impossibly deceptive head fakes to fool defenders and create separation, his balance is amazing, he has some strength in his core, and his quickness is elite. He also has excellent flexibility and can get under potential tacklers. I have never seen a wide receiver with his size make defenders miss in the open field as often as Patterson does. He’s impossible to tackle. The great thing about wide receivers that create yards after the catch is that they epitomize efficiency; high percentage passes that go for long gains. Obviously, short passes are completed more often than long passes but don’t tend to go for very long gains. Conversely, long passes get lots of yards but aren’t completed at a high percentage. With guys like Patterson, you get the best of both worlds: high percentage passes that tend to go for lots of yards. What more could you ask for?
Patterson has mediocre hands. He is prone to trapping some passes against his frame, and his hands are on the smallish side. He’s also not good at tracking the ball in the air and winning jump balls. However, he doesn’t drop tons of passes, and he does have some range for inaccurate passes.
Patterson is a mediocre route runner but I think projection for improvement is close to ideal. I’ve always said that guys who create yards after the catch have the most potential as route runners, because creating yards after the catch is actually quite similar to running routes. Obviously, wide receivers aren’t the most powerful guys in the world, so, when they are trying to create yards after the catch, they are simply trying to create separation between themselves and defenders. When they are running a route, they are basically doing the same thing: trying to create separation between themselves and corners. The only difference is that a lot of practice is needed to become a good route runner but creating yards after the catch is a bit more instinctive. There are many great things Patterson does with the ball in his hands that, if he learned to incorporate into his route running, would make him a more complete player. For example, head fakes. With the ball in his hands, Patterson consistently shows the ability to be remarkable deceptive with his eyes, getting defenders off balance and breaking free. If Patterson was half as deceptive with his eyes in his route running as he is with the ball in his hands, he would have gotten 1200 receiving yards last year. Same goes for his cuts. Patterson flashes remarkable quickness and change of direction skills with the ball in his hands, but he doesn’t make those same, sharp cuts as a route runner as consistently as a runner. His routes are pretty sloppy, but, if he tried to blend some of the outstanding footwork he uses to juke out defenders into his routes, he would create a lot more separation. The only part of route running in which he has shown no ability at all is against zone coverage, because, at this point in his career, he has absolutely no idea how to read a defense. He also has no idea how to beat press coverage, a real surprise given the strength and power he shows that he has with the ball in his hands. However, given his lack of experience, I feel like there is no reason to believe he can’t improve in those areas. NFL coaching will fix those problems.
Patterson is the best receiver of this draft class. He may be raw, but he has good reason to be. He’s just inexperienced. He is taking the same career path of Jason Pierre-Paul. The guy has only had 1 year of access to great coaching. His fundamentals should improve with experience.
NFL Comparison: Dez Bryant. Ton of resemblance, though Bryant is probably a bit stronger.
Grade: 97 (worthy of a top ten pick)
Projection: 94 (will be a mid, maybe late first round pick)