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Patterson 'best kick returner' in NFL says Vikings aide

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We remain wary of any hype attached to Cordarrelle Patterson after the Around The NFL gang was burned by the Vikings wideout last season.

We made Patterson the No. 1 entry in our summertime "Making the Leap" series, predicting that he'd haul in 70 catches for 1,100-plus yards in 2014.

The lofty expectations made sense: Patterson showed off freaky athleticism as a rookie in 2013, leaving us to expect a monster campaign under the watch of play-caller Norv Turner.

Instead, the enigmatic target caught just 33 passes for 384 yards, finishing the season with fewer grabs in Minnesota than Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright and Matt Asiata

Still, the Vikings haven't lost hope in Patterson, with general manager Rick Spielman saying that the wideout has "really grown up a lot," while coach Mike Zimmer gushed over the former first-rounder's improved route running. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer sees something else to like:

"In my mind, Cordarrelle Patterson's the best kick returner in this league, so it would be crazy for me to put someone else in that spot," Priefer said this week, per the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Patterson has genuine gifts in the return game, but his 25.6-yard return average last season -- sixth in the NFL -- was a steep fall from his 32.4-yard output from 2013. Priefer also acknowledged "there's still things that he can't do this year he did last year, like put the ball on the ground."

It's not crazy to believe in Patterson as a dangerous return man. He has that potential and proved it as a rookie. It would be a tremendous boost for the Vikings, though, if those skills carried over to his work with the offense.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses offseason clichés and who are the NFL's most valuable non-QBs. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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