It's Patterson's size that has the Vikings believing he can stand up to the rigors of being the full-time kick returner and receiver, unlike how the team tried to conserve the smaller Harvin in the past.
Minnesota said it doesn't have concern over using Patterson on returns and as a receiver because of his build. But his role as a starting receiver will at least be limited early because he's still learning the position. Patterson has been working behind Jerome Simpson at receiver in practices, but one day is expected to fill the No. 1 receiver role along with his return duties.
Patterson says he enters this season with no grand expectations, like the way Moss took the league by storm in 1998. He said he'll do anything his coaches ask. He plays his part as the rookie, carrying the helmet and shoulder pads of the older receivers and speaking only about improving and learning.
Yet, behind his wide smile, his confidence is apparent. He knows he's talented and he's waiting for the chance to show it.
"I just want the ball in my hands," Patterson said. "I feel like a special person. So once I get that ball in my hands, I feel like there's a lot of things I can do with it."
Patterson was considered raw coming out of Tennessee when Minnesota made the bold move to jump back into the first round to select Patterson in April's draft. The skills and instincts were apparent on tape, but he had just one year of major college football.
"When we saw raw, we talk about not entirely detailed," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "He's got great athletic ability and he's been able to dominate at every level in which he's played. So, we're looking for more attention to detail, being more specific with the jobs we ask him to do."
The Vikings have been pleased with his progress. Coach Leslie Frazier said Patterson has retained more knowledge from the offseason program than the team might have even expected from most rookies. Musgrave said Patterson is more skilled as a pass catcher than first thought, and he's shown good hands early in training camp.
There's no doubting the talent.
"I think in particular carrying the football, he's dynamic with the ball in his hands," Frazier said. "He has the vertical speed to get behind defensive backs, that won't be an issue. That's going to give us an added dimension we didn't have a season ago. But where he's electric is when the ball is in his hands. Whether we're throwing it to him on a bubble or a reverse, or a hitch or a slant, he's pretty special."
Just like another "freak" No. 84 was back in the day.
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