The streak of quarterbacks or Vikings winning the Associated Press’ NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award stands at seven. The quarterbacks this season are out of the running, but there is a Viking who knows his candidacy is gaining momentum by the week.
“It’s not my thing to tell people to vote for me, but at the end of the day, they should vote for me because I’m the best rookie out there,” Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said. “I got the best smile, I’m the handsomest rookie, I do things the right way. But, for real, I’d like to win it. It would be amazing. But I really don’t know where I stand because I’ve seen a lot of great rookies.”
Patterson’s standing has improved even as his team’s record has slumped to 3-9-1. He thinks the record will hurt him, but what he doesn’t know is two of the past three rookies of the year on both sides of the ball have played for losing teams.
“Cordarrelle has to be mentioned in the conversation when you talk about rookie of the year,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “He’s really coming on strong. And his best football is still ahead of him, even this season.”
Patterson’s momentum figures to increase as he becomes an even more prominent focal point in an offense that’s expected to be without injured running back Adrian Peterson for Sunday’s game against the Eagles at Mall of America Field.
Five Vikings, all offensive players, have won AP Rookie of the Year: running back Chuck Foreman (1973), receiver Sammy White (1976), receiver Randy Moss (1998), Peterson (2007) and receiver Percy Harvin (2009). The latter two are the only non-quarterbacks to win since 2005.
Patterson would be the eighth receiver overall and the fourth Vikings receiver to win the award since it began in 1967. But there’s much more to Patterson’s campaign platform than just playing receiver. For example, he:
• Leads the NFL in kickoff return average (33.3). Second-best is 30.6. No other rookie leads the league in any major statistical category.
• Leads the NFL in kickoff return touchdowns (two), including an NFL-record 109-yarder.
• Has the NFL’s two longest scoring plays: the 109-yarder and a 105-yard return that’s tied for second place.
• Is one of only two rookies, along with Rams receiver Tavon Austin, to score three different ways this season. Patterson has two touchdowns on kick returns, two on receptions and one on a 33-yard run from the tailback position.
• Ranks No. 2 in the league in all-purpose yardage. With 1,629 yards (1,199 returning, 395 receiving, 35 rushing), Patterson trails Eagles running back LeSean McCoy by only 115 yards heading into Sunday’s matchup.
Now here are three other front-runners (stats through Week 14):
• Receiver Keenan Allen, Chargers: The eighth receiver drafted, Allen leads all rookies in catches (61) and yards receiving (902) through 13 games. He also has five touchdowns.
• Running back Eddie Lacy, Packers: His production has dipped with Aaron Rodgers out the past six games. But the top rookie running back statistically ranks ninth in rushing (887), 17th in yards from scrimmage (1,093) and is tied for 28th in scoring (seven touchdowns).
• Running back Giovani Bernard, Bengals: He ranks 22nd in rushing with 620 yards, but has a 4.7-yard average to go along with 47 receptions for 403 yards. He also is tied with Lacy as the top scoring rookie with seven touchdowns (four rushing, three receiving).
For Patterson to win the award, he’ll need to keep reaching the end zone. If he gets there, watch for what’s becoming one of the league’s more unorthodox touchdown celebrations.
It started at the University of Tennessee, when Patterson would sometimes exchange high- or low-fives with the nearest official.
“I like to have a lot of fun,” Patterson said. “If I score a touchdown and the referee is right there, and he needs a little love, I’m going to give him a little love because they don’t get that much love.”
Sometimes, it takes a while before the official obliges.
“On my rushing touchdown against Chicago, I put my hand out and he denied me at first,” Patterson said. “But I wasn’t going nowhere unless he shook my hand. So I kept going back to him until he gave me a handshake.”
Patterson turned to an official again last week after his last-minute 79-yard touchdown reception.
“In Baltimore, I just gave the guy a little friendly hug,” Patterson said. “Then I got out of the way so he didn’t throw a flag on me. Just having fun, man.”