In the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers selected Louisiana Tech receiver Quinton Patton. Based on his potential, he could turn out to be one of the biggest steals of the draft. As a senior, the wideout helped lead his Bulldogs to a 9-3 record, while tallying 104 receptions for 1,392 yards and 13 touchdowns. He won’t pile up those numbers as a rookie, but he’ll be a key member of the passing game on day one.
San Francisco has one of the best offenses in the league led by Colin Kaepernick and a dominant run game. On the other hand, his receiving targets can certainly use an upgrade. Even though fifth-year wideout Michael Crabtree enjoyed a career year in 2012, there’s little depth behind him and the newly-acquired Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are recovering from severe knee injuries, while A.J. Jenkins failed to make any noise as a rookie.
The opportunity is staring Patton right in the face to produce. However, much of his workload will depend on the development of Jenkins, who has been working out with Kaepernick during the offseason. Jenkins has the upper hand in terms of experience, but if the coaching staff does not believe he is ready to contribute, Patton will distinguish himself in the weeks leading up to the regular season.
During Patton’s time at Louisiana Tech, he displayed excellent body control, consistently making acrobatic grabs along the sidelines. He does not possess great speed, but he is a reliable target in the short-passing game due to his precise route-running, turning those small gains into big plays. Patton is also a willing downfield blocker, so he’ll help open up running lanes for Frank Gore and LaMichael James on the edges.
But what caught the eye of 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was Patton’s attitude. In an interview with ESPN, Harbaugh said, “We liked the way he competes in big games against very good competition. We really like that he’s a competitor, and when the ball is in the air, he is competing for it.”
Harbaugh has established a culture where the players who earn their spot, see the field on Sundays. Patton may have the natural talent to succeed in the NFL, but his competitive fire sets him apart.
While Patton’s role as a receiver is still in question, one thing is for certain: he won’t shortchange his coach in putting up a good fight.