The Vikings have been in need of help at the wide receiver position ever since Sidney Rice skipped town for Seattle.  After shipping Percy Harvin off to the Pacific Northwest, the cupboard was essentially empty.  Greg Jennings was brought to town and Jerome Simpson was surprisingly brought back, but the group that is rounded out by the improving Jarius Wright still lacked a true dynamic talent.  That’s where Cordarrelle Patterson fits in.

Patterson is a raw wide receiver prospect with only a single season of experience at the division one level.  What he lacks in polish he more than makes up for in natural talent and a knack for making big plays.  Any time he touches the ball he has a chance to go the distance, and it’s not an exaggeration.  In order to get the most out of his potential, he must learn the intricacies of the wide receiver position and become a more well-rounded player.

He shows top-level receiver talent in flashes, which means there’s something to build on for wide receivers coach George Stewart and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.  If they’re able to bring out the best in Patterson and weed out his bad habits, he’s going to be a force for a long time.

Patterson4.1On this play Patterson is running a skinny post against a walked-up cornerback.  The safety appears to have his eyes in the backfield and does leave his cornerback isolated at the snap.

Patterson4.2The corner wants to body up Patterson at the line.  Patterson fires his feet and cuts while the cornerback is flat-footed.  He then fights off the hands of the cornerback as the frame shows.  He’s gained just enough space to allow his explosive lower body to go to work.

Patterson4.3This frame displays Patterson’s ability to put his foot in the ground and explode out of his cuts as a route runner.  He has the ability to separate out his cuts simply on foot quickness and explosion from a powerful lower half.

Patterson4.4Patterson then snags the pass out of the air at full extension.  Once the cornerback failed to get his hands on Patterson at the beginning of the play, it was over for him.  Few, if any, cornerbacks can keep up with Patterson in man coverage if unable to get physical with him.  That is of course assuming Patterson runs a clean route, which isn’t always the case unfortunately.

Patterson5.1Patterson is running a ten and out at the sticks on this play.  He’s gotten a clean release at the line and obviously has a cornerback in man coverage.  The corner is sitting on the out on whole way, but it shouldn’t matter to Patterson.  With his athletic ability, he should be able to run the corner off before planting on a dime at the top of the route and separating towards the sideline.

Patterson5.2This is where Patterson puts his inside foot in the dirt to redirect outside.  He hasn’t gotten the cornerback to overextend because he didn’t run an urgent enough route eat up the cushion.  Take note of where Patterson has broke to the outside on this route.

Patterson5.3Notice the way Patterson has drifted upfield and continues to into the next frame.

Patterson5.4Instead of driving away from cornerback perpendicular to the sideline and then coming back to meet the pass, he rounds off the cut with sloppy footwork and passively waits for the ball to come to him when the ball arrives late.  The cornerback can easily make a play on this ball and does.  Route running is a subtle thing, but is the difference between a one-dimensional return specialist and full-fledged number one receiver.  Patterson still needs to learn the trade.  It’s not like he spent four years for a BCS team and never improved it though, which is a plus.  Still, he needs to be willing to learn and have the ability to apply what he’s taught with consistency.

When he’s at the top of his game as pure receiver, Patterson is separating in tight spaces with his agility and sharp cuts before plucking the ball out of the air.  He has a natural ability to protect the ball from defensive backs with his large frame while extending for the ball. Here’s a perfect example of it against Vanderbilt.

Patterson2.1Patterson is running a skinny post and sets it up to the outside first before cutting back to the inside of the cornerback.

Patterson2.2Patterson struggles with physical cornerbacks and you can see why in this frame.  He’s allowed the hand of the cornerback into his chest and both of his feet are off the ground.  Patterson can use his hands to free himself, but he doesn’t do it consistently enough yet.

Patterson2.3

Even so, Patterson is able to play through the contact before snagging the pass.  The screenshots don’t tell the whole story here either.  He boxes out the cornerback for this ball because the ball comes a bit late from Tyler Bray.  He’s protecting the ball from the cornerback and using his hands to pluck it out of the air.  That is something he probably hasn’t been thoroughly taught to do, but instead does it instinctively.  Plays where he does this show up numerous times over this past season and made him relatively effective even when he struggled with press coverage.

Unfortunately (and there’s a theme going here), Patterson isn’t consistent about this.  At times he’ll let the ball into his body on short routes, which gives defensive backs an opportunity to get a hand to it.  He’s also prone to concentration lapses and dropping balls he shouldn’t (like this one against Georgia).

