Craig: Vikings eager to get Patterson in on the action

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 18, 2013 - 2:30 PM

Vikings draftee hasn’t played as much as other rookie wideouts.

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Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kick-off for a 105-yard touchdown on Sunday.

Photo: McKenna Ewen, Star Tribune

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The New England Patriots received four draft picks to step aside and let the Vikings select Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson with the 29th pick in this year’s NFL draft.

With the third of those four picks from the Vikings, the Patriots selected a receiver of their own in Josh Boyce of Texas Christian. Boyce is no Cordarrelle Patterson, but the Patriots liked his value in the fourth round as the 102nd overall pick.

Two weeks into their regular-season NFL careers, here is the total number of offensive plays for these two draft picks:

• The explosive 6-2, 220-pound first-rounder for the 0-2 team: 11.

• The scrappy 5-11, 205-pound fourth-rounder for the 2-0 team: 16.

There’s no way Vikings coach Leslie Frazier had the time or inclination to look up Boyce’s snap count. But he certainly knows Patterson’s total. And he’s officially put his soft-spoken, but firm foot down.

“It’s just an oversight on our part; a major oversight because Cordarrelle is a playmaker,” Frazier said Monday. “He should be out there. We’ve just got to get him on the field.”

There were 27 receivers selected in this year’s draft. Patterson was the third taken behind the Rams’ Tavon Austin (eighth) and Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins (27th). Of the top eight receivers taken — three in the first round, three in the second round and the top two of five picked in the third round — only Tennessee second-rounder Justin Hunter (34th) has played fewer offensive snaps than Patterson.

Look deeper in the draft and you’ll find other receivers playing considerably more than Patterson. Oakland seventh-round pick Brice Butler, the 209th overall pick, has played 58 offensive snaps, including 51 percent of the Raiders’ snaps in their victory over the Jaguars on Sunday. Butler, a 6-3, 214-pounder from San Diego State, has been targeted four times and has caught three passes for 18 yards. Patterson has been targeted three times and has three catches for 24 yards.

Saints fifth-rounder Kenny Stills, the 144th overall pick, has played 86 offensive snaps for 2-0 New Orleans. He has played in more than half of the Saints’ offensive plays in each of their victories and has three catches for 96 yards, including a 67-yarder vs. Atlanta.

Jaguars fourth-rounder Ace Sanders, the 101st overall pick, played 62 snaps and was targeted nine times in Jacksonville’s opener against Kansas City. He was targeted seven more times and caught five balls for 64 yards in Oakland on Sunday.

Hopkins, who was taken only two spots ahead of Patterson, played 61 snaps (81 percent) in Houston’s opener and 75 snaps (91 percent) in its second game. He was targeted 13 times and caught seven balls for 117 yards and a touchdown in the Texans’ overtime victory over the Titans on Sunday.

Part of the reason for Patterson’s slow start, Frazier said, is Patterson plays only the “X” position in the Vikings offense. Patterson came to the NFL as a raw prospect with only one year of major college football. The Vikings feel he needs to focus on and be responsible for learning only one position this season.

That position also happens to be the one Jerome Simpson plays. And Simpson has gotten off to a good start with nine catches for 189 yards (21.0), with two catches over 40 yards.

But even that argument isn’t cutting it with Frazier, especially after Patterson opened Sunday’s Bears game with a franchise record-tying 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

“Jerome has had a year in the offense, so there are some things we can do to move him around a little bit,” Frazier said. “So we’re going to look at creating some things where maybe they’ll be on the field together. Or maybe we’ll take a few reps from Jerome to get Cordarrelle on the field.”

Speaking of major oversights, the most glaring might be not using Patterson in the red zone, where his size, speed and run-after-the-catch ability could be utilized best. In the red zone, the Vikings have two touchdowns in eight attempts. They were 0-for-3 in the late third quarter and fourth quarter in Sunday’s 31-30 loss in Chicago.

In that game, the Vikings ran 10 plays for minus-2 yards in the red zone. Peterson had six runs for minus-2 yards and Christian Ponder was 0-for-4 passing with one dropped ball by receiver Jarius Wright.

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