by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Drafted: 1st round, 29th overall
45 receptions for 469 yards and 4 TD
Ranked 7th among rookies in receptions
Ranked 12th among rookies in receiving yards
Ranked 7th among rookies in receiving TD
It would definitely be easy to blame Patterson’s numbers on poor QB play and it is fair. With the likes of Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman and Matt Cassel throwing the football it would’ve been tough for any receiving to consistently post big numbers. Put a rookie who is learning and adjusting to the game in that situation and it’s a lot to ask.
Over the first 10 weeks of the season you could tell that the Vikings and Patterson were still figuring it out. Only once did he receive more than 4 targets in a game (and that was just 6) and he failed to produce more than 3 receptions. In fact, there was only one game where he had more than 28 receiving yards (and that was just 49).
While the results weren’t always there, Patterson played a much bigger role over the final seven weeks. He never received fewer than five targets and had five or more receptions three times. He also started finding the end zone, scoring three touchdowns over the final four weeks of the season (six TD over his final five, including 3 rushing touchdowns).
Where his value truly lied in 2013 was on kickoffs, where he finished second behind Devin Hester with 1,393 yards (though he had a better average at 32.4 yards per return vs. Hester’s 27.6). He also was the only player to have two kickoff returns for touchdowns (including one of 109 yards) and his 10 returns of at least 40 yards doubled anyone else in the league (there were two players with 5).
We can see from his production in the return game just how dynamic Patterson can be. Couple that with the increased experience he had late in the season and things definitely are on the uptick.
There are just going to be two questions that we need answered. First is going to be who is the quarterback, something that may have been addressed when the team traded up to select Teddy Bridgewater at the end of the first round (though there’s no guarantee that Bridgewater is the Week 1 starter). With Matt Cassel & Christian Ponder still on the roster, it could be tough sledding once again.
Second is what type of role in the offense Patterson is going to play. With a new coaching staff coming in, you have to think that they are going to finally give him his shot over the likes of Jerome Simpson. Patterson should get an opportunity to build on his late season success and emerge as the team’s top receiver (which he clearly is).
In other words, while 2013 was relatively quiet early, Patterson should make some real noise in 2014 and beyond.
Sources – ESPN, CBS Sports