The Minnesota Vikings drafted Cordarrelle Patterson 29th overall in the 2013 NFL draft and then proceeded to use him like you would fine china. The team took pride in their asset, but left it on the shelf most of the year. You know how it goes with China, when they bring it out, perhaps for Thanksgiving or for a kick return, whichever occasion is suitable, everyone is impressed but more often than not the asset goes back on the shelf rather than being enjoyed year round.
Of course, Patterson’s lack of use wasn’t entirely because of ‘china attitude’. He arrived in the league as a raw receiver having only played one year of FBS level football before entering the draft and it took him a while to acclimate to the league. Couple that with the team’s inability to find ways to get him in the mix and the season started very quiet for Patterson.
All told, Minnesota ran 1,059 plays on offense last year and Patterson was on the field for just 446 of them. His use picked up significatly after week 11 though – having not played in more than 50% of the team’s snaps in a single game before that time he did so in every game from Week 11-17. Things worked out – right around the time when the team figured out how to make use of him, he was starting to figure out the NFL game.
He scored six touchdowns during that span (three as a rusher and three as a receiver), with a 24-273-3 receiving line and 429 total yards. The receiving numbers aren’t mind blowing, but they represent a significant upgrade over his output to that point. Patterson averaged four receptions for 46 yards and .75 touchdowns during that six game stretch.
As for the snaps, he scored .159 fantasy points per snap last year (not counting his work as a returning). Expect his snap count to rise considerably in his second year in the league, suggesting that even with no progression he should see a natural boost in fantasy scoring. The number suggest that if he gets to just 80% of the team’s snaps this year, he should score an additional 57 points (800*.159, less last year’s output). We’ll discuss the meaning of this in detail in a coming fantasy points per snap piece, but the moral is that Patterson is an asset worth targeting – and deploying – this season.
There is more good news though. Of course, we’re thinking about progression with Patterson too. With a year of experience under his belt, he comes to camp this year as a much more polished receiver.
New Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner is noticing progression in the sophomore wideout, according to Brian Hall of Fox Sports North:
“The most obvious thing, and you see it when he returns kicks, is he’s a natural runner, [h]e’s got great instincts when he gets the ball in his hand and he makes great run decisions. He’s got great vision. I think from Day 1 to now he’s improved as a route runner. He’s been very serious about working as a route runner.”
…“I think George Stewart has done a great job with him, the details of running routes, [h]e’s so explosive when he comes off the ball the way he’s capable of coming off the ball. He creates problems for defensive backs. I think he’s made great strides.”
That progression (and the scarcity of threats on rest of the depth chart) has led to Patterson practicing with the starters through the offseason, pointing to a significantly increased role. On the note of Turner, we covered the well known fact that his Air Coryell in our assessment of NFC coaching changes system is one that embraces the deep pass, and focuses on the passing game in general. Of course, Patterson worked well last season on slants, screens and hand offs so just saying “they’re going to throw it deep” isn’t reason enough to assume he’ll be successful but the switch to an offensive innovator who oversaw a league leading season from young receiver Josh Gordon last season from an OC who failed to involve him in creative ways is great news for Patterson. Turner, evidently, developed 10 new plays specific to Patterson shortly after getting the job. Teammate Greg Jennings acknowledges that the Vikings plan to showcase Patterson in its new scheme.
We’ve yet to discuss a substantial elephant in the room, that of the poor Quarterback play that plagued the Vikings last season (for the last number of seasons…) and it looks like Matt Cassel will be the Week One starter. Still, Turner’s offense got the most out of a revolving door of Browns QBs last year and produced a fantasy relevant passing game all the same and Cassel is certainly competent enough to help the team move the chains, and to get his most productive receiver the ball.
He’s learning a new system, and still learning the league, but expect the reports to remain glowing through training camp and count on an increase in production from Cordarrelle Patterson in his second year. Our staff all have him ranked as a back end WR2 at this point and his pre draft ranking will probably sit in that range, but given the ability demonstrated last season with the ball in his hands drafting Patterson comes with a considerable degree of upside.