Throughout the draft process, one of the most intriguing players in the Class of 2013 was wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. A do-it-all Mr. Everything at Tennessee in 2012, despite being extremely raw, the numbers told the story – a 17-yard average on 46 receptions, a 12.3-yard average on 43 rushing attempts, a 28-yard average on 24 kickoff returns and a 25-yard average on four punt returns. To say he is explosive is understating the case.
But, given his lack of tangible experience – only one year of major college football after spending two seasons at JUCO football factory Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College – Patterson spent just one season at Tennessee. He made the kind of versatile impact that former Viking Percy Harvin had at Florida, but, with just 12 games of Division I college experience, he was viewed as much as a project as a prospect.
One person who had a strong interest in Patterson was Vikings wide receivers coach George Stewart. He was a strong proponent of Patterson and, while he thought a team in front of the Vikings would be willing to take a shot on him before the Vikings would be on the clock, he assured Patterson that the Vikings had a keen eye trained on him. So, when the Vikings made Patterson their third first-round pick, he wasn't shocked.
"I wasn't surprised it was the Vikings," Patterson said. "The receivers coach (Stewart) said, ‘If you will still be there at my pick, I'll come and get you, but I don't think you will be there.' He stuck to it and he came and got me."
When the Vikings had two picks at Nos. 23 and 25, Patterson was waiting for his phone to ring. The call didn't come at either pick. He wasn't sure what to think at that point because Stewart had been so positive about aggressively going after him. When the Vikings came and went, Patterson was at a loss for an explanation.
"I really didn't (know what to think), because (Stewart) told me he was going to come and get at (pick No.) 23 and they didn't, so I said, ‘What's going on?'" Patterson said.
His confusion came to an end when the story broke that the Vikings and Patriots were working out a trade at the 29th pick that would get Minnesota back into the first round and reaffirmed the Vikings' commitment to adding Patterson to their roster. Considering the bevy of draft picks the Vikings gave up to acquire him, Patterson said he was impressed and humbled by their investment.
"It means a lot to me," Patterson said. "Not expecting to be part of the Vikings, they gave up a second-round pick, third-round pick, fourth-round pick, all of that. It was great hearing my name called. I know they want me to be a great player and I expect big things out of myself."
While Patterson is far from a polished product, like Harvin, he is the type of player who can make something out of nothing and potentially take the ball to the end zone any time he touches his.
"My strength is when the ball is in my hands," Patterson said. "Whether it be on a kick return or an end-around, I feel like when the ball is in my hands, I'm a special player. I'm still working on my route running, learning coverages and stuff. (Stewart) and I sat down for about an hour getting to know each other (when the Vikings hosted the top 30 rookies). I know he will help me get where I need to be."
While his role in the Vikings offense has yet to be defined – he needs a lot of polish to his game to smooth over the rough edges – Patterson knows his first big role with the team will be on special teams. While he shied away from comparisons to Harvin, he hopes to set his own standard for the return game.
"I love being a kick returner," Patterson said. "You had Percy Harvin and I know I can't replace him. I feel like I'm going to go in, work hard and try to be a stud on the kick return team."
Patterson is admittedly a work in progress. With limited experience against elite competition, it is expected that it will take time for his skills to develop at the NFL level. Even veteran college receivers struggle during the transition, which led some to question if Patterson should have returned to the Volunteers for his senior season. But he has no doubts he made the right decision and doesn't regret the two years he spent at Hutchinson C.C. because it helped shape the player he is today and hopes to be in the future.
"I feel like I'm ready," Patterson said. "That one year at Tennessee, it wasn't my fault I only played one year there. That JUCO route made me who I am today and now I'm ready for the big leagues and I know I will do great things."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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