When it comes to second-year wide receivers in fantasy football, perhaps none is a better choice than Minnesota's Cordarrelle Patterson.
After a rookie campaign in which the Tennessee product torched defenses in various ways, he is set to see an increase in usage as he makes a sophomore leap.
To their credit, fantasy owners seem to have the right idea—Patterson has an average draft position of 4.10, meaning he is the No. 19 receiver off the board. That puts him ahead of other obvious No. 1 wideouts such as Michael Crabtree, DeSean Jackson, Percy Harvin and T.Y. Hilton.
The funny thing is, he will outplay that ADP with relative ease.
First, the numbers. The No. 19 scorer at wideout last year was Baltimore's Torrey Smith at 132 points. Patterson was only 25 points off that mark already. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he never appeared in more than 26 offensive snaps through the first 10 weeks of the season.
Funnily enough, beginning in Week 14, Patterson rattled off four consecutive double-digit efforts—including a pair of 20-point outbursts—to close the season. His total numbers came in a variety of ways, obviously:
|G||Rec||Yds||TD||Rush||Yds||TD||KO RET YDS||TD|
Patterson scores in a lot of different ways, with special teams being the highlight—for now. Fair enough, as he averaged more than 30 yards per return and took two back to the house from more than 100 yards away.
But those offensive touches are not only going to get an uptick in volume, but they are also going to be orchestrated by new offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
Turner, the guy who made Vincent Jackson a fantasy juggernaut while in San Diego. Turner, the guy who last year helped Josh Gordon explode for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games as a sophomore.
Nobody would be silly enough to suggest Turner can get Gordon-esque numbers out of Patterson (but who knows, right?), but guess what Turner did upon being hired? Hint: It had nothing to do with a miserable quarterback situation.
No, Turner immediately drew up and installed 10 plays specifically for Patterson. NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal provided the scoop:
"That's the first thing (Norv) was doing when he was putting the Xs and Os part of it together," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said this week at the NFL Scouting Combine. "(Cordarrelle) is a unique talent."
It sounds so simple, right? Get Patterson the ball, something the staff failed to do last year. Another wrinkle is the quarterback situation. One Matt Cassel helped him to flourish late last season after assuming the starting role. He says the jump this year has been noticeable, per Fox Sports' Brian Hall:
Obviously he's made a tremendous amount of progress from Year 1 to Year 2. I think the offseason was huge for him in terms of his progress and just being able to really learn. He's still a young player. He only played a year in college and he was a year at JC and now only a year here, and he played sparingly last year for us at receiver. But I think this has been a huge offseason for him to learn, to see Greg do it last year and now to kind of start to apply it more in this offseason.
Even if Cassel sees the starting gig ripped from him, rookie Teddy Bridgewater is competent enough to get the ball to Patterson. This is especially the case on designed runs and screens that are meant to set up kick return-like sequences.
There are other great targets on the roster, though. Greg Jennings, who is doing much to impart his wisdom on Patterson, is a reliable option. Jerome Simpson is still around. and Kyle Rudolph is quietly one of the best tight ends in the game.
But in the team's Week 1 preseason game, Patterson was far and away the No. 1 receiver when both Cassel and Bridgewater were under center. Jennings does not seem to mind taking a back seat, either, as he says there is "no ceiling" for Patterson, among other things, per ESPN.com's Ben Goessling:
I would say the sky's the limit, but there's no ceiling to his potential. There really isn't. If he's willing to put in the time, the potential is there. He has everything he needs. He's starting to mature as a player, as an individual, so his success is going to shoot straight through the roof. I'm excited. I told him this, and maybe it was a little premature, but I told him, 'At some point, I'm going to tell my kids I played with Cordarrelle Patterson.
That last bit is a tad ridiculous, but the general consensus is that all a coaching staff has to do is get the ball in Patterson's hands. The new regime in place has already confirmed that he will remain on kick returns, per Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune.
It is also a safe bet the staff will actually get him the ball more deep down the field, as his ESPN profile notes that "His 1.53 vertical targets per game ranked 92nd in the NFL. That's an inexplicably low number for a guy with Patterson's speed." Another great bet? Patterson will also be given a wealth of carries throughout the season rather than a bulk in the final four games.
The only thing that can stop Patterson is health issues. He is just 23 years old, has a staff willing to use him, quarterbacks who can get him the ball and a supporting staff to deflect attention.
All Patterson has to do to outplay his ADP is see an uptick in usage. What's scary is just how much he can produce after that, as he will start to possibly pass names like Larry Fitzgerald, Victor Cruz and the aforementioned Jackson.
Patterson has been one of the offseason's fastest ADP risers for good reason. Even where he rests now might not be high enough, which should encourage owners to ponder a gamble on his upside earlier, and go all in if he slips past the average.