FOXBOROUGH — The Minnesota Vikings in 2013 shipped multiple draft picks to the New England Patriots to bolt into the first round (selection No. 29) to draft then University of Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. After four seasons in Minnesota and one in Oakland, Patterson has boomeranged to the Patriots. He was acquired from the Raiders in a March trade.
He is a kick returner extraordinaire (he owns an NFL-record 109-yard kickoff return touchdown). He is a dynamite runner on reverses and screens. He is an elite gunner on special teams.
But why hasn’t Patterson rocketed as an NFL receiver?
This is one view from the Vikings.
“Cordarrelle is a fine person, a wonderful teammate, so, this isn’t criticism, it’s just stark analysis,” a Vikings executive told me on Tuesday morning. “He went from high school to junior college to major college to the pros and it affected his receiver learning curve. The things he does naturally are with the ball in his hands as a runner where he uses his athleticism and vision. He never really learned how to play the receiver position here in Minnesota and in today’s world where rookie contracts are up in three or four years, you have to make hard decisions. To be fair, we went through some coaching changes that didn’t help him, that set him back. Maybe he’s just starting to figure the receiving thing out.
“For him to be successful at receiver in New England depends on how much of the offense they ease him into and how much they help him grasp the things they want him to do. He can get it, but he’s not going to get it quickly. If they do that, I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a big-time receiver in this league. He is so athletic that he can make a play on anybody.”
Here is Cordarrelle Patterson entering his sixth NFL season aware that he has already painted a striking NFL canvas but clear there is a hole in his art. He has yet to prove that he can be a dominant NFL receiver. It gnaws at him.
He is not focused on all of the reasons why, he is simply embracing the Patriots and their elite quarterbacking, coaching and system. He is focusing on giving the Patriots what they need while seizing what he wants.
Respect, first, as a splendid NFL receiver.
“Man, I hope so!” Patterson said on the Gillette Stadium field Monday night after the Patriots ‘training camp practice before nearly 18,000 energized fans. “I have always wanted to be everything I could be in this league. I want to be more as a receiver. That’s up to God and to me. I keep praying about it. I keep working on it.
“I think it’s been a combination of many things. I’ve had a lot of different coaches since I’ve been in the league. Sometimes I think too much about what I’m supposed to be doing instead of doing it. But this is an atmosphere that is good for me. It’s bringing out my best.”
Quarterback Tom Brady has a way of doing that with his receivers.
The Patriots’ offensive system, orchestrated by coordinator Josh McDaniels, accentuates what players can do, not what they can’t.
Patterson, 27, is 6’2, 228 pounds. He wears No. 84.
People here hope he can have a Randy Moss-type effect among the Patriots like Moss produced when he joined the franchise in 2007. Moss, who enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, is similar in size to Patterson.
Receivers who are huge targets with wide catch radiuses.
Receivers who present matchup issues for most defensive backs.
“He’s got the skills set,” Patriots safety Duron Harmon said. “He’s explosive. They’ll know what to do with him here. I’m sure he’s hoping for more. We’ll see.”
Patriots safety Devin McCourty added: “He’s big and strong and fast. He’s gotten pigeon-holed as a returner and not a receiver. That’s not going to happen here. He comes here with what the Patriots traditionally give to everyone they bring aboard — a clean slate.”
Patterson is off to a strong start. He is flashing early in this New England camp. The Patriots need a Patterson ascension.
Reciever Julian Edeleman will miss the first four games due to PED suspension. Receiver Brandin Cooks (a whopping 16.6 average yards per catch last season) is now with the Rams and receiver Danny Amendola (61 catches last season) is now with the Dolphins. Others in the current receiving group are nursing injuries and overall present non-descript NFL careers.
Patterson-Patriots is a union brimming with potential.
“The atmosphere here is great for me,” said Patterson, peering into the stands at Patriots fans hanging over railings and screaming for player autographs. “It’s not even a scrimmage, just a practice for them, and look how they respond! I want to respond in the same way. It makes me even more want to become the football player I was meant to be.”
The receiver he yearns to become.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore joined the Patriots last season from the Bills. Gilmore has settled in nicely. He knows what can await Patterson’s quest from roots to revelry.
“We’re from the same hometown,” said Gilmore, smiling, noting both come from Rock Hill, South Carolina “For what he wants? This is the place he can find it. This is the place to do it.”