The New England Patriots have completed their voluntary offseason workouts and mandatory mini-camp with training camp just a few weeks away. This is the last break for the players before it is non-stop until January or February. While the media has focused on Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the real headliners heading to July are the new faces in Foxboro like Cordarrelle Patterson.
New England lost a number of valuable players on both sides of the ball in free agency after Super Bowl 52. On offense they lost wide receiver Danny Amendola–a mainstay since 2013–who left for a sizable salary increase in Miami; wide receiver Brandin Cooks was traded for a first-round draft pick; left tackle Nate Solder–a starter at left tackle since Matt Light required after the 2011 season–signed a record-setting contract for tackles with the Giants; and running back Dion Lewis–a key contributor in the second half of 2017–signed with Tennessee for a hefty increase in pay.
On defense, the Patriots lost cornerbacks Malcolm Butler–signing also in Tennessee– and Johnson Bademosi–signing in Houston–leaving New England short a pair of contributors in the secondary. Defensive end James Harrison retired (again) and street free agent defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois also was released.
The New England Patriots needed to use free agency, trades and the NFL Draft to restock the roster after their offseason losses. One of those new faces is former Oakland and Minnesota wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
The New England Patriots were uniquely linked to former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson long before he arrived this offseason. He was obtained from the Oakland Raiders along with pick number 210 overall in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft for a fifth round draft pick (the 159th overall pick).
The Patriots passed on Patterson back in 2013 when they traded the 29th overall pick to the Minnesota Vikings for a second, third, fourth and seventh round draft picks. Patterson had been a Juco transfer who played just one season in Tennessee. After one year he came out in the draft that year.
Though raw, Patterson had the size (six-foot-two 215 pounds) and speed (4.42 seconds 40-yard dash) coming out of Tennessee. However, he lacked the gaudy production of top wide receivers coming out of college. He had just 46 catches for 778 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games (per the Football Database).
Special Teams Prowess
Minnesota got a two-time Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro with the 29th overall pick. Of course, that is misleading as Patterson earned those accolades for his work on special teams as a kick returner–not as a wide receiver.
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Patterson has averaged 30.2 yards per return as a kick returner in four years in Minnesota and one in Oakland (all statistics from Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted). He has returned five kicks for touchdowns in his career and with his size and breakaway speed. Presently, he is arguably the most dangerous kick returner in the NFL.
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Patriots Fleeced Minnesota
In exchange for that one first-round draft pick, the Patriots picked up a bounty of contributors. Bill Belichick picked starting linebacker in Jamie Collins in the second round. The Patriots snagged a starting cornerback in Logan Ryan in the third round.
They got yet another mid-round wash-out at wide receiver in fourth-round draft pick Josh Boyce. However, New England traded the seventh-round draft pick for running back LeGarrette Blount. Blount had two stints in New England and was a multi-year starter at running back.
Trading the pick that Minnesota used on Patterson netted the Patriots two inexpensive starters on defense and a contributor on offense. All three were key players in New England’s recent Super Bowl championships.
Patterson’s Role in New England
Considering that New England will call a number of wide receiver rushes and end-arounds, Patterson should be able to make an impact there as well. He has rushed 44 times for 454 yards for a 10.3 yards per rush average and six touchdowns.
Amazingly, his rushing average is higher than his receiving yards per average which is just 10.0 yards per catch. In his career, he has 163 receptions for 1,625 yards and seven touchdowns.
Last season in Oakland, Patterson had just 31 receptions for 309 yards and another 121 yards on the ground. His most receptions in a season were 52 in 2016 and his most yards receiving were 469 yards his rookie season. Through five seasons and two teams, all that athleticism and potential remains untapped in the NFL.
Make no mistake, Patterson is no replacement in the offense for the traded Brandin Cooks. Cooks had 65 receptions for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged 16.6 yards per catch and was the vertical threat that the offense has lacked in New England since Randy Moss lined-up on the outside.
Cordarrelle Patterson is a special teams player first and a decoy second. His usage as a receiver ranks third on his projected role in New England where he will be fourth or fifth on the depth chart.
Expect offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to find a handful of packages each week to use in the running and receiving game. Whether as a big body in the red zone, a vertical decoy, or running end-arounds using misdirection, Patterson should be in position to make a few big plays each week.
Cordarrelle Patterson will get most of his work done returning kickoffs. With the new rules emphasizing player safety on kickoffs, Patterson should have more space to operate on returns. Making him even more dangerous to run back the kick and give New England great field position or take it back to the end zone for six points.
The expectations will be high for Cordarrelle Patterson in 2018 but they should be tempered. His value on offense is in limited playing time and packages with trick plays and decoys to disrupt defenses. Special teams–particularly kick returns–will be where his biggest impact will be felt for the Patriots.