Cordarrelle Patterson: Fantasy Football's Most Overrated Player
Cordarrelle Patterson came into the NFL as a first-round draft pick with great size (6’2”, 216 pounds) and speed (4.42 40-yard dash). That combination normally has fantasy players salivating, but there wasn’t a ton of hubbub surrounding Patterson in redraft leagues prior to his rookie season. The reasoning is rather simple - it was hard to get excited about someone catching passes from Christian Ponder, and Patterson wasn't said to be 100 percent pro-ready.
Patterson's upside is notable given his immense, varied talents as a football player. So even though the quarterback situation isn’t vastly improved in Minnesota, and while he still is not the focal point of the offense, there's reason to believe Patterson could have a strong second season.
But the Vikings receiver will be a player I won’t own in any fantasy leagues this year. Long term, Patterson could be a special player, sure. But his current average draft position as the 35th player taken (per myfantasyleague.com) in redraft leagues is a little outrageous.
A Poor Passing Attack
The quarterback play in Minnesota left much to be desired in 2013. Three (mediocre) players threw passes for the Vikings in 2013, and none of them performed very well at all. As a group, they accounted for an Adjusted Passing NEP of -30.54, the 24th-highest total in the league. For those new to numberFire, Net Expected Points (NEP) is our signature metric that measures how many points a player is adding to his team's point total through the plays he makes on the field (see more on NEP in our glossary).
A team’s Adjusted Passing NEP is the number of points a team has performed above or below expectation on passing plays. In other words, it's the difference between how a team performs versus how another team would have done in a similar situation, adjusted for strength of schedule. In the Vikings’ case, they performed just over 30 points worse than an average team through the air. Over the course of a full season, they lost just under two points per game relative to an average team through passing. That’s not good.
Their Passing NEP on a per pass basis fared even worse compared to the rest of the league. The Vikings had a -0.05 Adjusted Passing NEP per drop back, finishing 26th overall in that category.
Clearly the quarterbacks who played in Minnesota last season were a wildly unimpressive bunch when lumped together, but what’s equally important is to look at how the passing game may perform in 2014. For that, we can ignore Freeman's numbers, and look at how Cassel (the presumed starter heading into 2014) and Ponder (who will only play due to some sort of injury in all likelihood) performed in 2013.
Here is how they, individually, ranked in terms of Total NEP, Passing NEP per drop back, and Success Rate compared to the 39 quarterbacks who dropped back at least 200 times in 2013:
|Total NEP||PNEP/P||Success Rate|
These rankings aren't exactly awe-inspiring, but that’s natural considering the quarterback group as a whole graded out poorly in 2013. Cassel will likely take over the starting quarterback position to start 2014, but if he struggles, rookie Teddy Bridgewater could take the reins from him.
Cassel finishing among the top 25 quarterbacks in terms of Total NEP isn't great, but the fact that he had only the 36th most drop backs of the 41 players in the sample makes the result somewhat better, as NEP is a cumulative metric. But he hasn’t started for a full season since 2010 with the Chiefs, and has never thrown for 4,000 yards. His upside at this point is probably him performing as a serviceable quarterback at best, but it remains to be seen whether he plays well enough to hold off Bridgewater for a full season. If (or when) Bridgewater is made the starting quarterback in Minnesota, he’ll certainly have an adjustment period. So while I like his long-term potential, it's unrealistic to expect him to come in and dominate right away.
All of this is to suggest that fantasy owners can't bank on solid quarterbacking for Patterson in 2014. But while the key players at quarterback aren’t much more exciting in Minnesota this year than last, the presence of offensive coordinator Norv Turner is a potentially positive one for Patterson. Let’s dive into that briefly.
New Sheriff in Town
New Viking’s head coach Mike Zimmer has an extensive background as a coach on the defensive side of the ball, and he'll defer to offensive coordinator Norv Turner to call plays in 2014. While his play calling has come under fire at various points in his long NFL tenure, Turner is generally regarded as a great offensive-minded coach who is willing to air it out in the passing game.
That showed last year, as the Browns, the team he coached offensively, dropped back to pass a league-high 731 times. To be fair, the running game of Willis McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya, Fozzy Whittaker, and temporary Trent Richardson probably forced Turner’s hand a bit. However, the fact that Cleveland threw the ball more than any other team in the league last season is evidence of Turner’s aerial-attack play calling.
Don’t expect Minnesota, who tied for the 20th most attempts last season, to lead the league in attempts next season, as they won’t play from behind as much and have a better ground game than Cleveland did. Obviously this can only help a receiver like Patterson, but just to the extent his quarterbacks are able to capitalize on the increased usage.
The one thing going for Patterson, as our own Jeff Miller pointed out during the off-season, is that Norv's number one receivers typically perform very well in his offense. However, we're still unsure as to how Patterson will be used (he's not the most traditional, well-polished receiver in the league), and we also know the volume won't necessarily be there. So while Norv's history is certainly favorable, the personnel doesn't exactly dictate amazing things from Patterson in the short term.
Patterson by the Numbers
Enough about the factors surrounding Patterson though. It’s time to look at the man himself. The table below shows how Patterson ranked among the 28 wideouts who saw between 65 to 85 targets (he had 77) in 2013 in terms of Reception NEP, Reception NEP per target, and Total NEP. Keep in mind, Reception NEP is the number of points added by a player on catches only, the per target Reception NEP shows this as more of an efficiency metric, and Total NEP factors in rushing metrics.
|Reception NEP||RNEP/T||Total NEP|
You’re seeing that correctly. Among the receivers who saw a similar number of targets in 2013, Patterson was the very worst in terms of the Reception NEP-based metrics, and was nothing more than middle-of-the-road in Total NEP. While some of his lack of production as a pass-catcher can obviously be chalked up to him being a rookie and the poor passers in Minnesota, there are some very unremarkable players who finished above him in 2013, including Donnie Avery, Ted Ginn Jr., Robert Woods, and Jeremy Kerley. While Patterson fared much better than all of these guys in terms of fantasy points in 2013, much of that is thanks to the fact that he scored nine touchdowns (four receiving, three rushing, two returning) despite his relative lack of receiving success.
His five non-reception touchdowns accounted for 30 of his 107 standard points in 2013. While his explosive abilities may lend itself to these types of scores, it won’t be an easy task to repeat those touchdown numbers in 2014. He only had 12 rushing attempts in 2013, and I’m dubious as to whether he can maintain his 1-to-4 rushing touchdown to rushing attempts ratio.
Too Pricey for Patterson
Ranking as the 13th-best wide receiver in average draft position at MyFantasyLeague.com, Patterson is being selected over players like Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Vincent Jackson, and Roddy White. Even on other ADP sites like FantasyFootballCalculator.com, he's being selected as a middle-of-the-road WR2.
This is the same Cordarrelle Patterson who didn’t reach 500 yards receiving last year, and finished as a team's WR3 despite scoring more touchdowns than perhaps can be expected of him in 2014. He's the same Patterson who will be subject to the same poor quarterbacking, and will be nothing more than second-fiddle to Adrian Peterson in the Vikings’ offense.
According to our early rankings, the algorithms expect Patterson to be another WR3 this season in fantasy football. Keep in mind that his confidence internal, which can be found in our projections table, varies more than most wide receivers on the list. In fact, the high-end of his confidence interval shows nearly 152 fantasy points, which would make him a low-end WR2.
But that's still not enough given his cost in most fantasy drafts. At his current price, it's safe to stay away. And it's also possible that Cordarrelle Patterson will be the most overrated fantasy asset of 2014.