Cordarrelle Patterson best be ready for this. All of it. The hype, the expectations, and yes, the comparisons.
And man oh man, on Patterson’s first full day as a Viking, the comparisons were grand.
Remember Randy Moss, he of the 587 catches, 9,316 yards and 92 touchdowns while wearing a No. 84 Vikings jersey? It’s no coincidence that Patterson, the receiver whom the Vikings traded four picks to secure on the NFL draft’s first night, will be wearing Moss’ old number.
He always has, going back to his days wearing purple and gold for the Northwestern High School Trojans in South Carolina.
“Randy Moss was my role model growing up,” Patterson said at his introductory news conference Friday. “Now I’ve got a chance to practice on the field he practiced on and play in the games he played in.”
And you remember Percy Harvin, too, right? For the past four seasons, Harvin had been a do-it-all barrel of TNT who just needed the ball to create something special, with backfield pitches or bubble screens, darts down the field or even on kick returns. Turns out Patterson has similar potential — in all areas.
Moss was the 1998 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Harvin became an instant Pro Bowl player.
No wonder the early local reaction to Thursday’s eye-opening trade for Patterson was so enthusiastic.
Said Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman: “I couldn’t believe a guy this size and this much speed made the type of movement and had the type of elusiveness that he showed.”
But now — deep breath — is where the current Vikings regime must temper its excitement with an explanation that Patterson’s NFL orientation will be significantly bumpier than those two previous Vikings stars.
Unlike Moss or Harvin, Patterson only spent one season in major college football, rerouted to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas out of high school before last season’s 46-catch, 778-yard campaign at Tennessee.
He is undeniably raw and will be followed into the league by questions about his work ethic and ability to fully absorb an NFL offense. That’s the knock, the perception among Patterson critics who quickly point to his poor academic record in high school as a warning sign.
“People always misjudge me off things they hear,” Patterson said. “I tell them, just sit aside and listen to my side of the story.”
Everyone inside the Vikings organization recognized Patterson’s elite athleticism the instant they began studying him. For Spielman, it wasn’t just that his first film viewing had him ranking the Tennessee receiver side by side with West Virginia’s Tavon Austin as the most electrifying receivers in this draft. It’s that the more Spielman talked to his coaching contacts in the SEC, the more raves he heard.
“They said he was maybe the best athlete in the SEC,” Spielman said.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave sees Patterson as a player who can stimulate his creativity, a kid who can be used in so many different ways and has always worked around his limitations on his circuitous path to the NFL.
“Every stop he’s had along the way,” Musgrave said, “it’s been clear he’s been one of the best if not the best player on the field each and every game.”
Receivers coach George Stewart fell in love with Patterson’s game tape, then struck up an instant bond with the receiver during his predraft visit to Winter Park earlier this month.
Patterson said Stewart “was the only coach during this process that I feel I connected with.” Which is a good thing considering Stewart’s tutelage may be the fulcrum in this whole experiment to turn Patterson into the next Moss or Harvin.
With that in mind, the Vikings have already stepped back from their initial exuberance and begun planning to nurture Patterson.
Some players, they will tell you, learn best directly out of a playbook or on a whiteboard in the classroom. Others need extensive film study. Some simply like to get out on the field and moved around.
It’s now the Vikings’ responsibility to connect with Patterson in the most productive manner possible.
A diamond in the rough only maximizes its value when polished.
Said Spielman: “That’s all going to be done as we go through this process. We’ll see how quickly he comes along, what he can and can’t handle [as a receiver], what he can and can’t handle as a returner and go from there. We got a player we know is a great athlete. Now let’s see what we can do with him.”