Summary: Entering the 2012 season, sources told WalterFootball.com before the season that Tennessee had a great third receiver behind Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers. That receiver was Patterson who was a junior college transfer. After Rogers was kicked off the team, Patterson took his place as the starting X (split end) receiver.
Patterson started the season by showing off his elite speed and big-play potential. Early in the season opener, Patterson burned N.C. State cornerback David Amerson for a 41-yard score on a go route straight down the field. Patterson also took a carry for a 67-yard touchdown later in first quarter. He had six receptions for 93 yards and a score against the Wolfpack in his Tennessee debut.
Patterson played well against Florida with eight receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown. After that outing versus the Gators, he five straight games in which he didn't surpass 32 yards receiving. Patterson exploded against Troy with nine catches for 219 yards and a touchdown. The junior totaled 46 receptions for 778 yards and five touchdowns in 2012. He ran the ball for 308 yards and three scores, too. On kick returns, Patterson averaged 28 yards per return with a score. He had a long punt return for a touchdown against Vanderbilt.
Patterson has a rare combination of size and speed. He has the ability to break off a long touchdown on any occasion when he touches the ball. When Patterson gets the ball in his hands, he is extremely tough to get down. Patterson is explosive running through the secondary and is very shifty. As an offshoot of how fast he runs, he does a good job of getting separation from cornerbacks.
A creative NFL coaching staff will get even more out of Patterson. Playing only one season of major college football has him as a very raw prospect entering the NFL. He is going to need time to develop his receiving skills. Thus, to get more value out of Patterson, his team should use him on some runs out of the backfield. He also could return some punts and kicks at critical times. Being the every-down returner is an injury risk.
As great as Patterson's skill set is, he needs a lot of development in the NFL. His route running needs a lot of work, and he has to learn to run the route tree effectively. Patterson also had way too many drops last season. He needs to spend time with the Juggs machine and his receivers coach to improve his hands. ,br>
To start out his NFL career, Patterson could have some struggles with reading defenses, knowing the playbook and running routes. Ergo, he may not win a starting spot immediately, but be used more rotationally into the game. Patterson has great upside for the long term and could develop into a No. 1 receiver and a constant source of mismatches.
There are few receivers who are blessed with Patterson's skill set. Along with Tavon Austin, Patterson is the one of the few truly explosive receivers in the 2013 NFL Draft. It looks extremely likely that he will be a top-25 pick.
Player Comparison: Demaryius Thomas. Entering the NFL, there are a lot similarities for Patterson with Thomas in the combination of explosivity and rawness. Like Patterson, Thomas needed to develop his route-running and hands. Both receivers have a rare combination of size, speed and explosiveness. Thomas (6-4, 229) is bigger than Patterson, but they have a similar style of play. The Broncos took Thomas with the 24th overall-pick, while Patterson also is likely to be a top-25 pick who could go in the top 10.
NFL Matches: Buffalo, New York Jets, San Diego, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Minnesota
There are a lot of teams that are in need of an explosive receiver, and Patterson has the best combination of size and speed of any receiver in the 2013 NFL Draft. The earliest that he could hope to go would be to the Bills with the eighth overall pick. They need a play-making receiver to pair with Stevie Johnson.
One pick after Buffalo is another potential landing spot with the Jets. New York needs game changers for its offense, plus the team needs more talent to try to salvage Mark Sanchez.
The Chargers could use a new No. 1 receiver for Philip Rivers a year after letting Vincent Jackson leave town. San Diego could target Patterson if the top-three offensive tackles are off the board.
A team that is reportedly high on Patterson is the Steelers, who have the 17th pick. Pittsburgh has a big hole to fill since Mike Wallace left for Miami. The entire Steelers contingent went to scout Patterson at Tennessee's pro day. The Rams need receiver help, and Patterson could be in play for their selections at No. 16 and No. 22.
If Patterson falls past St. Louis' pick at No. 22, it seems unlikely the Vikings would pass on him given their need at receiver. They have two first-round picks and also need a deep-threat receiver after trading away Percy Harvin.
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