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Falcons film review: RB/KR Cordarrelle Patterson and his offensive potential

The Falcons added 4-time All-Pro kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency this week. We dive into the tape to determine Patterson’s value on special teams and his potential contributions on offense as both a WR and RB.

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Falcons have been busy since the start of the 2021 NFL league year. Atlanta has been clearing cap space in creative ways, including restructures and negotiating pay cuts with several players who were expected to be cut. With that newfound cap space, the team was able to sign several affordable veteran free agents to help fill out the numerous holes on the roster.

Now that we have actual free agent signings to discuss, I’ll be conducting a new video series evaluating the film of some of the most potentially impactful veteran additions. Check out the previous videos in this series below:

RB Mike Davis | CB Fabian Moreau | S Erik Harris

Today, I’ll be taking a look at one of the most exciting (and recent) free agent signings: WR/RB/KR Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson is a four-time All-Pro at kick returner and is arguably the best in the league. He’s also played small roles on offense since joining the league in 2013, including wide receiver and most recently running back for the Bears. How much can Patterson bring to the Falcons on special teams, and what is his best fit in Arthur Smith’s offense?

I promise this content actually makes sense to watch in video format—it is a live film review—and I encourage you to watch on YouTube. However, here’s a quick summary of my thoughts on Patterson from the film:

WR/RB/KR Cordarrelle Patterson

Strengths

  • Elite kick returner with incredible and consistent production
  • Open field vision and ability with the ball in space is special
  • Very good long speed, agility, explosiveness, and contact balance
  • Reliable hands and strong ball tracking ability downfield
  • Ideal size at 6’2, 230—very difficult to bring down, particularly in the open field
  • Versatility to play both WR and RB adds value on offense

Weaknesses

  • Lack of consistent reps in any single role—outside of KR—currently makes him a “jack of all trades, master of none”
  • KR specialist only—has just one punt return in his NFL career
  • Doesn’t have the same patience and vision he displays at KR when playing RB, particularly between the tackles
  • Utilized sparingly at WR with a limited route tree
  • Inconsistent rusher when given significant volume: averaged just 3.6 YPC on 64 carries in 2020

Overall, I really like what Patterson brings to the Falcons on both special teams and offense. Obviously, he’s a huge boon to the return game who will hopefully make a difference in a few games this season. I personally would like to see Patterson deployed more frequently as a WR and less frequently as an RB, but it seems that Atlanta views him primarily as a RB—it’s how he’s currently listed on the roster and how his position was announced when signed. If the team can play to his strengths—wide zone and stretch runs, getting him out in space, and throwing to him out of the backfield—I think Patterson can be a valuable contributor on offense.

I hope you enjoy our new free agent film review series! If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for future content, feel free to leave them below.