Every year, Football Outsiders hands out season awards based on the results of reader polls that ask a laundry list of questions about which players are most deserving of various accolades or not. For last season, not too many Vikings players were even under consideration, let alone won any votes. But there was one Viking who earned a couple of interesting awards. The first was "Who is the most Underrated Special Teams player"? Answer: Cordarrelle Patterson. Winning with 14.6% of the votes, here is what Football Outsiders had to say about Patterson:
Patterson was a casualty of the decision to remove kickoffs from the Pro Bowl, since Marcus Sherels returned punts for the Vikings. Patterson eventually was chosen as a "replacement" because Antonio Brown had been chosen as both a wide receiver and punt returner. I'm really blown away to see this many votes for San Diego gunner Darrell Stuckey, who didn't even come close to leading the league in special teams tackles this year. He had 12; the leader was Marcus Easley of the Bills with 23 followed by Justin Bethel of the Cardinals, who did make the Pro Bowl, with 21.
Placekicker Steven Tucker was last year's winner.
There's not a lot of analysis there, but hey, at least Patterson is getting some love for being the best kick returner in the NFL last season. But it doesn't stop there. Patterson also was voted in as the "Player Most Likely to Breakout in 2014". He won that distinction with 7.5% of the votes. Here is what Football Outsiders had to say about that:
The good news for Cordarrelle Patterson is that he has tons of natural athletic talent. The bad news is that FO readers seem to be really bad at this one. Last year, the readers chose LaMichael James. The year before, they chose Matt Flynn.
So, if the past results are any indication of future results, this could be a bit of a mixed bag. However, after watching new offensive coordinator Norv Turner's press conference (do yourself a favor a watch it if you haven't yet) I'm convinced that Patterson is due to breakout. Turner was gushing about Patterson's size, speed and athleticism in that press conference and acknowledged that he will be installing the Air Coryell system. This is the same system he used in Dallas with Aikman/Irvin and the same system he used in San Diego with Rivers/Jackson. If Turner is already excited about Patterson there's a very good chance he could be as productive as Michael Irvin and Vincent Jackson. Patterson still has some work to do on his route running, but the Vikings kept WR coach and guru George Stewart for a reason. So, while the readers of Football Outsiders may have been very wrong the past 2 years in predicting their breakout player, there are really good reasons why they were wrong. Matt Flynn benefited from the system and receivers in Green Bay, but never had good arm strength and it shouldn't have been surprising that he couldn't replicate the magic he showed in only a couple games in a consistent way with other teams. LaMichael James is still buried on the depth chart behind Frank Gore, and he's not really a power-running style back, which is what the 49ers are known for. So those were both kind of dumb picks to begin with. But the Patterson pick? I love it. He's shown flashes of greatness already, and I for one hope that he can take that next step with the new coaching staff. The only thing that might hold him back is the quarterback position. We'll have to hope we can get league average play or better at the QB position. As Norv Turner mentioned in the press conference, the Vikings have plans to get a "new, young quarterback" this off-season. But, as we learned last year with Greg Jennings, simply being open all the time won't be enough to fill the box score unless we have a QB that can actually get the ball to his wide receivers.
In any case, congratulations to Cordarrelle Patterson on getting some much needed recognition from another reputable NFL source for what turned out to be a very promising rookie season. I for one can't wait to see what he can do on the field next season.