INDIANAPOLIS -- Who is Cordarrelle Patterson?
That might be the question on the minds of casual NFL draft observers after seeing the Tennessee wide receiver's name posted at the top of the charts, but scouts and coaches can't stop raving about the most explosive playmaker in college football.
Patterson set school records for all-purpose yards (1,858) and became the first NCAA player to score a touchdown four ways since 2008 (receiving, rushing, punt and kick return). Patterson scored 10 touchdowns (five receiving, three rushing, one kick return and one punt return), while also setting an SEC single-season record with a combined kickoff and punt return average of 27.6 yards.
Now, Patterson's feats as a do-it-all playmaker certainly caught the attention of NFL scouts and coaches searching for an explosive offensive weapon, but his rapid development as a receiver is what really pushed him to the top of the charts. Patterson totaled 46 receptions for 778 yards and five touchdowns during his only season of major college football. (He was a two-time All-American at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas before transferring to Tennessee in the spring of 2012.) Most impressively, Patterson demonstrated the ability to blow past defenders on vertical routes, making him an attractive option for teams in need of a receiver to stretch the field.
As I broke down Patterson's tape, I came away impressed with his acceleration, burst and overall explosiveness. He shows the rare ability to go from zero to 60 in a hurry, which makes him a scary receiver to defend one-on-one. Additionally, Patterson flashes extraordinary skills with the ball in his hands. He has a knack for making defenders miss in the open field, yet is a physical runner with the capacity to run through arm tackles in traffic. Patterson's a threat to score from anywhere on the field, making him a hot commodity in draft rooms across the league.
From a development standpoint, Patterson must continue to refine his route running. He needs to vary his stems and releases to set up defenders, and eliminate some of the extra steps getting in and out of breaks. Although Patterson was able to get open against elite competition in the SEC with raw skills, he will have to improve his footwork and overall savvy to consistently separate from top corners in the NFL.
Additionally, Patterson must continue to increase his football IQ through extensive classroom work and film study. With only one season of major college football experience, Patterson has limited exposure to some of the concepts (sight adjustments, hot reads and route conversions) featured in most NFL playbooks, which could impact his transition to the pro game. A quality position coach can help Patterson overcome his inexperience, but the Tennessee standout will need to put in the work to make it happen.
Based on our conversation on the NFL Draft Tracker podcast and other interactions leading up to the NFL Scouting Combine, I'm confident Patterson will demonstrate the commitment required to become a solid pro in the mold of Donald Driver.
Here are five potential fits for Patterson's game:
Miami Dolphins (No. 12 overall)
Ryan Tannehill enjoyed a solid rookie campaign, but the Dolphins must surround him with better weapons on the perimeter to maximize his talents. Patterson is a dynamic playmaker with exceptional speed, quickness and running skills. He is a rare receiver with the capacity to stretch the field, while also demonstrating the savvy, awareness and explosiveness to turn short passes into big gains. Given Joe Philbin's history of featuring a potent aerial attack built around the talents of a strong-armed passer and a host of electric pass catchers, the addition of Patterson would be a sensible one.
Carolina Panthers (No. 14)
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman has stated that he'd like to see Cam Newton making more plays from the pocket, but the lineup features only one explosive weapon on the perimeter (Steve Smith). The addition of Patterson would give Newton a legitimate burner on the outside with the capacity to blow past defenders on vertical routes. Additionally, Patterson's presence would alter the way opponents defend Smith, creating more big-play opportunities in the passing game. Furthermore, Patterson would give the Panthers an eventual No. 1 receiver to build around when Smith, who turns 34 this summer, decides to hang it up.
St. Louis Rams (No. 16 and 22)
Jeff Fisher is on record saying Sam Bradford's struggles can be attributed to the lack of talent around him. While most would point to the Rams' leaky offensive line, the fact that Bradford hasn't played with a legitimate No. 1 receiver during his career is certainly one of the issues affecting his play. The team attempted to upgrade the receiving corps with a few draft picks a season ago (Brian Quick and Chris Givens), but neither is an explosive playmaker of Patterson's caliber. Furthermore, Patterson's speed and burst would be enhanced on the Rams' turf field, creating numerous problems for defenses. With a legitimate weapon to target in the passing game, the Rams could continue to close ground on their NFC West division rivals behind a Bradford-Patterson connection.
Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 17)
The Steelers likely will need to replace the explosiveness of Mike Wallace, as he's expected to depart via free agency. Patterson definitely fits the bill. He is an exceptional runner with the ball in his hands, which would allow Ben Roethlisberger to target him on slip and bubble screens on the perimeter. Although Wallace's big-play ability would be sorely missed in Pittsburgh, the addition of Patterson would ease the transition and make the Steelers' offense more dynamic and explosive in future years.
Minnesota Vikings (No. 23)
If Christian Ponder is going to develop into more than a game manager, the Vikings must surround him with dangerous options on the perimeter. Obviously, Percy Harvin is a threat, but the rest of the Vikings' receiving corps is lacking. Patterson would give Ponder a long-ball specialist on the perimeter; his speed would open up the rest of the field, giving Harvin space on short and intermediate routes. Additionally, Patterson would give the Vikings an effective counter to the eight-man fronts designed to take away Adrian Peterson on the ground. With Patterson capable of running past defenders in isolated matchups, the Vikings could torch opponents with the deep ball following play-action fakes. In a division where offenses reign supreme, the addition of Patterson could help the Vikings maintain a spot near the top of the NFC North.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks