The Carolina Panthers currently hold the No. 14 overall draft pick for the 2013 NFL draft. One of the players that has been mentioned as an option for the Panthers in mock drafts is Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. How smart of a selection would Patterson be and is he worthy of the No. 14 overall pick?
Those are some of the questions we want to address in this presentation. At the recent NFL Scouting Combine held in Indianapolis, Patterson was one of the 38 wide receivers that was invited to participate. At the combine, Patterson had a solid showing in the 40-yard dash, with a time of 4.42 seconds. That was the sixth-fastest time recorded from the wide receivers that participated in the event.
Prior to the start of the combine, Patterson received a grade of 90.6 from NFL.com. That was the highest grade awarded to any receiver in the 2013 draft class. From a physical standpoint, Patterson is 6'1 7/8" tall and weighed 216 pounds at the combine. Besides the 4.42 time in the 40, Patterson had a 37" vertical jump and a 10'8" broad jump. Those numbers show that Patterson is a gifted physical specimen.
With all of these superlatives, how is it that he could still be on the big board at No. 14 when the Panthers are on the clock? After all, there are at least three teams in need of help at wide receiver (Buffalo, New York Jets and San Diego) that are drafting ahead of Carolina.
Now we come to the red flags, of which there are more than one. It is because of these red flags that Patterson could potentially drop down the draft board to still be a viable option for Carolina at No. 14.
1) There is some concern over Patterson's overall level of intelligence. In an article by Mark Eckel of the Newark Star-Ledger, a scout revealed that there is concern around the league that Patterson isn't very bright. As a result, offenses will need to keep things simple to allow him to flourish.
2) Limited college experience at the Division I-A level. Patterson played for a community college until working his way up to Tennessee and the SEC. Once he arrived, he started making plays and didn't stop. Some teams get skittish about drafting players that have only one year of tape to watch from the major college level.
3) Concerns over the way that Patterson interviewed with NFL teams at the combine. From a combine update article by Russ Lande of the National Football Post: "More concerning is that we heard that Patterson has been very unimpressive in interviews, which will likely lead to him sliding down draft boards".
Lande also sighted that Patterson dropped some easy passes, was choppy coming out of his breaks, and is far from a polished product.
Do Carolina fans like the prospect of drafting Patterson?
When you consider the red flags, despite the high upside, would teams really want to gamble on Patterson with a top-10 draft pick? If not, there is a reasonable chance that he will still be there for the Panthers with the No.14 draft selection.
How would drafting Patterson help the Panthers offense and Cam Newton in particular?
For starters, Carolina's offense took a dip across the board as defenses made some necessary adjustments when they faced Newton and company in his sophomore year around the league.
The offense generated 389.8 yards per game when Newton was a rookie. It was ranked No. 7 in the NFL. The team averaged 239.3 passing yards per game (No. 13 in the NFL) and averaged scoring 25.4 points per game (tied for No. 5 in the league).
In 2012, all three of those rankings dropped. The overall offense was down to No. 12 (360.7 yards per game). The passing attack was No. 16 (230.2 yards per game) and the team averaged 22.3 points per game (dropping down to No. 18 in the league).
The premise behind drafting Patterson is that he would open up the Carolina offense in a way similar to what drafting Julio Jones did for Atlanta's offense. We will never know if that projection is true unless Patterson were to actually play for Carolina.
Adding Patterson would allow Steve Smith to remain as the No. 1 wide receiver. Patterson would become the No. 2 and Brandon LaFell would become the No. 3 option, which is what LaFell is viewed as. You still have Greg Olsen as your tight end to round out the receiving options.
Drafting a talent like Patterson would put an extra level of stress on the defense every week. They can only cover so many people at once. If you lined up a single running back to go along with Smith, Patterson, LaFell and Olsen, then how would you be able to cover everybody? That would create some mismatches and it would be up to Newton to spot them and repeatedly throw the ball to the best option.
It is somewhat surprising that Smith saw his receiving totals drop 220 yards in his second year playing with Newton. Smith played in all 16 games, and actually saw nine more targets than he did the year before. His touchdowns dropped from seven to four and he lost 1.5 yards on average per reception (from 17.6 to 16.1). If anything you would have thought that the duo would have seen their numbers go up in the second year working together.
How does Patterson improve the overall Panthers organization?
If the Panthers are able to draft Patterson, he would represent an instant upgrade for Carolina's special teams. Patterson was able to do something rarely seen in Division 1-A, much less in the SEC. He scored touchdowns in four different ways in 2012; as a wide receiver, running back, punt returner and kickoff returner.
Patterson generated 1,858 all-purpose yards last year, which set a school-record at Tennessee. He averaged 27.6 yards per return (combining kickoff and punt returns). That is the kind of dynamic play that gets scouts and general managers around the NFL excited about this kid.
The drafting of Patterson would allow the Panthers offense to be elevated or upgraded to the point where it is able to outscore its opponents. That is part of the issues facing the team coming into the 2013 offseason. Do you want to improve the offense, the defense or both? Is that even possible to do considering the limited available salary cap?
No doubt there will be a number of Panthers fans that want to see the team use the first-round draft pick on somebody that can improve the defensive unit. For what it is worth, in the latest version of Draftek.com seven-round mock draft, the Panthers had their choice of the following receivers with their second-round draft pick (No. 44 overall): Baylor's Terrance Williams, Tennessee's Justin Hunter and Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins.
Would it be better to draft a defensive stud in the first round, and then take the best wide receiver available with the pick at No. 44?
Before you dismiss Patterson however, let's heed the advice of NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. The following came from an article written by Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
Mel Kiper has the Dolphins picking Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round. Mayock likes him, too. He gives him a first-round grade, one of only two wide receivers he gives first-round grades to.
"You put hut him on tape, and he’s going to take your breath away. He’s a special talent," Mayock said. But then Mayock also adds Patterson comes with major upside but major risk as well due to his inexperience.
So, if Mayock is going to give Patterson a first-round grade, where does he belong? In the top-10, in the middle of the first-round or in the final third of round one? That will ultimately be decided by pouring back over Patterson's college tape. Unfortunately there isn't very much of it to go over.
Where Patterson goes in the draft will be just one of the interesting developments in the first round. If he winds up being selected by the Panthers, you can be sure that Cam Newton will be excited about the 2013 offense.
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