What I like-Physically Patterson is the best of both worlds. He’s tall and long, but not bulky and stiff. At the same time he’s got enough beef on him that you don’t watch him play and wonder when he’s going to snap in half. Most consider Patterson the best wide receiver in this draft. That has to do in large part with what he does once he has the football in his hands. Once Patterson makes the catch he turns into a real force. He reminds me a lot of a great running back once he makes the catch. Speed and agility and impressive change of direction. He keeps his head up and is always looking for a cutback or an alley to get up field. Another part of Patterson’s game I find very impressive and a facet that he will be able to use in the NFL is his body control. While not a polished route runner, he does a very good job with change of direction and body positioning. On stop routes on the sideline you can see how natural he is using his long steps to eat up soft coverages, plant a foot in the dirt and shield the ball from the defender.
Patterson also has very active hands. While he does have some drops that make you scratch your head, it’s often because he lets the ball get into his body. When he extends and goes after the ball he does a much better job. In terms of his quickness, he’s one of those wide receivers that never feels like he’s going full speed, but when you see him suddenly flash open or run past a defender you get a much better appreciation of just how quick he is.
What I don’t like-Patterson is far from a finished product. Most overlook the fact that he only has one season of BCS football, but when you watch his game closely you can see it. He still struggles to find voids in the zone, needs to work on his double move, run crisper routes overall, and has to get stronger against the jam. Right now he beats the jam with his quick first step, but I want to see him get those arms extended when the quickness doesn’t work. As I mentioned earlier he has some drops, and in many cases those happen when he’s in traffic and can’t extend. I think he can get better of going and getting the football, but right now that is not a strength. I think he also loses the football in the air. There were many plays where he either picked the ball up late, or never found it at all. I attribute at least some of that to his desire to want to make every play a big one. Peeking at the defense, planning his long run in his head before he makes the catch.
What it all means-Patterson is likely the top wide receiver off the board. This has as much to do with his uber-athletic ability after the catch as anything else. He’s going to need to be part of a system that can get him clean off the line, and at least initially give him a chance to turn short throws into long runs. I compared Patterson last September to a taller Percy Harvin and I stand by that. Patterson’s potential is very high. Higher than nearly every other wide receiver in this draft. His ability to return kicks and punts only adds value to him as a player. For the most part everything that I have issue with in Patterson’s game can be corrected through experience and coaching. He’s accustomed to a pro style passing offensive at Tennessee, but there has always been discussion whether or not they simply put in the parts that fit Patterson rather than the entire playbook. But that’s not an issue for me. All young receivers are eased into any offense, and the same will happen for Patterson. If he’s drafted by a team that has starters in place he could cut his teeth in the slot, where some short and intermediate option routes could really provide him with openings. That’s where he’ll excel. I don’t put Patterson among the top wide receivers to come out of college in the past few seasons, but in a league that covets speed and playmaking, Patterson gets a bump over some safer, albeit less dynamic prospects.