Vikings’ 25 and under top 10: WR Patterson

The athleticism is obvious, but Cordarrelle Patterson will have to turn that into production very soon.

The Vikings selected Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round of the 2013 draft after they traded four picks to the New England Patriots to move back up to pick him. It was known that he was a very raw player at the receiver position and would likely take a couple years to develop, but his upside was incredible.

He is a big, strong, fast receiver with all the athleticism in the world so the Vikings felt it was worth taking a shot on him. Drafting Patterson seemed to be paying off immediately in his rookie season. He made an immediate impact on special teams and became one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL.

It took him a while to see the field as a wide receiver his rookie season, likely because he was still learning the position and the coaching staff wanted to make sure he was ready. But once he finally saw the field he seemed to be making plays, both as a receiver and out of the backfield as a running back, on a weekly basis.

By the end of the season, Patterson had recorded 45 receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver. He also ran the ball 12 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns and he recorded two more touchdowns as a returner.

Once people began to see the ability that Patterson had, especially with the ball in his hands, they began to name him as a “breakout player” for 2014. Everyone was expecting his development to continue and had high hopes for his sophomore season, but things did not exactly go as originally planned.

Patterson seemed to take a step backwards in his second season. He seemed to line up in the wrong spot on the field, would run his routes wrong and would struggle getting off the line in press coverage too often. Because of that, it was hard for the quarterbacks to get him the ball in the passing game and his touches out of the backfield were also limited so he was unable to make an impact there as well.

He ended the season with 33 receptions for 384 yards and one touchdown. He also ran he ball 10 times for 117 yards and one touchdown, and he didn’t record a single touchdown as a returner. All of those stats were lower than the ones he put up his rookie season and it has left many people wondering what Patterson’s role on the team will be moving forward.

The wide receiver lost his starting job to Charles Johnson toward the end of the 2014 season and it appears that Johnson still has a hold of that position going into training camp. Patterson was taking second-team reps through organized team activities and minicamp, and it appears he will need to do a lot of work if he hopes to crack the starting lineup once again.

Patterson is now entering the third year of his four-year rookie contract, but since he was a first-round selection there is a fifth-year option that the Vikings could use with him. That makes these next two years very important for his development as a receiver. He has time to prove himself.

But if everything he has been learning the past couple seasons is able to click and he gets things turned around, the Vikings could re-sign him, or at least use his fifth-year option and then continue from there.

The hardest place to replace Patterson would be in the return game. Even though he did not put up the numbers last year that he did in his rookie season, just having him back there helps out the team. Opponents are afraid to kick to him so they will often kick it short, which in turn gives the offense good field position.

The most likely candidates to replace him in the return game would be Jarius Wright, Marcus Sherels or rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs. All three of these players have the ability to be good returners, but it would be hard to match the type of impact that Patterson has had returning kicks.

There is still hope that Patterson can bounce back, though. There have been plenty of receivers who were considered to be project players with a lot of upside when they were drafted and it can take about three years for everything to come together. One of these players is the Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. In his first season he recorded 283 receiving yards and two touchdowns, then 551 receiving yards and four touchdowns his second year. It wasn’t until his third year where everything came together and he recorded 1,434 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.

It is hard to say the same thing will happen to Patterson, but what seems to be clear is that the third season is usually very important when developing a receiver. If he does not figure things out this year, his time in Minnesota may be done soon afterwards.

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