Wide receivers are increasingly important to the present-day NFL, and the 2013 draft is loaded at the position. And while there's plenty of talent at the top of the board, Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton is perhaps the most overlooked wideout in the draft.
Much like Cordarrelle Patterson, the No. 1 wide receiver in this year's draft, Patton took an unconventional route to the FBS level of college football. Before transferring to Louisiana Tech, Patton started out at Coffeyville Community College in Southeastern Kansas.
Patton redshirted his freshman season at Coffeyville because, as he told NFL Draft Blitz, he "wasn't good enough to play yet."
But after a couple successful seasons at the junior college level, Patton was ready to move on to bigger and better things. He considered Troy and was turned down by Texas Tech before accepting an offer from Louisiana Tech.
Patton instantly stood out with the Bulldogs, catching five passes for 95 yards against Southern Mississippi in his first game. The following week against Central Arkansas, Patton had his breakout game, catching eight passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
As a junior, Patton posted 79 receptions, 1,202 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. He was officially under the national spotlight headed into his senior season.
And Patton certainly didn't disappoint this past year with the Bulldogs.
On the season, Patton tied for fifth in the FBS with 104 receptions. His 1,392 receiving yards also ranked fifth nationally, and he added 13 touchdowns.
Patton especially excelled against some of the Bulldogs' better competition. Against the Texas A&M Aggies, the eventual Cotton Bowl champions, Patton flooded the stat sheet with 21 catches for 233 yards and four touchdowns.
With his consistent play at Louisiana Tech, Patton's peers have taken note. After Patton's junior year, Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks showered the wide receiver with praise.
"I feel like (Patton) from Louisiana Tech is the best receiver I've played against since I've been here," said Banks in an interview with Chris Low of ESPN.com. "I've gone against some good ones in the SEC, too, but he's probably the most complete."
Banks is currently the No. 25 player on Matt Miller's big board, certainly a first-round prospect. Playing in the SEC, Banks had lined up across from the likes of Reuben Randle and Alshon Jeffery in 2011, but he singled out Patton as his best competition.
He was officially listed at 6'2", 195 pounds at Louisiana Tech, but he's probably closer to six-feet tall. Despite not having elite size, Patton runs crisp routes and has terrific hands. Comparing him to an NFL player, Patton is somewhere between Greg Jennings and Reggie Wayne.
The wide receiver position is one of the deepest in the 2013 NFL draft.
Patterson has the size and speed to be a top-10 pick come April, and California's Keenan Allen isn't far behind. West Virginia wideout Tavon Austin and Clemson speedster DeAndre Hopkins are also considered to be borderline first-round prospects.
But the depth at the position goes well beyond the top three or four wide receivers. The second round of this year's draft figures to be loaded with talent.
Patton is one of a handful of wide receivers who figure to come off the board in the second 32 picks. And because he isn't from a top-tier program like Robert Woods at USC or Justin Hunter at Tennessee, Patton isn't getting the hype he may deserve.
While route running is one of his better characteristics, Patton does an exceptional job creating yards after the catch. Louisiana Tech often targeted Patton on bubble screens to get him into open space.
And when he doesn't have the ball in his hands, Patton is a willing blocker, often out-physicaling opposing cornerbacks downfield.
Against press coverage, Patton is quick off the ball, preventing corners from locking him up. That won't be so easy in the NFL against better competition, but Patton certainly has a natural ability to get a clean release off the line of scrimmage.
Currently, Patton is the No. 39 overall prospect and No. 5 wide receiver on Matt Miller's big board. But with an impressive showing this weekend at the combine, Patton could vault his way into first-round consideration.
There are several receiver-needy teams picking late in the first round, as well as at the top of the second round. If Patton is still on the board after Day 1 of the draft, he won't last long at all on Day 2.
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