Cordarrelle Patterson is a real head scratcher. Let’s start with the positives…
Elite size (6-3) and speed (could run a 4.3). Patterson looks the part of a true difference maker. In his first and likely only year at Tennessee, he set the SEC single-season record for combined kick=off and punt return yards at 27.6 per-attempt. His kick-off return average of 28 yards per-attempt ranks second all-time in the SEC for a single-season. He set a new school record for all-purpose yards in a season with 1,858. His 154.8 all-purpose yards per game led the SEC and ranked in the top-20 in the nation.
Patterson scored ten total touchdowns in 2012. Five as a receiver, three as a runner and one each on punt and kick off returns. He also completed a 28-yard pass.
Not even Tavon Austin can match up to this guy as a pure X-Factor player. Put the ball in his hands and he has a chance to score. He runs reverses, he takes snaps in the backfield, he can run deep routes, he gets separation, he has a great wingspan. There aren’t any Cordarrelle Patterson’s in the NFL right now. He is unique.
Add all of this together and you start to think he’ll be a top-15 pick. Then we come onto the negatives…
He has a lot of great plays in the highlights video at the top of this piece. What the video doesn’t include are the careless plays he had this year… Such as the sure-fire touchdown he had against Georgia, dropped to the ground in a moment of madness. Perfectly thrown pass by Tyler Bray. Five yards of separation on a downfield route. Only green grass and a nice big end zone in front. Ball dropped by Patterson, points squandered.
Then there’s the pick-six against Akron, where he simply didn’t show any enthusiasm breaking into his route and allowed the defensive back to get leverage and break on the football. He gave up and lost out. The quarterback takes the statistical hit, but the responsibility was on the receiver.
Patterson started the year in good form acting as a receiver. In the first three games he totalled 239 yards and two touchdowns against NC State, Georgia State and Florida. Eventually defensive coordinators watched the tape and decided to get physical. Against bigger, more aggressive corners he struggled. In the next five games he failed to top 31 yards, averaging two catches a game and only one touchdown. It took a 219-yard performance against a woeful Troy defense to break this slump and he went on to end the season strongly.
There were games where he just looked disinterested and disjointed, like he was waiting for a chance rather than creating one. So while he looked great when asked to return a kick-off or feature in the backfield, these were manufactured carries. Was it too much to ask to see this big, 6-3 receiver with elite speed actually make things happen?
The final concern comes with his personality. It’s hard to measure these things based purely on interviews, but Patterson isn’t a great talker. Watch Markus Wheaton and DeAndre Hopkins speak and you’ll find players willing to talk routes and praise their team-mates. Patterson doesn’t really show any of that. He’s incredibly raw, nervous and comes across a little immature. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be the next great diva of the wide-receiver fraternity. It might mean he finds it difficult to grasp a pro-offense quickly and avoid mental mistakes in key games. It could mean the attention and financial reward that comes with the NFL will be a major culture shock.
This is the classic ‘sods law’ problem with Patterson. He has everything needed to be a sensational pro-talent who breaks records and enjoys a fine career. He also has everything required to become an epic bust. Teams will have to judge whether they trust explosive physical skills and massive upside to overcome some of the negatives. Can you put him next to a team leader – such as a driven quarterback who works harder than anyone else on the team (eg – Russell Wilson) – and expect to see a maturation? And are you prepared to be patient and live with the occasional glaring error for the sake of longer term success?
I don’t want to overplay the maturity issues too much. After all, this is a guy with only a years experience in college football as a JUCO transfer. He was essentially a freshman this year. He also doesn’t have any major character red flags or run-ins with the law. You could argue he just needs time to develop into a professional adult.
If a head coach is given Patterson to work with as a prospective first or second round pick, he’d have to take baby steps. Let him return kicks so you feel some immediate impact. Create a handful of designed packages to get the ball in his hands. Don’t ask him to run too many complex routes in year one and make sure he’s studying that playbook and working overtime with the quarterback whenever possible.
Manage this guy properly and you could end up with a superstar. He’s big, fast, elusive and scores cheap points. Harness that into a more consistent and rounded football player and you’ll look pretty smart drafting him early. Try and give him too much to do too soon and he’ll become a luxury. Cordarrelle Patterson is an exciting prospect. He’ll have a higher ceiling and a lower floor than probably any other offensive player eligible for 2013. The question is – are you prepared to take the risk?
In terms of his skill-set he could be an option for the Seahawks. The offense is based around the run, but utilises quick strikes in the passing game. Patterson’s height, speed and ability to score cheap points would be an ideal fit. Pete Carroll has shown his willingness to draft ex-JUCO players in round one (James Carpenter, Bruce Irvin). Yet as much as his physical qualities tick all the right boxes, the character makes me want to take a step back. Carroll wants driven, passionate players who almost play with a chip on their shoulder. Does Patterson want to be great? Or will he settle for whatever situation presents itself in the NFL? That could be the determining factor here. And I’m not totally convinced Patterson desperately wants to me the leagues next great receiver. I hope I’m wrong, because he could be very, very good.