The simple answer is no, Cordarrelle Patterson is not the next Percy Harvin—and that's not a bad thing. Harvin entered the NFL draft following his junior year at Florida and came to the Minnesota Vikings with 59.3 percent of his touches coming on runs. He had 194 rushes over three years for 1,852 yards and 133 receptions fro 1,929 yards.
Playing with Tim Tebow, Harvin never led the Gators in rushing, but twice as a sophomore and junior he was their leading receiver—but even so, his career best was only 59 receptions as a sophomore.
Patterson, from the University of Tennessee, also left following his junior year. As a junior-college transfer he only played one season in Knoxville. He entered the season as the third receiver but was quickly promoted when Da'Rick Rogers was suspended from the team.
In his only season at Tennessee, Patterson finished second in receptions behind Justin Hunter. But in the 2013 NFL draft, Patterson finished ahead of his teammate. The Vikings selected him 29th overall—five picks ahead of Hunter, who Titans drafted with the 34th pick.
Even though Patterson finished second in receptions to Hunter, he also ran the ball 25 times and was the Volunteers' main kickoff returner. The following table compares the total plays from scrimmage for Tennessee's top two receivers.
Patterson averaged 28.0 yards on 24 kickoff returns and 25.3 yards on four punt returns, scoring a touchdown on both a punt and kickoff return.
It's this versatility that the Vikings need with the departure of Harvin.
Considered a raw talent and needing some development as a receiver, Patterson could make his biggest contributions early by taking over those return duties for the Vikings.
In his five seasons with the Vikings, Harvin has five kickoff returns for a touchdown—good for eighth place all time in NFL history, only three away from the record.
The difference is Harvin is better suited to play as a slot receiver, while Patterson will play split end for the Vikings. At 6'2" and 216 pounds, Patterson has a bit more size than Harvin (5'11" and 200 pounds). At the combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds and was fifth with a 37" vertical jump among wide receivers.
Compare that to Harvin's numbers in 2009, when he ran the 40 in 4.41 seconds. Projected to play either at running back or wide receiver in the NFL, there were questions as to how the Vikings were going to use him. In the end, the Vikings made good use of Harvin's talents, moving him around on offense and utilizing his elusiveness to return kicks.
The following table compares Patterson's numbers as a junior to those of Harvin's from 2008.
With the exceptional year Adrian Peterson had last season, and the lack of talent at wide receiver, the Vikings don't need Patterson at running back; they need someone to fill the big wide receiver role that has been missing since another Vikings receiver signed with Seattle—Sydney Rice.
In 2009, Rice led the Vikings with 83 receptions for 1,312 yards. He is the last Viking receiver to have a 1,000-yard season, and the only one since Randy Moss in 2003.
Vikings fans will need to be patient. It took Rice three seasons, and a Hall of Fame quarterback, to achieve those numbers.
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