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Tape Tells All: Analyzing Cordarrelle Patterson's Week 3 Performance

Cordarrelle Patterson - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Welcome back to Tape Tells All, the weekly series where I look at film and data for something that happened in the NFL this week.

Today, I want to look at a player who set a new career-high in rushing yards in Week 3: Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson.

In Week 3, Patterson had 17 carries, finishing with 141 yards and a touchdown. The former wide receiver has become a full-time running back, to the point where he had 49 carries this season and just four receptions. Who would have thought Patterson would be more impactful in standard scoring than in PPR?

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Background Information

Cordarrelle Patterson was drafted in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. At the time, he was a wide receiver and a return specialist. As a rookie, he returned two kicks for touchdowns, including a 109-yarder. He also had 45 receptions that season, and saw 12 carries and three rushing scores.

For much of Patterson's career, he's received carries in the run game, but early on, it was on gadget plays. It wasn't until 2018 that we started to see him used as a running back, when he saw 42 carries with New England. But the nest year, he was back to wide receiver with the Bears.

2020 was where the change solidified. The Bears needed a running back, so Patterson filled in, setting a career-high with 64 carries. In 2021, he moved to the Falcons, where he became the starting running back, with 153 carries for 618 yards and six touchdowns.

This year, Patterson has continued in that role. Through three games, he has 49 carries for 302 yards, but just seven targets. The Falcons have taken his move to running back as seriously as possible, using him pretty exclusively in that role.

And he's doing well with that role! Patterson has a pair of 100-plus yard games already, with two rushing touchdowns this season. He looks like one of the NFL's best running backs so far. But will it keep up? Let's dive into some film and numbers from Week 3 and try to get a sense of what we should think about Patterson.


The Cordarrelle Patterson Game Tape

The Seattle Seahawks just had no answer for Patterson on Sunday.

Patterson gets a lot of credit for his kick return ability throughout his career. Being a good kick returner depends on a lot of things, but one of those things is vision. With the other team barreling toward you, you've got to be able to survey what's happening and make some quick moves to find space.

And that's what he's doing as a runner. On the play above, he senses a defender coming at his around the line of scrimmage and hops over him, then makes a quick cut. The block that he was expecting failed, so Patterson ends up coming face to face with a Seahawks defender. He bodies him—the end result is that Patterson goes down, but it shows how tough a runner is that he was able to knock the defender down and that Patterson only went to the ground because that defender managed to grab his leg as he fell.

This play is even more impressive from the broadcast camera:

Impressive stuff from Patterson. But that wasn't his only impressive moment.

Patterson just runs so seamlessly. The idea of putting someone with Patterson's speed in the backfield is a really good idea in theory, but there are so many ways that it could go wrong. A converted receiver might have fumbling issues because he's touching the ball more and is being hit by lineman/linebackers more often than he's used to. He might have vision issues, because he's looking at the field in a different way. He might have trouble getting past the line, because he's used to playing a more vertical game.

But Patterson is unique. All the years of being used on the occasional run play has helped him understand what's needed in that phase of the game. It's like Deebo Samuel—he's used as a runner enough that I now believe he could be really good as a full-time back, just like Patterson.

Again, vision. The offensive line opens a hole and Patterson scoots through that hole, and once he's through, he's off to the races. Patterson is just as dangerous as a Christian McCaffrey or Saquon Barkley once he's in space. The concern with him has been if he'll be able to get into that space.

Per the NFL's Next Gen Stats, Patterson ranks fifth in efficiency, which measures the distance a player travels on run plays. What that means is that Patterson hasn't spent a lot of time running horizontally—he isn't searching for holes; he sees the hole quickly and gets running north-south, increasing the likelihood that he can get into the open field faster and make positive plays.


Cordarrelle Patterson Fantasy Football Impact

So, how did Week 3 change the way I view Patterson in fantasy?

I'm officially all in on Patterson now, to the point where I view him as a borderline RB1 going forward. I know that might seem a little extreme, but 66% of Patterson's game so far have been what I would call a "very very good game." That's a nice hit rate, right?

Beyond that, it's hard to see the touches going away. Patterson has 49 carries this season, while backup running back Tyler Allgeier has 16. And the Falcons aren't throwing the football, as their 79 attempts rank as the second-lowest mark in the NFL, ahead of only the Bears.

So, let me get this straight: the Falcons don't throw the ball much, and Cordarrelle Patterson has a bell-cow role at running back. Hmm. That's a pretty perfect situation for him. I mean...Patterson isn't on the field for every snap or anything, but his snap rate has been in the 60% range every week, and he's getting significantly more work than anyone else in the run game, and producing more on those touches.

Cordarrelle Patterson is a fantasy RB1. I could still be wrong about that, but at this point, I'm putting my foot down and saying it. There could be a major shift in that at some point though, as the Falcons could eventually decide to start rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, something that would materially change the circumstances in Atlanta. Would they throw more with Ridder? Would that cut into what Patterson does? Would they throw to Patterson more, potentially increasing his ceiling? I don't know!

But right now, Ridder isn't the QB. It's Mariota. And as long as it remains Mariota, I expect the Falcons to lean heavily on Patterson. Mariota is a solid game manager. Atlanta doesn't want to put too much on his plate.

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