Patterson1.1Patterson is running a nine route against man coverage in this instance.  He puts his inside foot in the dirt and gains lateral separation from the cornerback right off the snap.

Patterson1.2Patterson has given himself space with a quick and explosive lateral step.  The cornerback is unable to get his hands to Patterson, who is able to use his top-end speed to separate down the field as a result.  There are many instances such as this, where Patterson eludes the contact of defenders on foot quickness alone.  If he’s able to learn how to use his hands and set up defensive backs with his feet to combat press coverage, he can eliminate that weakness in his game.

Patterson1.3The cornerback has no chance to make a play on this ball because he has no chance to stay with Patterson if unable to get into his body.  That’s not the main point of this play though.  Patterson is trying to haul in this ball with one hand only.  When you watch this play in real-time, you can see that Patterson could have gotten a second hand to the ball to secure it.

Patterson1.4Because he only has one hand to the ball, it slips out as he tries to bring it back toward his body and a big play is lost.  It’s inconsistencies in pass-catching technique and concentration that are holding back Patterson from being an elite receiver at the catch point.

Once the ball is firmly in Patterson’s grasp, he has a natural ability to elude defenders in a way that few others can.

Patterson3.1Patterson was and surely will be used in a non-traditional role.  Tennessee is running a reverse on this play, hoping to catch the Georgia defense overpursuing and get Patterson the ball with space to work with.

Patterson3.2The play has worked as it was intended and the backside contain (Cornelius Washington #83) is slow to react.  What makes this play as effective as it turns out to be though, is that Patterson is patient and waits for it to develop.  Tyler Bray actually throws a key cut block on this play.  Had Patterson run right up his heels, he wouldn’t have found the space to make this play happen.  Once Bray throws the key block though, Patterson plants and explodes forward through the hole that opens up.

Patterson3.3Once he’s into the middle of your defense, there’s no telling which way he might go.  He’s both unpredictable and instinctive.  Alec Ogletree comes flying in (far left side of the frame) to make the tackle, but Patterson anticipates it the whole way and causes the linebacker to whiff on the tackle.

Patterson3.4Patterson then starts to get lateral.  He’s read the overpursuit of the defense towards his initial direction.  He has a wall of blockers to run behind and picks out the pylon almost as quickly as he starts to reverse fields.  The difference-maker here is pure speed.  Without it, reversing fields is only going to cause yardage loss.  Patterson has the top-end speed to outrun one of the country’s fastest defenses around the corner and into the endzone for a touchdown.  Check this play out for yourself here.  Notice on the replay how Patterson sets up his blocks with patience before hitting the hole that opens up.  Then it’s all open field elusiveness and speed to finish the deal.  This is the reason the Vikings paid a hefty price to acquire Patterson’s services.

So where does he fit in the current Bill Musgrave offense?  Some have ventured a guess that Patterson may just fill the old Percy Harvin role.  While that could be the case, his usage should and surely will be slightly different.  They do play a somewhat similar style of game, but there are clear differences.  Percy Harvin is smaller, tougher to bring down, and can operate in some very tight spaces.  Patterson is more efficient in space.  While Patterson was used in Tennessee’s backfield down the stretch, I don’t think he has that kind of value for the Vikings like Harvin did.  I think it’s more likely (and probably smarter) to line Patterson up on the boundary more than Harvin was and often as the lone receiver.  It simplifies the game for him and gives him even more space to work with once he gets the ball in his hands.  I’m not just talking about quick screens either.  Curls, slants, outs, and other quick hitting routes can get Patterson into a one on one situation in space against a cornerback.  His ability to make the first man miss is phenomenal, better than Harvin’s maybe.  As far as downfield routes and a route tree goes, it will all come down to his development.  If he’s able to sell double moves, work a consistent route stem, and eat up cushions with urgency, the possibilities are endless.  Until he shows he can do that, he may be more of a situational player.  Either way, the Vikings paid a hefty price to get him so if there’s one thing we’re certain of, it’s that the ball will get into his hands early and often.

Thanks to the folks at draftbreakdown.com for the video that was used.  If you’d like to watch for yourself, check out these Cordarrelle Patterson videos: Florida, Missouri, Vanderbilt, & Georgia, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Troy.

 

 

 

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