He has not had the most productive start to his career, totaling 80 receptions on 147 targets for 863 yards and five touchdowns in three years while also adding 24 rushing attempts for 290 yards and four touchdowns. But a majority of those stats came during his first two seasons of play, as he recorded just two receptions for 10 yards, and two rushes for 15 yards, in 2016.
Patterson pretty much became nothing but a kickoff returner last season, completely falling out of the receiver rotation. Many people were writing the former first-round pick off as a bust, but it seems he has been working to reinvent his game this offseason.
Everyone around the Vikings organization has been praising Patterson’s work ethic, his attention to detail and his overall improvement this offseason.
“He’s not making mental errors - very, very few mental errors,” said Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. “He’s running the routes at the proper depth. He’s lining up at the proper place. I don’t know that it’s ever been an issue with athletic ability with him, but maybe sometimes the focus - it’s like today out in practice, in stretch sometimes guys say hi to me or something and he said, ‘I’m going to get better today.’ That’s his focus now. In the past it was maybe not all about that.”
Patterson had all the talent in the world coming out of college. He measured in at 6-foot-2, 216 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine and was able to run a 4.42-second 40-yard dash. He was an athletic freak, but that could have also been why he struggled during his first three years in the NFL.
Every player develops at different speeds and there are some players, like Patterson, who may develop more slowly because they were able to get by on just their athletic abilities all the way through college, Zimmer said. They never had to focus on the details of their position to succeed and felt they could just go about things the same way once they got to the NFL.
But the NFL is filled with some of the best athletes in the world and if a player is not putting time and effort into mastering the minute details of their position they will likely begin to fall behind the rest of the players in the league.
It is important to remember that at this point in time the only pads that the Vikings players have worn in practice are their helmets and there has been no contact. That means that Patterson has not had to go up against bump-and-run coverage yet, and he has not had defenders pressing him right at the line of scrimmage. He will not see that until training camp.
But so far there has been a clear improvement in his play out on the practice field and no one is happier to see that than quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
“Just from sitting back there and throwing the ball to him, he looks good,” Bridgewater said. “Cordarrelle, he’s a guy who works extremely hard. Every day he comes to work and he has one mentality and that’s to get better. We’ve all been seeing it. I can’t sit up here and judge players, that’s not my job, but from completing the football to him, throwing rocks in the air and just watching him detail his work, I’ve been pretty impressed.”
There is still a long way to go before the start of the regular season and things could always change for Patterson once training camp and the preseason roll around. But so far he has been doing everything he needs to in order to resurrect his career. He has been practicing well and taking first-team reps during the team’s offseason workouts as a No. 3 receiver.
If that continues, fans may finally see the breakout season from Patterson that they have been waiting for since the team drafted him in 2013.