Kevin C. Cox
Pittsburgh's salary cap situation means that Mike Wallace is likely to be on another team in 2013. In the Draft the Steelers could look for another play making wide receiver at No. 17. Cordarrelle Patterson might be the answer. Possessing good size, speed and quickness Patterson made plays whenever he touched the football. Breaking down his play, we analyze Patterson's pro prospects.
At 6-foot-2 216 pounds Cordarrelle Patterson is a big wide receiver. He was one of the top junior college players who decided to play for Tennessee for the 2012 season. In the 2012 season he caught 46 receptions, for 778 yards and 5 TD as a replacement for Da'Rick Rodgers who was removed from the team after violating team rules. Patterson proved to be electric with the football having 25 rushing attempts for 308 yards and another 3 TDs as well as a kickoff and punt return for touchdowns. His performance at the combine only solidified his place as a first round pick.
Cordarrelle Patterson has uncommon speed for a 6-foot-2 wide receiver and he was able to run away from defensive backs in the SEC with it. He shows the ability to get separation in the breaks in his routes and combined with his speed, he should be able to get separation in the NFL. The play below is just one example of how Cordarrelle Patterson uses his speed to make plays.
In this play Patterson is lined up against David Amerson a CB from NC State who led the nation in interceptions in 2011. You can see Patterson's route running ability. He run the out and up. He rounded off the out cut but he was still successful in getting Amerson to hesitate. After he sees the hesitation he turns back up field and uses his speed to get separation.
While successful at making the deep play Patterson may be better with the football in hand. He showed surprising quickness, and can make people miss in open space. Tennessee was not afraid to use him on reverses and sweeps with good success. He combines this quickness with good lower body strength to get crucial yards after the catch and uses his ability as a returner to maneuver in the open field. The play below highlights Patterson's ability while carrying the football.
Tennessee loved to run the reverse with Patterson. In this play we can see Patterson vision for the blocking in front of him, his quickness and his long speed. Once the blocker cuts Georgia's No. 83 Patterson see that Shipley has the inside sealed and he makes his move. He accelerates quickly through the hole. Then he shows his elusiveness with a quick "juke" move of Alec Ogletree and cuts back inside. One more nice block and he is off to the races out running the rest of the defenders. This isn't the only successful run of Patterson's against NC State he also went for a huge run on another reverse. He was also good at turning short passes in to big plays because of this same elusiveness.
Patterson provides a lot in as returner and should be successful in this area in the NFL. As a kick returner he averaged 27.96 yards per return and had a touchdown. He only had four punt returns in 2012 but amassed 101 yards and a touchdown as well. When in the open field he can see the play unfold and find blocking very efficiently. His quickness and size is almost unfair and allowed him to break off a return if he got just a crease in the coverage. Patterson may have the size of a big receiver but he has the moves generally associated with smaller receivers. The following plays are used to further highlight Patterson play making ability.
The cuts and acceleration in this play make Patterson seem more like a 5-foot-11 receiver than the 6-foot-2 player his is. Once again he uses his vision to find a seal. In this case four players were covering the outside lane. With a fake step he accelerates through the seal his blockers provided. He finds himself one-on-one against another player but makes a cut and causes a missed tackle. Immediately after he makes yet another cut to cause yet another missed tackle. Then he uses his speed before making one last cut to the endzone. If this play doesn't get you excited about Cordarrelle Patterson ability I don't know what will.
Cordarrelle Patterson is lacking the polish in his game. He will round his routes at times or telegraph them with his footwork. Opposing defensive backs were able to see him telegraphing his break and they would make their break as well. This caused Patterson to have to make catches while in traffic or knowing he will likely take a hit. Probably the biggest concern of Patterson's game is his ability to catch the football which is not something you want to hear of a receiving prospect. Patterson isn't a natural hands receiver; instead he allows the football into his body to make the catch. On film there were throws that hit his hands that he just couldn't bring in but should have. It did seem that some of these were a result of mental lapses not indicative of his ability. This tendency for Patterson to catch with his body also takes away his ability to go up and fight for the football. One would think a 6-foot-2 receiver with a good vertical leap would love the opportunity to go up and get the ball out of the air. However Patterson would rarely use his height and vertical jumping ability to catch the ball at its highest point. Patterson has shown this ability to go after the ball on tape (specifically against Alabama) which is encouraging but it suggests he is not comfortable doing so on a regular basis.
Cordarrelle Patterson is a rare athlete. At 6-foot-2 he has the body to build his size but he also possesses rare speed. Patterson seems to be the exception to the idea that a player is either quick or he is fast. He shows the ability to both break tackles and make a defender miss in space which makes him both a dangerous punt returner and a good possession receiver. If Cordarrelle Patterson can polish his route running and learn to take advantage of his height he has potential to be a difference maker in the NFL. Currently his stock is as a mid to late first round prospect that could only improve if he impresses at the Combine.