Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is one of the most electric playmakers with the ball in his hands, but he is far from a sure thing as the NFL Draft approaches.
His athletic potential with his speed, body control, and agility are off the charts. There are times when he is reminiscent of Barry Sanders with the ball in his hands in the open field.
He has the potential to be the best receiver in the class and one of the best in the league. One thing is for sure; Patterson is going to get someone fired.
The question is it will be the guy who picked him or another front office for passing on him.
1. The first thing people have to understand about Patterson is he is not just raw, he has virtually no idea what he is doing.
He is at square one in terms of his understanding of the receiver and relies on pure instinct. He has produced some impressive results off of that in college, but he left as many plays on the field as he made.
It starts with his stance. It is that it is simply not helping him; it is actually hurting him. He stands too tall and all of his weight is on his back foot, so he gets little or nothing out of his first step.
Michael Irvin made a point of this on NFL Network’s show, Playmakers, where he pointed this out to Patterson and tried to take a minute to address it. Of course it can be addressed and worked on but the fact of the matter is this is an issue that should have been addressed in high school; not approaching his rookie year as a professional.
His route running is probably the best attribute he has at this point, which is to say, it is the least problematic of his issues but still in its developmental stages. He did not run an extensive route tree and there are things he can do to make his routes more efficient. Patterson will occasionally tip his pitches and needs to reduce the amount of steps he takes into his breaks, especially on comebacks.
He has the feet to do this, but just needs to continue working on it and get more reps. Despite that, he has such impressive acceleration, agility, and raw speed that he had the ability to get open and make big plays. Also worth noting is the fact Patterson is fearless going into the middle of the field as a receiver.
2. The second issue that could sink Patterson is a question. Why is Patterson so raw? Why does it look like he has no clue what he’s doing as he approaches professional football? From Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, South Carolina to a year at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas to a year at the University of Tennessee, Patterson has been an incredible athlete but learned little if anything about the wide receiver.
Perhaps this was a matter of having ineffective coaches that never challenged him to improve and just worshipped his athletic ability and let him do whatever he wanted. The other possibility is coaches tried but ultimately Patterson ignored them and felt he knew better.
The answer could also be somewhere in the middle. The determination by a team could dramatically impact their willingness to draft him and different teams may come to a different conclusion.
The issue that hurts Patterson’s case is the fact that the guy who played across from him, Justin Hunter is an extremely polished wide receiver. Da’Rick Rogers, who ultimately had to transfer to Tennessee Tech, who had multiple issues off the field, is a more polished receiver. Patterson has to buy into the team and the coaching staff that selects him as much as the team who selects him buys into him to succeed.
3. Patteron’s hands and ability to catch the ball are not where they should be either. His catch radius is small. In the six games watched, he caught only three passes away from his body.
He uses way too much of his body catching the call and has gator arms even though the passes are right in his breadbasket.
This allows the defensive back to reach in and deflect passes before it gets to Patterson. The most remarkable example of this is when he body caught a back shoulder throw.
He needs to get a ton of reps catching passes away from his body between now and when he has his private workouts.
Patterson appears to have very long arms but he does not take advantage of them and he is such a broadly built player that if he takes advantage of all of his gifts, he could be a power forward type receiving presence catching the football not unlike Julio Jones.
It appears as though Patterson has made some strides in this area, but it needs to continue improving and he needs to prove he can make those tough catches in traffic and down the field.
4. As a result, the next potential pitfall for Patterson is the level of expectation that come with where he is going to be drafted. Every indication suggests that Patterson will not just be a first-round pick, but could be a high first-round pick.
As a result, the team that picks him could expect big things out of him early. Patterson could make some things happen with the ball in his hands, but if a team and their fans are expecting him to come out and be a No. 1 wide receiver or a premier weapon, they are likely going to be disappointed.
If a team wraps their hopes around Patterson his rookie year to carry the offense or be a major contributor, they are going to overload him, force him to play off of instinct, and develop bad habits; it could break him.
Based on his technique and his polish, Patterson looks like at least a full year project if not two years, but with some special packages mixed in that will allow him to shine. It is also important that the team who selects him tempers expectations and makes fans know that this is going to be a process with him. The team is not picking him for his rookie year; they are picking him for year three and beyond.
5. The last major pitfall that could sink Patterson's career is instability with the team that selects him, from a coaching standpoint as well as within the front office. Whoever selects him needs to have a plan in place and plan on having the organization and coaching staff in place from for at least three years.
If Patterson goes from coach to coach or through different coordinators and force him to put too much on his plate in terms of learning, it could really hamper his development long term. He needs to have a stable situation with a coach he respects, trusts and will allow himself to be coached.
There are obvious teams that are in position to do that and there are organizations that need to collectively look themselves in the mirror before making a high stakes play on a player like Patterson.
There is no question that Patterson has an incredible amount of athletic ability and he is magic with the ball in his hands. The problem is figuring out how to do it. Tennessee and coach Derek Dooley had to be creative and while it allowed him to be productive, he is still at square one as a receiver.
Patterson is football’s equivalent to plutonium; in the right hands, he’s an incredible weapon and game changer. If the wrong teams gets a hold of him, he is likely to blow up in their face and take lot of careers down with him.