The 2012 NFL draft didn’t produce much elite talent at the wide receiver position for Fantasy Football. Four receivers were drafted in the first round, but none of those four rookies played consistently well each week. Justin Blackmon and Kendall Wright were the top two producing rookies, but neither was overly impressive, or will be worth a prominent draft pick in 2013.
The 2013 NFL draft, on the other hand, appears to have an extremely deep class of receivers. There are a number of potential first-round draft picks who should be able to step in right away and produce in the NFL and in Fantasy Football.
The best receiver available, and a likely Top 10 pick come April, is Cordarrelle Patterson from the University of Tennessee. Despite only playing one season at Tennessee, Patterson has all the tools to be an extremely successful rookie.
Let’s break down the strengths and weaknesses of Patterson and try to gauge just how huge of an impact he can have as a rookie.
The first thing you’ll often hear regarding Patterson is that he is a raw player. This is so far from the truth is it almost laughable. Despite only playing one year at Tennessee, Patterson isn’t raw at all. In fact, he is extremely polished and ready to make an impact from day one.
Patterson is going to be an instant deep threat for whoever drafts him. He has the ability to beat coverage consistently down the field due to his speed and acceleration. He can also go up and attack the ball at his highest point, making him a legitimate weapon in the red zone, too.
However, Patterson isn’t just going to be a deep threat in his first season in the league. His athleticism allows him to not only make plays vertically, but also horizontally. For a player his size (6’3”), Patterson is surprisingly agile in the open field. He consistently makes defenders miss him to pick up extra yards.
There is a lot to like about the skill set that Patterson is bringing to the NFL. He looks like a legitimate playmaker in all areas of the game. He should start right away and can provide a great option for whoever ends up drafting him.
While Patterson shouldn’t be considered a raw prospect, he is a player who will enter the league inexperienced playing against top competition.
It could potentially take him some time to get familiar with all that will be asked of him in the NFL. The learning curve for an inexperienced player like Patterson could be greater, which could cause him some struggles early in his NFL career.
Patterson isn’t the most aggressive of receivers, and can have difficulty breaking free from cornerbacks who try to jam him at the line of scrimmage. He’ll need to add some strength, but until he does, he could be hindered by aggressive cornerbacks.
There are times when Patterson will use his body to catch the football, rather than his hands. This doesn’t normally lead to an incompletion, but teams want wide receivers that consistently pluck the ball out of the air with his hands. Patterson doesn’t do that on a consistent basis just yet.
Overall, the weaknesses that Patterson has are easily fixable and shouldn’t deter teams from using a high draft pick on him.
2013 Fantasy Football Outlook
Last year’s top rookie receiver (Blackmon) had an average ADP around 80. That means that anywhere from 25-30 other receivers were drafted before him. If you’re expecting to be able to get Patterson that late this year, you should re-think your drafting approach.
Patterson has all the tools to be an elite player in the NFL. While a common player comparison for Patterson is Demaryius Thomas of the Denver Broncos, I actually believe that Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons is a better rookie comparison.
While Patterson doesn’t have the hands that Jones had, the rest of the physical attributes and capabilities on the field are similar. As a rookie, Jones had 959 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, despite only playing 13 games.
As long as Patterson can stay healthy, he should be able to put up similar numbers in his rookie season. There are only 15-20 receivers worth drafting ahead of Patterson this year, and in dynasty leagues, it’d be surprising to see him last past the first five rounds.
Simply put, if you want to draft a dynamic player like Patterson, you better jump for him earlier than some others might tend to take a rookie.