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Making the Leap, No. 1: Vikings' Cordarrelle Patterson

Why Patterson is on the list

We've been eagerly awaiting Patterson's 2014 season since the end of last year when the receiver put on a show down the stretch.

The 6-foot-2 dynamo is an amalgam of Devin Hester, Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones, Spiderman and the Road Runner. OK, Kevin, calm down.

Patterson displayed explosive playmaking ability in the return game, out of the backfield and improved skill in the pass attack as the year progressed. His combination of size, speed and toughness are tailor-made for today's NFL.

Since the end of the season, a bazillion words have been scrawled in every nook of the Internet praising Patterson and predicting a monster season.

Vikings fans have swooned over his talent, fantasy football prognosticators have predicted mammoth stats and award-winning podcasters have extolled Patterson's potential.

Greg Jennings told Patterson he'll be "showcased" this season. Legendary linebacker Mike Singletary chimed in saying the receiver is going to be a superstar.

Even adversaries-turned-allies have been glowing about Patterson.

"The time we played them, he was nothing like he is now,'' cornerback Captain Munnerlynrecently said. "I told him, 'The time we played you, I'm glad we caught you early.' Because if we hadn't have caught him early, he was tearing people up at the end up the year.

"He's really growing as a receiver, and I'm seeing it with my own two eyes.''

With all that's been written and spoken about Patterson these last seven months, I'll let words be merely kindling for the playmaker's blazing reel and let you see with your own two eyes.

Let's start the game off with a touchdown.

Please, sir, may I have another? And make it longer -- anyone can return a kick 105 yards.

Patterson gobbled up 1,393 return yards in his Pro Bowl rookie season. Note to kickers: If you can't boot it out of the end zone, just pooch it.

If you give Patterson space in any phase of the game, he's gone. Even in the snow.

(Poor Matt Elam had no shot.)

Fun Fact: 10 of Patterson's 12 rushes came in the last five games when it finally dawned on former coordinator Bill Musgrave to get the ball into his hands any way possible.

Notice that first touchdown run above? It was against Mike Zimmer's former defense. No doubt he took note.

While most of Patterson's receptions came within 7 yards of the line of scrimmage, when given a chance, he also displayed good body control and an ability to adjust to (purposely?) underthrown balls.

His progression as a receiver throughout the season stands out on his tape. In Week 15 and Week 17, he caught touchdowns on back-shoulder throws. We should see that threat in the red zone more in 2014.


Now I'm forced to play fun police.

The biggest knock on Patterson entering his rookie season remains his chief obstacle: route running.

Even as he impressed down the stretch, the receiver was inconsistent in his routes. He often rounded off cuts and on some occasions even took lazy angles. He must catch on to new coordinator Norv Turner's offense quickly and become a master of the entire route tree.

Questions at quarterback are always an obstacle. Patterson looked his best last season with Matt Cassel under center, because the veteran quarterback wasn't afraid to give him a chance to make a play. If rookie Teddy Bridgewater wins the job or another quarterback carousel emerges, Patterson will have to bridge any chemistry gap.

Playing outside in Minnesota in December will not be a cozy proposition.

Expectations for 2014

Turner's offense has a certain way of aiding the leap of young receivers. The most recent example is Josh Gordon last season in Cleveland. Turner will no doubt exploit Patterson's speed and ability to run through tackles in open space.

Given that the Vikings have other weapons -- Jennings, Adrian Peterson et al -- I don't expect Patterson to lead the league in receiving yards like Gordon did as the lone mustang in Turner's stable.

However, Patterson has the ideal size and burst to continue the string of receivers who explode in their second season. Even with the Vikings' run-heavy approach, a potential 70-catch, 1,100-yard season shouldn't be snickered at.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" makes sense of the Andre Johnson situation and pitches ways to fix the "Top 100."

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