Since May of last year, I have been mocking a wide receiver to the Rams in the first round of the upcoming draft. For many months, that wide receiver was Keenan Allen. Since December, that wide receiver has been Cordarrelle Patterson. This has not been kept a secret. In my posts and on my signature I have touted Patterson as a receiver who, I believe, the Rams could draft in the first round.
One would expect that any article I write about Cordarrelle Patterson would be one that extols his abilities and virtues as a wide receiver, all the while neglecting to mention any inabilities or deficiencies that might preclude him from being considered a first round target for the Rams in the upcoming draft. That will not be the case in this post. Opinion is divided as to whether we should draft a "raw" or "project" wide receiver as opposed to one that is more "NFL ready". Opinion is further divided as to whether we should even be drafting a wide receiver at all in the first round. This post takes a balanced view of these conflicting opinions and lets you the reader decide what the Rams should do with regard to Patterson and the wide receiver position in the upcoming draft.
Wide Receiver rankings
Wide receiver rankings related to college draft-eligible players are appearing with greater frequency as the April draft nears. CBS NFL Draft Scout has Cordarrelle Patterson ranked #2, Mike Mayock has him at #1, Walter Football at #2, Mock The Draft #4, National Football Post #8. As a general guide and reference they may have some value. The problem with them is their generality. Not one of them is team specific. Each team will rank the receivers based on how good a fit they are with their QB, the composition of their WR corps, what type of offense they run, what they are looking for in a WR, etc. Where Patterson ranks on Jeff Fisher's board is what really counts; and we are not likely to ever find out the answer to that question.
I can tell you with absolute certainty that I am not an expert in NFL talent evaluation. I could look at miles of tape and would still consider myself no more than an interested observer. I do consider it valuable to hear and read what others may have to say regarding Cordarrelle Patterson and what their scouting reports may indicate. I have included a number of them here so that you the reader can get as much information as possible while forming your opinion about him. The first is by Matthew Fairburn at Mocking The Draft...The second is by Evan Silva at Rotoworld.....The third is by Ryan Lownes at Bleacher Report
The three scouting reports go into great detail regarding Cordarrelle Patterson's strengths and weaknesses and, for the most part, are balanced reports. They give you far better scouting analysis than I could ever give you. Perusing them and watching the video clips will help all readers in forming their opinions when discussing the possibility of the Rams drafting Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round. We are not privy to the scouting reports created by the Rams organization in anticipation of the draft. However, the reports cited in this post at least give us some insight regarding the merits of Patterson.
Which type of wide receiver the Rams "need" to draft in the first round
There has been much debate recently on TST regarding the merits of drafting a more "NFL ready" type of receiver (who could potentially step into a starting role immediately) vs. drafting a receiver like Patterson, who is perceived to be "raw" and/or a "project". The argument against drafting a receiver like Patterson is that we already have a "project" in Brian Quick and that what we "need" is a receiver that is ready to step in and make significant, immediate contributions. Especially since our wide receiver situation looks pretty desperate (we have only 3 WR's from last years roster under contract) and two of our primary receivers (Gibson and Amendola) are pending free agents. There certainly is merit to the argument of drafting an NFL ready wide receiver, as there is to drafting a receiver such as Cordarrelle Patterson. Many of us have given our opinions in this matter, with respect to NFL readiness, Cordarrelle Patterson and to what we "need". Les Snead, of course, is right at the front of the line (along with Jeff Fisher) when it comes to making decisions regarding the type of player the Rams are looking to draft. One would think that his opinions carry a lot more weight than any of ours here on TST, especially since he is one of the chief decision makers when it comes to who the Rams will draft. Here are his own words, reported in Stltoday. He is quoted in the article regarding his thoughts about "need", how he assesses strengths and weaknesses of a draft prospect and his thoughts on filling a position on the team through free agency or early in the draft. His thoughts on all three are quite compelling. We, as fans, are an impatient group. We want our team to win NOW. We are also a highly opinionated group. We all "know" what the Rams "need" in the upcoming draft. Our mock drafts reflect our opinions on what we know the Rams need. Fisher and Snead, in turn, are professionals and visionaries, with a long-term plan, knowing what they want to turn this football team into a contender, a Super Bowl champion and a team that sustains excellence. That contrast is perhaps the biggest reason why our mock drafts in February (or in April for that matter) will bear little resemblance to the Rams actual draft results in April.
Speaking of mock drafts, Dan Kadar over at Mocking the Draft posted an article today with a mock draft and a mention of the upcoming combine. He has Cordarrelle Patterson mocked to the Rams at the 22 pick in the first round. That he has Patterson mocked to the Rams at 22 is not particularly significant. Nor is my mention of it intended to be a justification by this author for drafting Cordarrelle Patterson or an attempt to slant this post in favour of drafting him. Far more significant is what he said in his brief commentary regarding the pick. He managed to clearly define both sides of the Cordarrelle Patterson argument in a unique (and convincing manner) and in THIRTY EIGHT WORDS (and decided between the two arguments with his pick at 22). An argument that took the TST community down the pathway to thousands of words and hundreds of comments in an earlier Fanpost this week. His brief commentary and pick (and the mocking of DeAndre Hopkins at the 23 pick to Minnesota), in contrast to the debate here on TST, is as ironic as it gets (for many reasons). And would have been just as ironic if he had flipped the 22 and 23 picks around in his mock.
