Cordarrelle Patterson's talent is apparent early in the Minnesota Vikings' offseason schedule. So is a lack of refinement, which is to be expected with only one year of football at the major college level.
Patterson spent two years at Hutchinson Community College before his junior season at the University of Tennessee, where he quickly gained attention as one of the most talented receivers in college football.
But even before Patterson became the Vikings' third first-round pick, No. 29 overall after the Vikings traded back into the first round, he came with a one-word warning label: "raw."
That was evident in the first organized team activity open to the media last week. While he continued to catch nearly everything within reach, just as he did in a rookie minicamp, receivers coach George Stewart took extra measures with Patterson, making him repeat one route three times. For a moment, being singled out appeared to frustrate Patterson when he tossed a ball in the air after being called back again.
Patterson put a different spin on that interpretation.
"I'm not frustrated at all. I'm out here just getting better. Things like that happen. He's trying to get me better," Patterson said of Stewart. "He's trying to make me a better player and I appreciate that."
Patterson has had success before, for sure. Scout.com gave him five-star status, the highest awarded, coming out of Hutchinson Community College, and he was a two-time All-American and All-Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference selection in addition to being named the league's Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore.
He surpassed 900 yards receiving in each of his two seasons at the community college level and finished with more than 1,200 all-purpose yards in 2010 and 2011 after kickoff returns and rushing yardage were added.
In his only season at Tennessee, he started all 12 games and caught 46 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns.
His initial impressions with the Vikings have been positive, according to head coach Leslie Frazier.
"I like him a lot. His length, his catching ability and he has a better knowledge of the passing game than we expected," Frazier said. "We feel like we can do a lot with him. We're impressed, very impressed."
While the "raw" wrap on Patterson may have validity, another published critique claimed he isn't football smart, but that is being refuted by coaches.
"He's learning football as expected. He's not a guy that you look at that's behind on things. He's sharp," receivers coach George Stewart said. "He always comes and talks through things. Jarius Wright does a good job of staying with him. He always comes to my ear and asks questions. He's very inquisitive, which I like. He's picking up things extremely well."
Patterson, however, admitted that learning the playbook could be his biggest challenge. He said it has "way more stuff" than the Tennessee Volunteers' version, making it the biggest challenge for him so far in his young Vikings career.
"Maybe learning the offense, keeping up with all the guys that have a faster pace than me. That's probably it, just keeping up with the vets and learning the playbook," he said. "Right now, all the quarterbacks, they help me out and continue to speed me up with the older guys."
Patterson quickly and definitely singled out veteran Greg Jennings as being the most helpful, which is no surprise given his seven-year veteran status among the receiving corps.
Being a rookie, the plan with Patterson is to limit what he is asked to do early and ease him into the offense.
"That is the plan. We don't want give him too much early. We want to make sure we do enough to get him on the field and really go to his strengths," Frazier said. "There are some things that we have in mind, but everything that I've seen, we'll be able to utilize his talents. He's a gifted young man."
Patterson said he is concentrating mainly on the split end position at this time, and the Vikings also plan to explore his talents as a kick returner.
For now, he is concentrating on learning what is given to him and isn't declaring any big goals for the season. Eventually, though, he hopes to make an impact.
"When my opportunity comes, then I'm going to be ready to step up," he said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Playbook, routes challenging Patterson
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