The talented but under-producing former first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings had only two catches last year as he was essentially fazed out of the passing game while coaches routinely talked about his lack of route discipline.
General manager Rick Spielman, the man in charge of the Minnesota Vikings’ draft who traded back into the first round to select Patterson in 2012, said it is up to the coaching staff to decide how to best use Patterson.
“That’s their decision. I don’t think there’s any question about Cordarrelle as an athlete and what he does with the ball in his hands, but those are decisions that the coaching staff has to make,” Spielman said last month. “They get paid to put the best guys out there on the field that gives us the best opportunity to win, and I trust them 100 percent when they make those decisions on what we need to win on game days.”
Patterson caught only two passes last year, each coming in the first four games, and then wasn’t targeted the rest of the season as he averaged about four snaps a game on offense, with about 70 percent of those coming on running plays.
Patterson has tweeted about his workouts this offseason and maintains he is working hard. Among his recent tweets:
“Just finished workout and did not show weakness, I killed it...the pain today will be victorious tomorrow!”
“I will never give up my dream because of the work and time it takes to accomplish it! Getting better is a process & enjoy it along the way!”
But Zimmer knows that results speak louder than words, and Patterson will have to prove that he has improved.
“It’s really time for him to prove it now,” Zimmer said at the NFL owners meetings this week, according to the Pioneer Press. “If he wants to be something other than a returner this is the year he has to do it.
”… I don’t think he was quite really ready when he came into the NFL as far as being a really good professional football player. You’re always hoping because he has the talent to do it. We’re hoping that he does. But there are guys that do and guys that don’t. Right now, he’s right on the fence.”
Talent has never been the issue. Consistency and reliability in route-running has.
While the Vikings picked up the fifth-year options on Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith, who were first-round draft picks in 2011, they will have to make decisions about fifth-year options for the 2017 season on their 2012 first-round draft picks by May 2. Patterson, Xavier Rhodes and Sharrif Floyd are all part of that decision-making process, but Patterson is the least likely to see the big money associated with a fifth-year option since he hasn’t proved to the coaching staff that he is anything more than a returner at this point.
That sets up the likelihood that the Vikings select a receiver in the first round or two of this year’s draft.
Even Spielman agrees that 2016 will be a big year in determining Patterson’s future.
“I think this will be a telltale year,” he said.
For now, Patterson remains one of the more dangerous kickoff returners in the NFL. Whether that will ever translate into being a productive receiver remains to be seen.