Floors, ceilings and risk in the draft
At one point in the debate about Cordarrelle Patterson (who it was generally conceded to have potentially the highest ceiling but the lowest floor among the top 6 receivers in the draft), I almost became confused about ceilings and floors. For awhile there, it looked as though we were in the midst of talking about housing, not football players. One participant in the debate was told that he wanted a "second floor bedroom". Another was told he wanted to "keep the roof but gut the rest of the house". I do have an opinion about ceilings and floors as it applies to football players: I like players being drafted with the highest ceiling and I am ok with them having lower to medium floors. Why? My theory is that I want to win in the draft and get the potentially "best" player, not play it safer and try to ensure that I don't lose. However, that is just my opinion. I am a gambler and am willing to take risks. That doesn't mean I don't see validity in someone taking an opposing view. The opposing argument is equally as strong as mine (perhaps stronger). It all depends on how we individually assess and evaluate risk. How does any of this apply to Jeff Fisher, Les Snead and who they may pick in the NFL draft??? Two things came out of last years draft that give clues to how Fisher and Snead think. 1/ They are not afraid to take risks. The Janoris Jenkins pick proved that. He was considered perhaps the riskiest pick in the entire draft. 2/ They are also not afraid to take players with high ceilings and lower to medium floors. The picks of Brian Quick, Michael Brockers and Isaiah Pead (all in varying degrees)certainly validate my assertion. Will they repeat that style/strategy/philosophy of drafting this year?? No one outside the Rams organization knows the answer to that question. One year of draft history with the Rams is not enough to establish a pattern. Nor is there any type of guarantee that they will employ the same rationale again this year. The past is usually not a reliable way to gauge what will happen in the future. Only time will tell if indeed it is a pattern, a one time shot or just the way the draft fell to them last year.
Wide receiver bust rates in the first round
In an earlier post this year, I described what I had read in many places about the bust rate of first round draft picks. The general consensus seems to be approximately 50%. I was advised (and I agree) that the bust rate for wide receivers in the first round is significantly higher than 50%. I found two articles that look at these bust rates. One was by a contributing writer on Yahoo. The other was an article in Bleacher Report. Neither are particularly resounding endorsements for drafting a wide receiver in the first round. There is significant risk in drafting a wide receiver in the first round. Does that mean the Rams shouldn't draft one in the first round, whether it be Patterson, Hopkins, Allen etc.?? You could make a strong argument against doing it (Bill Belichick would certainly agree with you). On the other hand, having Fisher and Snead (and their abilities in evaluating talent) certainly reduces that risk. In addition, is there any LESS risk of busting if you draft a receiver in LATER rounds?? The Rams recent draft history with respect to wide receivers might offer a clue or two in that regard.
Statistics and moving parts
Statistics are a valuable tool in assessing the first round potential of a college football player. Production at the college level can be an indicator of how the player will perform in the NFL. However, because production statistics inherently have so many moving parts, they can only be relied upon to a certain degree. Especially when comparing production statistics of players at the same position (in this case wide receiver). For the record, Cordarrelle Patterson had the following production statistics for the 2012 season: 46 rec./778 yds./16.9 ypc/5 td's - 1858 all-purpose yards. What do these statistics tell us?? They tell us everything......and very little. The all-purpose yards he gained speak volumes about Patterson's dynamism and versatility. What about the receiving statistics? They seem to be, at least on the surface, rather average. Looking deeper into the composition of those numbers make them appear that much more pedestrian. In a four game span against quality defenses of the SEC (Alabama, Miss.St., Georgia and South Carolina) Patterson totaled 8 receptions for 107 yards and 1 TD. Against a much weaker opponent (Troy) Patterson had his best game of the year, with 9 receptions for 219 yards and 1 TD. On the other hand, when you are in your first season in the SEC (and FBS) and your team already has an experienced, quality number one receiver in Justin Hunter, the production numbers do make a little more sense. Comparing Patterson to receivers from other teams and other conferences is problematic as well. Quality of competition varies greatly from conference to conference. Types of offenses vary from team to team. Quality players vary from team to team. Can you really draw meaningful statistical comparisons between West Virginia (Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey), Tennessee (Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson) and Clemson (Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins)???? And what about poor old Keenan Allen? Who had Zach Maynard throwing to him and was the only quality target on the entire California offense? Or maybe you would like to tout the great statistical season Terrance Williams had this past season. Is there such a thing as "defense" in the Big 12?? Statistics are a helpful tool in assessing a players capabilities. They should, however, be looked at in depth and used with caution when comparing players.
When opinions are so divided on a particular subject (in this case the merits of drafting Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round) it is always a good idea to find out as much information as you can when forming an opinion on that subject. Hopefully, this post has bridged at least some of the information gap.
Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated and respected. Please have a look at the links in the post,vote in the poll and join the discussion!