He may have gotten off to a late start compared to some of his fellow rookies, but Minnesota Vikings' wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson might have a case for giving the team its third offensive rookie of the year in the last seven seasons, joining Adrian Peterson (2007) and Percy Harvin (2009) on that list.
As it stands right now, Patterson doesn't have eye-popping statistics if you focus on just the offense. He has 40 receptions for 430 yards and three touchdowns this season to go along with 50 rushing yards and a touchdown. But if you take the impact that Patterson has had on special teams into account, much like the voters did with Harvin in 2009, you could make a pretty convincing case.
After 14 games, Patterson is fourth in the NFL in all-purpose yardage with 1,679. That trails only LeSean McCoy (1,850), Jamaal Charles (1,836) and Matt Forte (1,722). Of Patterson's yardage, 1,199 have come from returning kickoffs, leaving him just 146 yards from setting the team's single-season record in that category, which is 1,345 by Buster Rhymes in 1985. (Rhymes needed 53 returns to amass that much yardage, while Patterson has done what he's done on only 36 returns.) That's clearly starting to affect teams, as we saw in Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, as detailed by the folks from 1500 ESPN.
The Eagles kicked off six times on Sunday, once on the opening kickoff and five times after they had scored. Here is the Vikings' starting field position on the other five kickoffs.
-Minnesota 25-yard line (6-yard return by Joe Banyard) - Drive ended in field goal
-Minnesota 38-yard line (13-yard return by Jerome Felton) - Drive ended in field goal
-Minnesota 25-yard line (2-yard return by Chase Ford) - Drive ended in 1-yard Matt Asiata touchdown
-Minnesota 34-yard line (9-yard return by Jarius Wright) - Drive ended with Matt Cassel interception
-Minnesota 46-yard line (15-yard return by Ford) - Drive ended in 1-yard Matt Asiata touchdown
-Philadelphia 48-yard line (Jerome Simpson recovering onside kick) - Drive ended in 5-yard Matt Asiata touchdown
The Eagles didn't kick the ball anywhere near Cordarrelle Patterson all day. Even when the Vikings tried to sneak him up into the return formation, the Eagles managed to avoid him. Now, a couple of those aren't super impressive and would probably equate to an "average" Patterson return once you figure in catching the ball 7 to 9 yards deep in the end zone. But you can see that, by avoiding the potential big return from Patterson, the Eagles ceded a lot of field position to the Vikings.
Not many return men have that sort of impact on the game, and for a rookie returner to have that sort of impact is pretty much unheard of. Because of his slow start and lack of involvement in the actual offense until the Vikings were basically out of it, Patterson isn't going to have the sort of hype for this award that you'll probably see for guys like Keenan Allen, Zac Stacy, or Giovanni Bernard, but I'd say that he's had at least as much impact on his team that any of those guys have had on theirs in 2013, and he's only going to get better going forward.
Cordarrelle Patterson probably won't win this year's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, but he should at least be in the discussion.