The Minnesota Vikings had three first-round picks during the 2013 draft. First they selected defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, then cornerback Xavier Rhodes and finally they traded back into the first round to take wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. It was known that he was going to be a project, but the Vikings thought the reward was bigger than the risk.
From the very start it was clear that Patterson was a great athlete. He was placed on special teams as the kickoff returner and in 43 returns his rookie season he scored two touchdowns and totaled 1,393 yards. However, it took him time to actually see the field on the offensive side of the ball. Once he did, though, it was clear that he had the chance to be a true game changer. He finished his rookie season with 45 receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran the ball 12 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns.
That success would lead to him being named one of the predicted breakout stars for the 2014 season, but that success wouldn’t be sustained. His second year in the NFL was a letdown as he recorded only 33 receptions for 384 yards and one touchdown, while also recording 10 rushes for 117 yards and one touchdown.
The downslide of his offensive production continued into the 2015 season as he only recorded two receptions for 10 yards and two rushes for 15 yards. He was demoted to almost nothing but a kickoff returner and it led to him taking a lot of heat from fans and the front office decided not to exercise the fifth-year option in his contract like they did with Floyd and Rhodes.
Patterson has seemingly gotten the message because he has been spending time this offseason working on the details of his position and the results have shown. It appears he has been running more polished routes during organized team activities and minicamp, while also demonstrating good hands, hauling in most of the passes thrown his way.
All those practices are done without pads, though, and the real test is yet to come. If he hopes to earn an extension from the Vikings he will need to prove to the coaching staff and the front office that he can make plays with cornerbacks making contact and disrupting his routes. If he can’t, the Vikings will likely choose to move on from him.
For the sake of argument, let’s say the Vikings want to re-sign Patterson. What type of money could he expect to see? He may be one of the best kick returners in the NFL, but that probably won’t be where he makes his money. He will need to prove that he can get the job done as a receiver, and he will need to do it this year since he will be a free agent following it.
Patterson’s most successful season was his rookie year and he didn’t really get involved in the offense until the final third of the season, when he recorded 24 receptions for 273 yards and three touchdowns. He also recorded 10 rushes for 156 yards and three touchdowns. If you extend that production over the course of an entire season he would have recorded approximately 72 receptions for 819 yards and nine touchdowns, while also rushing 30 times for 468 yards and nine touchdowns, though those rushing stats may be a little hard to believe.
If you take those receiving stats into account for what he is capable of doing he could end up receiving a pretty good contract. Last year, Marvin Jones recorded 65 receptions for 816 yards and four touchdowns and Golden Tate recorded 90 receptions for 813 yards and six touchdowns.
Jones just signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Detroit Lions this offseason and in 2014 Tate also signed with the Lions – a five-year deal worth $31 million. It’s hard to believe that one good year compared to three poor ones could land Patterson that kind of contract, however. Still, big, talented receivers are valued in the NFL these days.
One thing that could help out Patterson’s case for a big contract is that the Vikings currently do not have a lot of money invested in their wide receivers. Charles Johnson is currently on a three-year deal worth $1.53 million, Stefon Diggs’ contract is four years, $2.5 million, and Jarius Wright is on a four-year contract worth $14.8 million. They also just drafted Laquon Treadwell in the first round, so he is under contract for four years, $9.9 million with a fifth-year option.
That is not a lot considering the high price tag receivers fetch in today’s market, so it leaves plenty of leeway for the Vikings to work some extra money into Patterson’s next contract, if he finally lives up to the promise his talent says he should have.