In the run-up to the 2012 NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills were projected to be in the running for one of the draft's top wide receivers. They didn't pull the trigger on a receiver until the third round, when they took NC State receiver T.J. Graham.
The Bills' receiver situation right now is uncertain at best. The team announced it would not be re-signing Donald Jones, and there have been rumors that they will not tender David Nelson (via ESPN). So, it looks like Buffalo could again look to the draft to address the position.
That's why it made sense when Bleacher Report's Matt Miller named Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson his choice for the No. 8 overall pick in his most recent mock draft.
He'll surely be drafted in the top 10, but should the Bills be the ones to make that call? Miller gives Bills fans reason to be excited about a potential selection of Patterson:
Turn on game film of Patterson and you're instantly blown away by his open-field speed and moves. Then you realize he's 6'3" and 215 lbs., and you're more impressed to see someone so big making defenders miss the way he does.
Patterson's highlight reel is worth your time.
There are holes in his game, for sure. Patterson played at three schools in three years. He's had just one season of major college football. His route-running needs work. He doesn't always catch with his hands.
But those are coachable holes. Speed, awareness in space and ability to make people miss can't be taught. Neither can the ability to out-jump defenders for the ball.
If this year's class has a Julio Jones-type prospect at wideout, that prospect is Cordarrelle Patterson.
In terms of the value the Bills would get at No. 8, there isn't much better than what Patterson offers. Buffalo has other needs—cornerback, linebacker and a quarterback, chief among them—but there aren't many players at any of those positions that make a lot of sense in the top 10, at least in the way Miller has the draft breaking down.
There's no doubt the Bills could use a dynamic physical presence on the outside. Stevie Johnson is a great wide receiver in his own right, but they're going to need to do better than just Johnson if they want to field a formidable passing attack in 2013, regardless of who is the quarterback.
There's no doubt that Patterson is a dynamic physical presence, whether on the outside or in the slot. At the combine, he finished sixth in the 40-yard dash (4.42) and the broad jump (128 inches), while finishing in the top five in the vertical jump (37 inches).
It's hard to make the Julio Jones comparison, though, since Jones played three years at Alabama while Patterson had just one year at Tennessee. But there's nothing anyone can do about that. Teams will have to take it or leave it based on their evaluations.
Even that wouldn't be such a limiting factor on its own; there are cautionary tales, but plenty of players have come off one good year in college to play well in the pros.
However, recent reports indicate the other holes in his game may not be as coachable as once thought. Russ Lande of NationalFootballPost.com shed some light on what happened in the private meeting rooms, saying, "we heard that Patterson has been very unimpressive in interviews, which will likely lead to him sliding down draft boards."
His ability to run after the catch suggests he would be a great fit in the West Coast offense. His physical skills indicate he can get by in that style of offense without an in-depth understanding of an NFL route tree, but at some point, he's going to have to learn it, and learn it meticulously.
The West Coast offense is a timing-based offense that requires precise route-running. Patterson will have to get a handle on that to realize his full potential.
In holding Patterson to the standard of recent top-10 picks at wide receiver, though, it's not hard to see him living up to the expectations:
- Justin Blackmon, 2012: 64 catches, 865 yards, 5 touchdowns
- Julio Jones, 2011: 54 catches, 959 yards, 8 touchdowns
- A.J. Green, 2011: 65 catches, 1,057 yards, 7 touchdowns
- Darrius Heyward-Bey, 2009: 9 catches, 124 yards, 1 touchdown (considered a reach)
- Michael Crabtree, 2009: 48 catches, 625 yards, 2 touchdowns (played only 11 games
There's one problem with these comparisons: who's the quarterback that's going to throw him the ball? Granted, four of the five receivers above (save for Julio Jones) came to a team with a shaky quarterback situation and were still able to contribute, although obviously not at an elite level. (Save for Heyward-Bey, these receivers are realizing their potential; Blackmon was a rookie last year).
So, there's little doubt that Patterson can live up to that standard in year one. The question is how coachable is he, and will he be able to reach his ceiling. If Lande's report is accurate, teams should have serious trepidation about using a top-10 pick on him.
Like so many of the prospects in the draft this year and every year, there's no question about Patterson's physical tools; the question is, what's going on between the ears.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.