Eighth-year breakout, anyone? Color me intrigued. At 30 years of age, Cordarrelle Patterson is not exactly your spring chicken in regards to NFL experience. A surprise first-round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2013, Patterson attained recognition for his physical frame and athletic scores at the NFL Combine. Those with short memories may forget that the former Tennessee product entered the league boasting a 4.42/40-yard dash. At a hulking 6’2” and 227 lbs., Patterson harnessed the prototypical build to garner hope of a professional breakout. That presumption never came to fruition.
Used primarily as a return specialist/gadget player, Patterson has, at the very least, earned a reputation as one of the NFL’s elite big-play threats. As a rookie, he became the first player in NFL history to have a 100-yard kick return touchdown, 75-yard receiving touchdown, and a 50-yard rushing touchdown in a single season. Considered a journeyman, Patterson finds himself on the fifth team of his career. For the first time in eight seasons, he is being afforded the opportunity to flex his fantasy value beyond special team duties.
The Here and Now
Career backup and fellow journeyman Mike Davis sits ahead of Patterson on the Falcons depth chart. Listed as the starter on paper, Davis has been less than mediocre in two games this season. Patterson, on the other hand, has flashed brilliance with every touch. Patterson is currently averaging 6.47 yards per touch (YPT), well ahead of Davis’ 3.97 YPT rate. A converted receiver, Patterson is proving he profiles as the more polished pass-catcher out of the backfield. Leading the Falcons in total touchdowns thus far, Patterson has been the most reliable and efficient weapon on a struggling offense.
Perennial choke artist Matt Ryan is being forced to throw often to begin the 2021 NFL season. The Falcons defense has allowed 80 points and 775 yards in the first two weeks. Ryan has accumulated 81 pass attempts with 22 of those passes going to the Falcons’ running backs. Taking snaps behind PFF’s 24th ranked offensive line has caused Ryan to target the check down at a staggering rate. I anticipate Ryan’s target dispersal to be a recurring trend. Should Davis continue to regress, or miss time due to injury, Patterson could see himself vaulted into a role that would far exceed the cost of acquisition.
I understand buying into a 30-year-old positional tweener does not pique the interest of most managers. The desolate corners of the dynasty landscape are where season-changing value often lies. The Falcons are swimming in the shallow end of running back depth in the NFL. Patterson is one injury away from a clear path to RB1 volume without competition. Rostered in 57.5% of Superflex dynasty leagues on Sleeper, his current cost is the price of a FAAB bid.
Patterson is under contract for only one season with the Falcons. In 2022 he will become an unrestricted free agent for the second time in as many years. I am not condoning managers to empty their pockets in search of a true outlier with an uncertain future. However, if you are in a position with an open window to compete for a championship, Patterson can provide sturdy depth without mortgaging future assets. If the Atlanta Falcons utterly inept front office can find cheap and overlooked value in Patterson, you should be able to do the same.
Typically a player of Patterson’s age and profile would not fit the bill of a dynasty buy. At the time in which most players are seeing massive drop-offs in production, Patterson has begun to show his wings. The nature of his career usage has kept major injury and fatigue at bay. The Falcons are in desperate need of economical weapons on offense for this year and beyond. After several seasons of paying dues as a depth piece, Patterson has been granted something many NFL athletes are never given: A chance.
The Falcons are in desperate need of economical weapons on offense for this year and beyond. After several seasons of paying dues as a depth piece, Patterson has been granted something many NFL athletes are never given: A chance. In fact, there is reason to believe that any positive trend in the Atlanta Falcons betting odds as of late is solely due to Patterson’s on-field presence.
– Matthew Ward