EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — First-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson insists he’s not replacing anyone as he joins the Minnesota Vikings.
Patterson only hopes to do his part with Minnesota; he’s not trying to fill the immense shoes of Randy Moss as the long-sought deep-play threat in the Vikings’ offense or that of the versatile playmaker Percy Harvin.
Of course, he has a funny way of showing he doesn’t plan to live up to his predecessors.
Patterson stepped to the stage while being introduced by his new team last week, a day after Minnesota surrendered a bounty of picks to leap back into the first round of the draft and acquire Patterson with the No. 29 overall pick, the last of three first-round choices.
Patterson, held up his new No. 84 purple jersey. He knew the significance in picking Moss’ 84. He spoke about hopefully being able to replace some of Harvin’s production as a receiver, returner and runner.
But he doesn’t want it to seem like he’s replacing Moss and Harvin.
“I can’t replace anyone — 84 is just the number that I was and it just happened to be (Randy) Moss,” Patterson said. “Percy, he left, he did all of those special things. Now I’m going to try and come in and be a special teams player. I’m going to work hard for it.”
The Vikings are putting a lot of faith into Patterson developing into a playmaker on par with Moss and Harvin. Minnesota had other needs that could have been addressed in the draft, but it traded second-, third-, fourth-, and seventh-round picks to New England for the right to draft Patterson.
“When you’re looking at him, and we’re evaluating him, not only is he going to give you a receiver you can bring along under the guidance of (veteran receiver) Greg Jennings, under (wide receivers coach George) Stewart, under (offensive coordinator) Bill Musgrave, but he’s also replacing someone who is very difficult to replace when we traded Percy,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said. “But we feel this guy can do just as much as Percy can as a returner. We are excited not only what he can bring as a receiver but also what he can potentially bring as a returner as well.”
Patterson wore Moss’ No. 84 in his one year at Tennessee, when he had 46 catches for 778 yards, a 16.9-yard average and five touchdowns. He tried to model his game after Moss early.
“Randy Moss was my role model growing up since I was little,” Patterson said. “I wore 84 in high school, and we were purple and gold, so I looked up to Randy Moss the whole time. Now I have a chance to practice on the field he practiced on and play in the game that he played in.”
And maybe do a lot of the things that Harvin did the past four seasons for Minnesota when he became one of the most dangerous and unique offensive players in the game. Like Harvin, Patterson was a threat in a variety of ways at Tennessee. He caught bubble screens. He had 25 carries for an amazing 12.3-yard average and three touchdowns. He averaged 28 yards per kick return and had four punt returns for 101 yards.
“Percy’s a great athlete, I can’t say I can fit his role,” Patterson said. “But he did great things that I feel like I can do. He did it all, and Tennessee they showcased me doing a lot of things like he did.”
Patterson is considered raw after playing only one season at Tennessee following his transfer from junior college. The Vikings will likely look to get the ball in his hands in creative ways, maybe some of the same ways they did with Harvin — on returns, out of the backfield, on screens — as Patterson improves his route running.
Minnesota saw a special talent. Now, it will devise ways to develop Patterson and use those talents. Spielman has already talked about the team having a specific plan for handling Patterson.
“I talked to a lot of the other SEC coaches that played against him, and they thought he was maybe the best athlete in the SEC — and that’s coming in high regards from a lot of people I respect in that conference,” Spielman said. “So, we have to have a specific plan, which we talked about, when he comes into the building, ‘OK, how are we going to develop him?’ We have a very strong receiver coach in George Stewart, who I think’s the best in the NFL. I think Bill Musgrave is very innovative in how to get the ball in playmakers’ hands. To go out and sign a Greg Jennings this offseason and to have him under the tutelage of a Greg Jennings, who’s not only a great football player but a true pro’s pro — that’s our responsibility to bring this kid along.”
Stewart’s influence might be the key. Patterson has already talked several times about Stewart. During the Vikings’ annual top 30 event, Patterson was in town. Instead of worrying about working him out on the field, Stewart and Patterson just sat and talked.
“He was the only coach that in this process that I feel like I connected with,” Patterson said. “He’s a man of his word. I respect him. I can look up to him like a father figure. He’s a great guy, and I respect him 100 percent.”
Patterson says Stewart told him he’d do what he could to bring the receiver to Minnesota. Patterson said he worried after the Vikings passed him by with their first two picks but was relieved to finally get the call on draft night from Spielman, who then handed the phone to Stewart.
The heart-to-heart talk gave Patterson a chance to prove himself to Stewart, his new position coach.
“We sat down and it seemed like we talked for like two hours, just to get to know me,” Patterson said. “I was just telling him, ‘People always misjudge me on things they hear.’ I tell them to just sit aside and listen to my side of the story and they’ll respect me.…People just want to go off of what they hear, that ‘He don’t want to do this. He don’t want to do that.’ But I just tell them just come and hear my side of the story. I’m ready to work. I’m ready to do whatever it takes to be a part of this team.”