Heading into the 2014 season, if there is one trendy sleeper who will permeate prior to your fantasy football draft, it may just be Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson, the team's first-round pick in 2013, only began to scratch the surface of his immense potential last year in his rookie season. While his overall numbers (45 receptions for 469 receiving yards and four touchdowns, plus 12 carries for 158 rushing yards and three touchdowns) don't jump off the page, Patterson did thrive down the stretch.
In his final five games last season, Patterson recorded three receiving touchdowns while also rushing for an additional three touchdowns. He put his name on the map with a breakout game at Baltimore in Week 14, when he registered five catches for 141 receiving yards and a touchdown. For his merits, he was named NFC Rookie of the Month in December.
Simply put, Patterson is a playmaker. Whether lined up on the outside, in the slot or in the backfield, Patterson is a threat to take it to the house on every play. With scintillating speed and above-average size (6'2”, 220 lbs), Patterson is quickly rising up fantasy draft boards and into the hearts of fantasy players nationwide.
The Vikings appear set to take off the training wheels for Patterson this year.
Per Ben Goessling of ESPN.com, Patterson is ready to be more involved in the new Vikings offense, which is now being headed by new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who is known for his inventiveness on offense:
By all accounts, offensive coordinator Norv Turner brings a more complex offense to Minnesota than what the team had under Bill Musgrave, so Patterson will have to digest a more intricate scheme as he learns his second offense in two years. On the other hand, general manager Rick Spielman said at the NFL scouting combine that Turner already had 10 plays designed for Patterson, and Turner moved Patterson around in the Vikings' offense plenty during the team's voluntary minicamp this week.
"I think you've always got to hold that judgment in terms of how a guy handles it," Turner said on Thursday. "We've had guys who have been very productive players, extremely outstanding players I would say, and they lined up and played one position. We've had a bunch of other guys we've moved around. We've moved Cordarrelle around quite a bit this week and he seemed to handle it pretty well, so we'll see how much he can handle?"
In the story, it also hammered home the point of how Patterson was in some ways immature and lazy last year while not fully grasping the nuances of the game. However, he has been working hard all offseason to change some perceptions about him. In other words, he's primed to break out.
More from Goessling:
"It’s been tough, (but) like I said, I lean on the guys in that locker room," Patterson said. "I lean on them a lot, they help me and expect big things from me, and I expect big things from them."
You also have to remember Turner was the Browns offensive coordinator when he was tutoring Josh Gordon last year. If Patterson can come anywhere close to the kind of production Gordon enjoyed last season, well, fantasy owners will be downright giddy.
With rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater likely to assume the starting role at some point, Patterson should have a nice quarterback to learn and grow with. Even if Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel is his quarterback, Patterson should still thrive. After all, in Turner's offense in Cleveland, Gordon had a fantastic season with the likes of Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell getting him the ball. So, Patterson doesn't necessarily need a Pro Bowl quarterback to succeed.
Playing with Bridgewater can only help, not hurt Patterson's fantasy production.
With other veterans like Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson and Kyle Rudolph (not to mention Adrian Peterson and the running game) around, Patterson will not take on the load all to himself. So, the pressure to succeed will not be overwhelming.
With him likely past his rookie struggles, Patterson is poised to take the next step in his game. His upside is through the roof, and Patterson is teetering on becoming a reliable No. 2 wide receiver for fantasy purposes. In due time, he could eventually become No. 1 wide receiver material.
So, while he is still considered somewhat raw, sooner or later Patterson is going to bust out, and you don't want to be the one who misses out on grabbing him. So, draft Patterson with confidence as a No. 2 wide receiver and one you should target in the fourth or fifth round of drafts in 10- or 12-team leagues.
Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon.
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