The Neutral Zone — Cordarrelle Patterson
The next player entering into ‘The Neutral Zone‘ is one of the most exciting young weapons in the NFL. Cordarrelle Patterson is looking to build on his eye-opening breakout performances that came towards the latter end of his rookie campaign last year. He only played one full season at the FBS collegiate level while at the University of Tennessee and did not receive significant snaps until the second half of his first year with the Minnesota Vikings. Patterson was able to flash his unique athletic ability at both levels, but is still a raw prospect with much room to grow and develop.
Many fantasy football enthusiasts have Patterson projected as a WR1 because of his immense potential and upside. There are others, however, that believe enough concerning factors surround him which create too much risk when drafting him anywhere near his current ADP. In this article, we will go deep into both of these contrasting perspectives in order to obtain a full layout of the pros and cons of acquiring Cordarrelle Patterson for your fantasy team.
THE OPTIMIST SAYS: Cordarrelle Patterson was the third wide receiver taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, behind only Tavon Austin of the St. Louis Rams and DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans. It took Patterson a considerable amount of time to get acclimated to playing in an NFL offense, which is normally the case for most rookies at his position. But once he got his chance to earn significant playing time, he was able to explode onto the fantasy football scene with huge numbers. In his final four games, Patterson gained 384 total yards and scored 5 touchdowns, averaging almost 15 yards per touch.
For his upcoming sophomore season, Patterson has the privilege of working with the Vikings’ new offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, who conducted the monster breakout season for Josh Gordon in Cleveland last year. Patterson has the size and speed comparable to Gordon and could be placed in that same role for the new offense in Minnesota.
When Turner was hired to the Vikings staff, he had said in an interview that one of the first things he did was create ten new plays in his playbook designed specifically for Patterson. After the Vikings selected Teddy Bridgewater in this year’s draft, Turner might be willing to incorporate more of a short passing game to help his young signal caller and get the ball into Patterson’s hands out in space. As his 1393 total kick return yards last season can attest, Patterson has elite speed, elusiveness, and field vision that would benefit the Viking offense greatly on wide receiver screens and quick slants toward the perimeter of the field — especially when defenses load up the box in attempt to stop the best running back in the league, Adrian Peterson.
With only tight end Kyle Rudolph, an aging Greg Jennings, and a seemingly always under-performing Jerome Simpson as the only real threats for targets in the passing game, Patterson should have many opportunities for a significant amount of touches this season. And every time he does get the ball, there’s a better chance than with most players that he will take it the distance for touchdowns. These explosive plays alone will give fantasy teams an incredible advantage over their opponents. That is the type of player that is imperative to target in fantasy drafts, a difference maker that has the ability to almost single-handedly win weekly match-ups.
THE PESSIMIST SAYS: Cordarrelle Patterson has got to be the most over-hyped wide receiver for fantasy drafts this year. Before he was chosen by the Vikings in 2013, reports began to surface that teams were concerned about his underdeveloped route running skills and ability to comprehend the complexities of an NFL playbook. He seemed to give weight to those concerns in his rookie year when he was only able to average 14.8 snaps in his first seven games on a team starving for offensive weapons. This was in a Bill Musgrave offense that should be far less complicated than what Norv Turner will bring to the Vikings this year. Patterson will likely struggle again while attempting to learn a second offense in as many years in the league.
A Norv Turner offense is known to implement a heavy rushing attack and a vertical passing game. This obviously bodes well for Adrian Peterson, but which Vikings receiver will benefit from the passing game that has featured fantasy studs like Michael Irvin, Vincent Jackson, and Josh Gordon? The odds should be in favor of the veteran and proven deep threat, Greg Jennings.
Once Matt Cassel took over as the starting quarterback for the Vikings last year, Jennings was able to show that he still has enough left in the tank to produce when receiving the deep targets that rarely came about when Christian Ponder was under center. Patterson was not used as a deep threat, with about 85% of his touches occurring within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. With almost 30 years of NFL experience, Norv Turner has not fully utilized a short to intermediate weapon like Patterson. It will be interesting to see if he will be willing to adapt his long proven offense in order to manufacture touches for the young wide-out.
When a receiver shows elite skills in the open field, that does not automatically ensure he will be the next Percy Harvin. Harvin has been more of the exception to the rule with the abundance of failures that many teams have committed in the past in trying to get their “offensive weapons” on the field to make plays. Chicago tried it with Devin Hester. Cleveland attempted it with Josh Cribbs. Even Tavon Austin, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 draft, was supposed to be the answer to making the St. Louis offense more explosive.
Whether it was due to the offensive schemes, or an inability to run routes and/or comprehend the offense, these players were unsuccessful in making the offensive impact that their teams had envisioned for them. Patterson could be the next offensive weapon to face a similar fate because of the poor fit in Norv Turner’s scheme, his underdeveloped route running, or his inability to comprehend a complex playbook.
THE NEUTRAL ZONE
Cordarrelle Patterson possesses rare ability that injects excitement into all fans of the game every time he touches the ball because of the imminent threat of a highlight worthy explosive play. However, the pessimistic side of the argument does give enough concerns to not feel as comfortable taking him as a top-15 WR in fantasy drafts.
I would love having a player with the upside of Patterson on all of my teams, but not at the premium price of his current ADP. Personally, I am more prone to drafting safer options as my top wide receiver before going with riskier targets and the upside they possess. I would start to think about drafting Patterson as my WR2, but would not hesitate at all to draft him if he is somehow still available as a WR3.