When you look for undrafted free agents (UDFA), you always want those guys who work tenaciously hard, not only to prove their UDFA status is unwarranted, but also to show just how valuable they can be to a team. Eli Rogers is a perfect example of what you want in an UDFA. He turned out to be a big contributor as a slot receiver, and has now established himself in this role.
It’s not easy to find gems, but the Steelers have been pretty good at doing so over the years, particularly through the UDFA process and with late-round picks. You simply don’t find Vince Williams-type players late in the draft very often.
But is there really another “Mike Hilton” in this UDFA class for the Steelers?
Perhaps — with regard to a few players. This was one of the best UDFA crops the Steelers have gotten in years, and their practice squad will be loaded with talent which — come next year — could be something special.
Wide receiver Damoun Patterson fits that mold quite well. He’s talented enough not only to make the practice squad (PS), but also to claim a spot on the 53-man roster, provided that Tomlin is open to the prospect.
Obviously, the wide receiver position is stacked, but Patterson isn’t just a good receiver — he’s a solid special-teamer, which gives him a legitimate shot to crack the roster. But at this stage, I’m penciling him in as a likely practice-squad candidate.
Patterson isn’t exactly huge, he’s six-feet tall, but uses his frame fully to his advantage. He plays much more like a 6’4” player, and we all know the Steelers love this quality in their receivers. All starting-caliber receivers in Pittsburgh play larger than their personal stats might suggest.
But Patterson separates himself with a few key traits. Not only is he extremely tough overall, but the guy makes catches in traffic as well. Across the middle — between two guys — down the sideline — the guy makes tough catches in traffic everywhere. He takes big hits all the time, but he’s able to hold on due to his strong hands. I’ve come to love how good Patterson is in these jump-ball situations. He high-points the ball better than a lot of receivers I’ve seen this season, and has amazing body control in the air.
The sleeper of camp is Damoun Patterson. He is a solid receiver and has a legit shot to make the 53 man roster, although he likely ends up on PS. Guy has some serious talent. Strong hands, great body control, and decent route running. pic.twitter.com/VZP8AWheRl— Nick Farabaugh (@BuzzkillFB) July 31, 2018
Here is a perfect example of what I’m talking about with control and strong hands. Taking a strong hit but holding on and locating the ball at its highest point. He consistently pulls off grabs like this in traffic. He also knows how to make solid adjustments in the air. That’s perhaps one of his most outstanding traits.
I do have some issues with him, though. As well as he makes catches in traffic, he rarely gets much separation. He doesn’t have a definitive double-move, although he’s a solid hand-fighter at the line of scrimmage. This allows him to get open on deep balls, especially since he’s a pretty good athlete. That means a few things, first he’s solid in his release moves, and that’s also James Washington’s specialty. In other words, Patterson works as a backup to Washington really well, but he catches much better in traffic.
One of many reasons why I'm rooting for #Steelers UFDA Damoun Patterson, is because of plays like this. Gets behind the safety to make the catch. Ended this game with 155 yards on just five receptions. #SteelersNation pic.twitter.com/YCjzP5Fvvf— Kelly A (@kanozie80) June 11, 2018
Here he shows what I’m referring to, using his athleticism and solid route-running to burn the safety deep. Patterson reminds me a bit of Marvin Jones Jr. of the Detroit Lions, although he’s not nearly as good after the catch as Jones. Patterson has shown he’s an impeccable sideline catcher too. That goes along with his ability to control his body and make adjustments.
A prime example of that is right here. He tracks the ball, grabs it at its highest point, makes the necessary adjustment, and then gets his feet down. Not every receiver has the ability to make a play such as this, but Patterson not only made the play, but Steelers Depot’s Alex Kozora has reported him making catches similar to this in his training-camp diaries, as well as on Twitter. He flashed the route-running ability in college as well. The guy has a wide route tree, which is a massive plus for him.
But the biggest reasons he may make the roster is that he’s a decent blocker, as well as a good special-teamer. He uses his hands and can seal the outside well enough for someone like Jaylen Samuels to break open. That could be key, as Darryl Drake has mentioned his love of Wide Receivers who can block.
(GIF Courtesy of Alex Kozora - Steelers Depot)
He even has a few nasty blocks like this one to his name, so blocking will help elevate him in the eyes of the coaching staff.
The main worry I have with Patterson is that he’s got Justin Hunter Syndrome — showing up big in camp and disappearing in games. You won’t see his stat-lines really popping out. He disappears at times, but he’s a deep threat that can be schemed open, although I question how good he would really work from the slot. Here’s hoping he doesn’t have a case of this trait after all, but his production is concerning and would be a detriment to him making the roster if he doesn’t show up in preseason.
Patterson has many desirable traits, but he might also be a disappearing act. If he shows up consistently, though, the Steelers might have got themselves an absolute steal.