WR Tale of the Tape: Allen vs. Patterson
By Bill Lund
There's no such thing as just a "wide receiver." The different receiver positions -- X receiver, Z receiver, slot receiver -- have different responsibilities and require different traits and skills to play.
In comparing the top receiver prospects in the 2013 draft, we removed Tavon Austin from this conversation because he's most likely to play in the slot at the next level, whereas Keenan Allen and Cordarrelle Patterson are better suited to play the X or Z positions. We evaluated Allen and Patterson based on the five most important characteristics scouts look for in the position:
• Physical Attributes: size, speed, strength, balance, agility
• Release: ability to escape the jam, quickness or strength
• Patterns: type of cuts, sharp or rounded, time to area, separation
• Blocking: effort and strength
• Ball Skills: catching ability, adjustments to balls in flight, catching in a crowd.
Patterson: At 6-foot-2, 216 pounds, he possesses great size for a WR. He has decent length in his arms (31 ¾ inches) and average hand size (9.08 inches). Ran a solid 4.42 at the combine, where he also had a vertical jump of 37 inches and a broad jump of 128.0 inches. Patterson shows tremendous quickness and change of direction, with video game-like cutback ability, seemingly make plays out of nothing. Shows a burst with the ball and ability to make defenders miss. Incredible body control with arms and legs working in perfect sync.
Allen: At 6-2, 206, he has an NFL body - tall frame with long arms and good thickness. Displays a big catching radius, has a long reach (32 ¾ inches) with big hands (10 inches). Allen did not participate in the combine while nursing a PCL injury and reportedly ran mediocre 40 times (4.71-4.75 range) at his April 9 pro day. Allen is a bit of a long strider, shows good but not breakaway speed, good agility on cuts and is capable of breaking tackles after the catch.
Advantage: Patterson. With the ball in his hands, Patterson is special. His ability to re-direct off the cut is exceptional. Allen has good quickness and agility in space, but Patterson shows he can turn a dead play into a TD. In his game against Missouri, Patterson made several plays out of disasters.
Patterson: Utilizes his quickness to get free off the line of scrimmage. Shows a good head fake on slants. Easily separates on vertical routes when given a free release. Doesn't use his hands enough against a jam, tries to side step rather than club, creating difficulty for him on releases. Vanderbilt did a great job of jamming him at the line. Operates better as a Z or a slot WR. Will take a lackadaisical release if he is not a primary receiver.
Allen: Tremendous quickness on his releases, especially on slant and hard inside routes. Is strong on his vertical releases and can work through press coverage with his length and quickness. Shows good separation on deeper routes. In his 2011 game vs. Stanford, he aligned in both the X and Z positions. Primarily a slot WR that shows the skills to be an X in the NFL.
Advantage: Allen. He is far more refined on his releases and understands how to release against various coverages. Uses his length and quickness more efficiently than Patterson. Allen has a greater range of release skills to play the X position than Patterson shows.
Patterson: He is raw and still developing his route-running ability. Will round out cuts. Is capable of pushing vertical and stopping on a dime on short route. Best routes are hitches, slants and drag routes where he can get the ball quickly. Didn't run routes at full speed if not the initial primary target. Lacks overall polish and precision, rarely comes back to the ball on sideline curl or stop routes. Has the physical abilities, just needs work.
Allen: He is excellent at changing speeds while running his routes and will vary his speed to get open. Stems his routes well, understands how to leverage DBs to get open. Good hip flexibility, as he sinks low into his routes and bursts out of the break. Has a good feel in finding openings in zone coverage. Runs solid slants, crosses, speed outs and vertical routes. Primarily runs out of the slot, but capable of working the X and running more vertical routes.
Advantage: Allen. Is clearly a more polished route runner. Has a good understanding of coverages and a greater skill set to play the X or Z spots in the NFL.
Patterson: Does not show great effort as a blocker, though he is capable with his size and strength. Would not be a great fit in a run-oriented offense.
Allen: A willing blocker, he does a good job of positioning himself, though he can get overpowered at times.
Advantage: Allen. He works for it and will get better because of his willingness.
Patterson: He has capable hands but tends to be a body catcher. Will jump to catch at times. Shows extension on balls outside of his frame. Can adjust to balls in flight. Won’t consistently look the ball into his hands. Dropped a sure TD vs. Georgia. Question whether he will win jump balls in one-on-one situations. Once Patterson gets the ball in his hands, he is dynamic. Looks to turn upfield immediately after the catch. Shows great vision in space (see his Georgia game), will catch the ball in underneath traffic and make defenders miss.
Allen: Shows good hands when focused. Will use his body on routine catches. Extends for balls outside the frame. Shows an ability to go up and get the ball in jump ball situations. High-points the ball well. Has the ability to adjust to balls in flight. He will attack the ball in the air with his hands and has good ball skills overall as highlighted in his 2012 game vs. UCLA. Is very good in traffic, shows toughness on contact.
Advantage: Even. Allen has better hands and shows a greater ability to go up and high-point the ball. Patterson is on another level with his vision and agility with the ball in his hands.
Keenan Allen. Both players are versatile. Patterson has worked as a punt and kick returner, scoring TDs in both facets. Patterson was also utilized as a tailback and demonstrated great patience as a runner. In his Missouri game, Patterson scored from an RB position on a reverse and completed a pass. Allen also has worked as a punt and kick returner. Patterson is a more dynamic player with the ball in his hands. He would be best suited as a slot or Z receiver, where he can use his numerous natural qualities. Allen has more versatility as a WR and could work in the slot, X or Z positions. When determining your team’s need at the WR position, it will be important to understand how they team use their weapons. Patterson would benefit from an offense like the Patriots that utilizes the slot position extensively. Allen could fit either style, but would be a better fit in the downfield attack that the Ravens utilize. Allen is the more polished player, but if Patterson can use his playmaking ability in the NFL, he could be a game-changer.