Cordarrelle Patterson has faced 31 NFL teams. He’s never faced the one that drafted him.
The one that traded four picks to move up to No. 29 overall on April 25, 2013.
That box will be checked this Sunday at Gillette Stadium, where Patterson and the New England Patriots will host the Minnesota Vikings for a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff.
Nearly six years have passed since Minnesota’s war room agreed to send a second-round pick, a third-rounder, a fourth-rounder and a seventh-rounder to New England in exchange for the wide receiver by way of Tennessee, Hutchinson Community College, North Carolina Tech Christian Academy and Rock Hill’s Northwestern High School.
“I think it’s a process, with all these young receivers,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said of Patterson that Thursday evening, per the Daily Norseman. “But I know that he has some unique skills when you watch the tape on him, whether you put him in the backfield and pitch him the ball, whether you throw him the bubble screen. When you see him go downfield, you’re talking about a 6-foot-1, 215-pound receiver that runs 4.3 that is electric with the ball in his hands. And what he does after the catch and what he does as a returner.”
Patterson’s selection marked the third made by the Vikings in the first round that year. It was preceded by Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
It was a bet on raw talent with one year accrued in the SEC.
And Patterson, currently listed at 6-foot-2, 228 pounds, wasn’t a prospect short on it.
The junior entrant had logged five touchdowns receiving, three rushing, and ones fielding both kickoffs and punts over a dozen games with the Volunteers.
“Look, when you take three picks in the first round and you were a playoff team a year ago, what you’re basically doing is you’re throwing everything in the middle of the table,” analyst Mike Mayock said on NFL Network’s live broadcast. “Every chip you have. And you’re saying, ‘We’re going to compete this year.’ You got two explosive players on defense, and now after Tavon Austin, you got the most explosive offensive player in the draft.”
The expense for Patterson’s explosiveness became Southern Mississippi linebacker Jamie Collins at No. 52, Rutgers cornerback Logan Ryan at No. 83, Texas Christian wide receiver Josh Boyce at No. 102 and, in a subsequent deal that gave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the rights to No. 229 overall, veteran running back LeGarrette Blount.
Collins, Ryan, Boyce and Blount would combine to play in 173 regular-season games during their Patriots tenures. They would start 106. And of whom, Boyce would be the only one to not appear in a game for the team after 2014.
Collins, Ryan and Blount would become key ingredients to ones that made it to Super Bowls.
But while Patterson never developed into Percy Harvin’s successor as a receiver for Minnesota, he did total 132 catches for 1,316 yards and seven touchdowns through 2016. He did rush 31 times for 338 yards and an additional four scores.
And he did walk away with two Pro Bowls and three All-Pros over that span as a kick returner.
During which, Patterson led the league in average three times and ran five back for six.
“He’s big, strong, aggressive, hard to tackle,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of Patterson prior to New England’s 2014 meeting with Minnesota. “He’s got good vision and he hits seams, but even there are a lot of times where guys get a shot at him and they just can’t tackle him or he runs through tackles. He’s got breakaway speed. That type of player – can hit the home run, can go the distance. Sometimes it’s there but sometimes it’s really not there and he still makes a lot out of it. That’s the mark of a real good returner, a guy that can take something that doesn’t look like it’s great and turn it into a big play.”
Patterson, now 27 years old, is on track to take the league lead in return average for the fourth time since entering it. No active player has taken more kickoffs back for touchdowns than he has, with the latest arriving in a Patriots uniform this October against the Chicago Bears from 95 yards out.
It was Patterson’s sixth. It tied him for third-most all-time behind only the eight set by Leon Washington and Josh Cribbs.
That is part of what the Patriots were willing to trade back from on draft night, yet also part of what the organization was willing to circle back on later.
Patterson, who signed a two-year, $8.5 million contract with the Oakland Raiders in March 2017, was acquired by New England with a sixth-round pick in exchange for a fifth-round pick this spring. A little bit of everything has been seen since then, ranging from 13 receptions, to a career-high 37 carries, to 17 kick returns.
He’s accounted for 121 yards receiving, 146 rushing and 525 returning to go with end-zone trips in all three phases for New England.
“You’ve got to know your role and you’ve got to embrace it,” Patterson told reporters during mandatory minicamp. “Each and every day you come out, whatever your role is, you’ve just got to embrace it.”
It hasn’t taken many glimpses of gadgetry to know that Patterson has.