Cordarrelle Patterson played just one season of major-college football—but he packed some big numbers into that one year, leading the SEC in all-purpose yardage. He found the end zone 10 times, scored four different ways (rushing, receiving, punt return, kick return), and amassed 1,086 yards from scrimmage (at 15.2 yards a touch). His athleticism and versatility allowed the Volunteers to line him up at wide receiver, in the slot, and at running back.
Those same athletic gifts—along with a large frame, leaping ability, and outstanding body control—allowed Patterson to succeed as a receiver despite a lack of experience and underdeveloped route-running skills. His quickness, agility, balance and explosiveness made him a dangerous open-field runner, which served him well both after the catch and as a return man. The knocks against him primarily stem from inexperience, but coaches rave about his competitive nature and football IQ so most of those negatives should be addressable via coaching and repetition.
Patterson’s versatility has led analysts to draw comparisons to Percy Harvin, and not just because one replaces the other in the Vikings’ offense. The two are similarly shifty and elusive, though while Patterson has two inches and 25 pounds on Harvin he’s not as tough a runner as Harvin. Other common comparisons for Patterson include Dez Bryant—who also came to the NFL with return skills and concern about his route-running—Michael Floyd, Robert Meachem, and Dwayne Bowe.
Patterson is initially expected to line up on the outside, opposite Greg Jennings, though he will certainly be given plenty of opportunities to handle the ball like Harvin did—on handoffs out of the backfield and via short passes and bubble screens. He’ll also take over return duties and impact fantasy leagues where return yards factor into the scoring. With the veteran Jennings and esteemed receivers coach George Stewart the Vikings believe they have the support system in place to get Patterson up to speed quickly, so while his dynasty value may skew more towards the long-term he’ll have every opportunity to approach the numbers Harvin put up (925 yards from scrimmage, 2,081 all-purpose yards, eight total touchdowns) as a Minnesota rookie in 2009.