Stats show Patterson reliable in the ‘clutch'

There is a reason Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson were the top receivers in the draft. They also led the top prospects in a few key statistical categories in 2012, giving hope for a bright future ahead.

If you wanted an "explosive" receiver in this year's draft, Tavon Austin was the prized possession. If you wanted a "clutch" receiver, Cordarrelle Patterson was the man to nab.

Those are the basic conclusions of a predraft comparison by STATS LLC on the top receivers available in this year's draft.

Austin was drafted eighth overall by the St. Louis Rams, who traded up to that spot to get in front of the New York Jets. The Rams gave up first-, second- and seventh-round picks, as well as swapping third-round picks with the Buffalo Bills, to move up eight spots and select Austin.

The Vikings drafted Patterson 29th overall, and they traded away second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-round picks to get in position for Patterson.

We likely won't know for at least a year or two whether Austin or Patterson will become the better NFL receiver, but we do know what they did in college.

Austin led all NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision receivers that were active last year with 288 career receptions, ranked second with 3,413 receiving yards and third with 29 touchdown grabs. He was also an accomplished kick returner, becoming one of just two active players in 2012 to amass over 6,000 all-purpose yards in their careers, leading the nation with 7,286 yards and an average of 13.77 yards per play.

In his only season at the FBS level, Patterson had only 46 receptions for 778 yards and five touchdowns. Like Austin, however, he added to his value as a returner – four punt returns for 101 yards and 24 kickoff returns for 671 yards and a 27.96-yard average, the fifth-highest in Tennessee Volunteers history. He also rushed 25 times for 308 yards (12.3-yard average) and three touchdowns. His 1,858 all-purpose yards established a school record for one season.

But when it comes to receiving, there are numerous ways to judge a player.

If measured by explosive plays, Austin led the 2013 draft class. He had 13 explosive plays, as measured by STATS LLC, in 2012. That was three more than his next closest competitor among the top five draft prospects at receiver – Austin, Patterson, Justin Hunter, Robert Woods and Keenan Allen. Hunter was in second place with 10 explosive plays, followed by Woods and Patterson (tied at eight) and Allen (five).

Austin also had the most yards-after-catch (YAC) average. He was credited with an 8.7-yard average, with Allen (6.8) and Patterson (6.4) next. Hunter and Woods averaged only 4.9 yards after the catch.

Patterson did lead the top receivers in a couple of interesting statistics – clutch receptions and drops.

Patterson had 78.3 percent of his 46 catches in 2012 go for a first down or touchdown, the measure of a "clutch" reception. His Tennessee teammate, Hunter, was next at 76.7 percent. After that, there was a distinct drop-off. Allen's clutch percentage was 55.7, Woods was at 55.3 and Austin was at 50 percent.

Patterson didn't have many total catches compared to the other top receivers, so it would figure his drops would be low, too. But Vikings fans shouldn't have to worry they have another Troy Williamson coming aboard. Patterson was credited with only two drops last year, the lowest among the top receiver prospects, with Austin and Allen next with three drops. Woods had four while Hunter was the clear loser in that category with 10.

While Patterson is still considered a raw route-runner, his explosiveness and good hands were on display at rookie minicamp and backed up by the STATS LLC comparison of the top prospects at receiver.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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