Dynasty Focus - Cordarrelle Patterson
Drawing a conclusion about fantasy football players and where to project them is about 70 percent numbers-based, 25 percent situation-based and 5 percent what you see on tape. Okay, let’s not fool ourselves into actually believing that. About 80 percent of the projections we make are based on educated guesses that are helped by the three factors listed above.
None is more obvious than attempting to acquire an understanding of where young players may end up in the rankings the following season. We all tend to look for sleepers at every position, but wide receiver is the one that is really magnified. Common logic is to go running back early and often, which means you will have to find a steal or two later in the draft in order to be set at that position.
To help with this, we’ll look at a few young receivers that could surprise the fantasy football world in 2014. We start this series of articles with Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
Stat key: PPO (points per opportunity), Snaps (total snaps played, percentage of offensive snaps played).
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
Catch Percentage: 62.5
Snaps: 448 (44.2%)
Percentage of Snaps Targeted: 16.1%
Targets: 72 (4.0 per game)
Patterson was about as electric as they come with the ball in his hands last season. Including rush attempts, the former first-round pick averaged 11 yards per touch and scored a touchdown every 8.1 times he touched the ball. He did this despite the fact that Minnesota was throwing Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman out there under center. After averaging only 14.8 snaps per game in his first seven career outings, Patterson was on the field for an average of 38.3 snaps in the final nine games of his rookie campaign. He responded by putting up nearly 690 all-purpose yards and seven total touchdowns in those nine games.
Jerome Simpson, who played 659 snaps and received 96 targets last season, is set to become a free agent in March. ESPN suggests that Minnesota will look to retain Simpson on a one-year deal, but that would be strictly to play in three-wide-receiver sets with Greg Jennings moving inside. Simpson’s days of taking snaps away from Patterson are clearly over, even if he does return. For his part, Jennings saw the most targets and snaps of any Vikings receiver in 2013. He did, however, see six or less targets in five of the final nine games.
Patterson will be Minnesota’s No. 1 wide receiver next season. With that will come increased snaps, targets and fantasy points. The only issue holding anyone back from projecting top-tier WR2 numbers is the quarterback situation in Minnesota. ESPN’s Ben Goessling recently tweeted about that muddy situation:
Spielman said today that Ponder “will be here,” but sounded committed to idea of finding a young QB. Said #Vikings will add at least 2.
— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingESPN) February 14, 2014
Of course, that’s Vikings’ General Manager Rick Spielman saying Ponder will be back in 2014, but they’re interested in adding a young quarterback and a veteran to the mix. All things equal, the quarterback situation in Minnesota is the only thing holding Patterson back from a dominating fantasy campaign in 2014. If that’s settled, watch out.
Statistical-Based 2014 Projections
It might be hard to draw a conclusion about how much Patterson will produce as a sophomore in 2014 simply based on what’s going to happen at the quarterback position. We can, however, look at trends and how Minnesota is planning on utilizing him next year.
Let’s use Simpson’s 659 snaps as a starting-off point for a second. That’s the bare minimum that Patterson can expect to see in 2014 should he stay healthy for the entire season. That’s not too far off from what Patterson was averaging during the final seven games of the 2013 season, which was about 42.6 snaps per outing.
Of the 448 snaps Patterson played in 2014, he was targeted 16 percent of the time. Interestingly enough, he was only targeted 10.7 percent of the time in those final seven games when he was on the field more. That goes into the youngster being more of an all-around player and being on the field during running plays as a blocker or decoy.
With Minnesota trusting Patterson to play more, we will see him targeted more. It’s basic math. However, we need to delve further into it in order to come to a realistic statistical projection. Considering that the Vikings plan to move Jennings inside, someone is going to have to take over his snaps on the outside when Minnesota lines up in two-wide sets. That guy will likely be Jennings himself with Simpson riding the pine. The simple reasoning behind this is that the former provides more for the defense to think about in the running game.
So let’s go with 800 snaps or 50 per game. Just for the sake of clarity, 39 wide receivers played more snaps than that in the NFL last season. It isn’t reaching for the stars to believe that Patterson will see that many in his sophomore campaign. Based on what we saw last season, that’s 130 targets over the course of an entire year. Without even getting into likely progression from Patterson from his first year to his second year, his 62.5 percent catch rate indicates about 80 receptions. Again, not too far off from what we can expect from a talented first-round pick entering his second year and taking on more of a role.
So based off what we see above, a stat line that follows isn’t too far out of the realm of possibility …
80 receptions, 832 yards and 7 receiving touchdowns
While we can get into trouble basing future projections on indicators I mentioned above, those numbers you see above have to be considered on the low end of the scale. After all, it’s important to note that Patterson had Ponder throwing him the ball last season for the most part. The quarterback ranked 23rd among starters in yards per completion and third-to-last in adjusted yards per attempt. That’s one of the primary reasons that Patterson averaged barely over 10 yards per reception in 2013.
This all seems to indicate that Patterson should be in line for 1,000-plus yards and 10-plus touchdowns with 80-plus receptions. Based on how fantasy receivers performed in 2013, that compares very well to how Larry Fitzgerald did from a fantasy impact last season.