The Minnesota Vikings' Cordarrelle Patterson isn't going to win the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award on February 1. That's going to go to either Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers or Keenan Allen of the San Diego Chargers.
If you were paying really close attention all season, you'd probably even vote Detroit Lions guard Larry Warford ahead of Patterson as well. Having said that, there is zero chance the Vikings would rather have any of those three players instead of Patterson, who flashed enough superstar ability in his first year to have the Vikings salivating at his potential.
In March of last year the Vikings made a bold and somewhat controversial move when they traded Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks. There was a collective gasp among Vikings fans and even those who liked the trade admitted that it was tough to give up on a talent like Harvin's.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the reigning league MVP at the time, quickly voiced his disapproval of the trade on twitter:
Alas, less than a year removed from the trading of a superstar in Minnesota, all is well. In return for Harvin the Vikings received Seattle's first-round pick—which they used on promising cornerback Xavier Rhodes—a seventh-round pick last year and a third-round pick in this year's draft.
More importantly, trading Harvin caused the Vikings to have a huge need at wide receiver heading into the 2013 draft. Minnesota filled that need by trading with the New England Patriots to move back into the first round and chose Patterson with the 29th overall choice.
And while it's admittedly silly to make the following statement after just one season of play, we'll do it anyway: All things being equal, a 2013 NFL draft re-do might see Patterson go second overall, behind only Sheldon Richardson, the New York Jets dynamic defensive lineman.
Patterson is like Harvin—quite simply a game-changer. A true triple threat who scares the hell out of opponents as a kick-returner, a wide receiver and as a runner out of the backfield.
Absolutely, and Patterson has the advantage of being three inches taller and weighing 35 more pounds than Harvin. They both having game-breaking speed, but Patterson's bigger build will certainly allow him to become more of a deep threat in the passing game than Harvin.
Harvin's one advantage over Patterson may be his tenacity, a trait that oddly enough could hamper Harvin, making him more injury prone over the course of his career, something that Seattle learned in Harvin's first year with the team.
Fair or not, Patterson will spend his career being compared to Harvin, both because of the trade and because of their similar assets on the field.
Let's take a look at a comparison of the two in their rookie seasons, first as receivers.
|Patterson vs. Harvin: Year 1 As Receivers|
|Percy Harvin (2009)||60||790||13.2||6|
|Cordarrelle Patterson (2013)||45||479||10.4||4|
The obvious caveat here is that Harvin was playing in an offense that was clicking along under Brett Favre and Patterson was playing in an offense that was clucking at best.
Now let's look at the two turned into running backs in their first season, taking handoffs either out of the backfield or on some type of reverse.
|Patterson vs. Harvin: Year 1 As Rushers|
Credit has to be given to former Vikings coach Brad Childress here, who saw the runner in Harvin and realized what a plus it would be to use him out of the backfield as both a change-up and a complement to Adrian Peterson.
In that sense, Patterson owes a tip of the cap to both Childress and Harvin who took the unconventional idea of a receiver getting multiple carries as a back and made some wonder why that hadn't been done more often.
Though Patterson is much bigger than Harvin, he doesn't run with as much power. Patterson does seem to have better vision than Harvin, as he sets up his running lanes with hesitation moves and cut-backs.
While both are seemingly capable of breaking off big runs every time they touch the ball, Patterson is blessed with a "wow" factor that Harvin doesn't have. While sometimes Harvin might just bowl forward for a five-yard gain, Patterson is always looking to bust a huge run.
Patterson's 50-yard touchdown run against the Detroit Lions in the last game of the season was a perfect example of that. Patterson took a pitch from Matt Cassel on a reverse to the left, and then quickly reversed back to his right, running all the way back to his own 37-yard line before weaving in and out of tacklers for 63 yards and a spectacular touchdown.
While everything Harvin does looks like he's trying as hard as anyone possibly could, Patterson looks like a kid on a playground who just knows he's better than everyone else.
It's a shame that Bill Musgrave didn't utilize Patterson as a runner until late in the season. Patterson got 10 of his 12 carries in the last five games of the season.
Finally, we can compare the two as kickoff returners. There is no doubt that both Harvin and Patterson are among the best that have been in the league in the last decade.
|Patterson vs. Harvin: Year 1 As Kick Returners|
While both are electric talents with blazing speed, Patterson certainly makes his returns look more effortless than Harvin's. Both are great instinctual runners, but Patterson has shown more of an ability to make ankle-breaking cuts at full speed.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Patterson's rookie season is that you get the sense watching him that he's just scratched the surface of what he's capable of.
Unlike Harvin, Patterson spent his first year playing on a bad team with poor quarterback play for most of the season. Harvin had the luxury of being the slot receiver for Brett Favre, who's 2009 season ranks among his best.
Patterson spent his rookie season trying to learn the intricacies of an NFL passing offense on a team that just didn't pass very well. The only knock on Patterson entering the draft was that he wasn't a polished route runner.
Moving forward in the Mike Zimmer/Norv Turner era, we should see Patterson develop into a receiver who can make plays all over the field. He's currently most dangerous catching quick slants and bubble screens—essentially long handoffs where he doesn't have to deal with the congestion at the line of scrimmage.
Ideally Patterson will develop into a No. 1 wide receiver who can master all of the routes in the receiving tree. While we know after one season that he is electric on quick hitches, Patterson has the speed and athletic ability to be a serious deep threat as well.
In a perfect world for the Vikings, Patterson will develop the intermediate route-running and ball skills that would make him a complete receiver and a nightmare to game plan against for defenses.
And while it's very rare for teams to use their No. 1 receiver as a kickoff returner, in the short term, Patterson will be the Vikings No. 2 wideout and continue to electrify on kick returns. There is an art to the very best kick returners, an ability to combine speed, elusiveness and decision making that very few have.
Patterson can certainly join the ranks of Devin Hester, Josh Cribbs and Harvin among the best of the past decade.
The one area where Patterson probably won't equal Harvin in is rushing attempts. In Harvin's third year in Minnesota, he upped his carries to 52, a number Patterson will never see in a season. Look for Turner to design reverses and a few snaps out of the backfield to maximize Patterson's ability as a runner, but don't look for him to be a third tailback.
The hope is that Patterson becomes too valuable as a receiving threat to risk him in too many rushing attempts amongst all the big uglies.
The Vikings and their fans are expecting big things from Patterson in 2014, and they should.
Look for him to up his receptions from 45 to somewhere between 60 to 80. If Patterson can develop into a downfield receiving threat sooner rather than later, his yards could take a huge jump from 479 to the 1,000-plus area.
Patterson was the third of three first-round picks the Vikings had in 2013. All look to have promise, but Patterson is the one who looks to have franchise-player potential.
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