QR Week 4: Patterson Punishes Washington

Atlanta Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson
Atlanta Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Cordarrelle Patterson, our top running back of the week, is a man of many talents—and that makes him hard to evaluate. A multi-purpose threat in college, he began his NFL career as a wide receiver before making a transition into the backfield. Along the way, he returned eight kickoffs for touchdowns and became the greatest kickoff return man in league history. On Sunday, he had three touchdowns as a receiver while also leading the Falcons in rushing yards.

At Football Outsiders, our individual statistics are based on positional adjustments, so running backs are only compared to other running backs, and wide receivers are only compared to other wideouts. Gray-area players such as Patterson complicate things, however, because it can be hard to determine which bucket they fall into. Just look at Patterson's touchdowns against Washington. Two came when he was split wide:

 

But he also had one out of the backfield:

So is Patterson a running back or a wide receiver? It's a tricky but important distinction for our numbers. He's listed as a running back this year on the Falcons roster, in our database, and in most fantasy football leagues. (It's amusing to think about how many fantasy football leagues are going to be won by managers who grabbed Patterson as an RB off the waiver wire. It's also amusing—to me, anyway—that Patterson was on my opponent's bench in one of my leagues this week.) And as a running back, he is second among all players in receiving DYAR behind only Kansas City's Tyreek Hill going into Monday Night. However, that's partly because he is being held to a lower standard than Hill. On 21 targets, Patterson has a 61.9% success rate and is averaging 11.2 yards per play. Those numbers blow away the combined stats for running backs in 2021 (48.5%, 6.3), but are more in line with what the typical wide receiver is doing this year (52.9%, 8.6). We can somewhat remove positional adjustments by looking at quarterback's passing DYAR on throws to each receiver. By that metric, Patterson falls from second in the league to 10th behind Hill and nine other wide receivers.

Patterson has been difficult to label since his days as an amateur. He played high school ball in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where he led Northwestern (go Trojans!) to the Class 4A Division II championship game. He then started his collegiate football career at Hutchinson Community College (go Blue Dragons!), where he got to wear this unbelievably cool helmet and logo:

In two years at Hutchinson, Patterson averaged 10.2 yards on 39 runs, 16.2 yards on 113 catches, and 36.4 yards (with a half-dozen touchdowns!) on 31 kickoff returns. He then moved from Gowans Stadium (seating capacity: 5,500) to Neyland Stadium (seating capacity: 102,455) at the University of Tennessee. Patterson was also versatile with the Volunteers, averaging 12.3 yards on 25 runs, 16.9 yards on 46 catches, and 26.6 yards on 29 kickoff returns.

After just one year of major college football, Patterson skipped his senior season to enter the 2013 NFL draft. The version of Playmaker Score we were using at the time (which looks quite rudimentary in hindsight) was not optimistic about his chances of success:

Patterson, in particular, is a polarizing case. His big-play ability is tantalizing, but he often disappeared from games. He didn't crack the SEC's top 10 in receiving yards, despite playing for a team that had the second-most pass attempts in the conference. He had just one 100-yard game with the Volunteers, and that came against Troy. Against SEC competition, he never gained more than 88 receiving yards, and averaged less than 50 yards per game on a pass-heavy team. For all his gifts, Patterson has done very little as a receiver to show he can play in the NFL.

Scouting expert Matt Waldman disagreed both with Playmaker's methodology and its evaluation of Patterson:

Combine Patterson's capacity to become a better route-runner with his uncommon skill to integrate strength, quickness, and vision as a ballcarrier, then add his ability to catch the ball with his hands, and I see a promising wide receiver. Go one step further and add the fact that Patterson can make receptions against physical coverage, and I see a potential playmaker of the highest order.

The Minnesota Vikings agreed with Waldman and traded up into the end of the first round to draft Patterson 29th overall in 2013. Patterson's receiving statline as a rookie (45 catches, 469 yards, four touchdowns) was modest, but considering that A) Minnesota's quarterbacks that year were Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder, and B) Patterson added two more scores as a kickoff returner and three (with a 13.2-yard average!) as a runner, there was optimism that brighter days would be ahead. Those brighter days never arrived though—those 469 receiving yards and 627 yards from scrimmage remain the best of his career. He did catch 52 passes in 2016, but averaged just 8.7 yards per catch and finished 70th in DVOA.

Patterson's rookie contract with Minnesota expired after that season, and he has been bouncing from team to team ever since. The Raiders gave him one year as a receiver, but then the Patriots made him more of a runner in 2018. That was the first time as a pro that he finished with more runs than receptions, a pattern that has continued in two years in Chicago and now in Atlanta, though the Falcons are giving him a heavier workload than he has ever seen before. Through four weeks, Patterson is averaging 4.5 catches and 6.8 runs per game; both would be the highest marks of his career.

Cordarrelle Patterson workload

Patterson is on pace to top 1,500 yards from scrimmage if he can stay healthy for 17 games, but it's interesting to see how his usage has changed in his career. In 2016, Patterson had 45 more receptions than rushes; last year with Chicago, he had 43 more rushes than receptions. That makes Patterson one of 18 players in our database to have a 40-play margin in both directions in his career. The king of this category is Eric Metcalf, who started his career as a running back with the Browns in the early 1990s before transitioning to receiver for the Falcons, Chargers, Cardinals, Panthers, Washington, and Packers. In 1989, his first year in Cleveland, he had 187 runs and 54 catches; in 1995, his first year out of Cleveland, he had 104 catches but only 28 runs. That makes Metcalf the only player we have on record to have one season with at least 76 more runs than receptions, and another with at least 76 more receptions than runs. Metcalf, like Patterson, was also an electric special teamer; only Devin Hester returned more punts for touchdowns in his career.

Other notable players who saw significant shifts from being primarily receivers to primarily runners (or vice versa):

  • Johnny Morris: Morris joined Chicago as a halfback in 1958, but he never accomplished much there, maxing out at 417 rushing yards in 1960. In 1959, he ran 87 times while catching only 13 passes. He moved to flanker (the early version of the position we now call wide receiver) in 1961 and fared much better; his 93 catches, 1,200 yards, and 10 touchdowns in 1964 were all best in the NFL that season, but he didn't take a handoff one time all year.
  • Bobby Mitchell: Mitchell is a Hall of Famer who is perhaps best known for integrating the Washington NFL franchise in 1962. Mitchell spent his first four years as a change-of-pace halfback behind Jim Brown in Cleveland. In 1959 he had 131 runs but just 35 catches; in his first year in Washington, he ran only one time while leading the NFL in both catches (72) and receiving yards (1,384). He finished first in receiving yards again in 1962, then first with 10 touchdown catches in 1963. He also scored on eight punt and kickoff returns in his career.
  • Charley Taylor: Another Hall of Famer, Taylor actually played alongside Mitchell for five years in Washington. (With so many runners who could catch and receivers who could run, those Washington teams must have looked somewhat similar to Kyle Shanahan's 49ers.) In his first two seasons, Taylor had 344 runs with only 93 catches. In 1966, he led the NFL with 72 receptions, but was still primarily a runner, taking 87 handoffs. It was the 1967 season when Taylor really became a full-time receiver—his 70 catches were good enough that he finished first in that category for the second year in a row, but he didn't carry the ball a single time. Including that year and through the rest of his career, Taylor had 484 catches and only 11 runs.
  • Terrelle Pryor: Pryor is an odd fit here because he did not transition from runner to receiver, he transitioned from passer to receiver. He began his career as a quarterback, but not a very good one—in 2013, his only year as a starter, he finished next to last in passing DVOA. (However, we should point out that Pryor's DVOA that season was -31.6%; that's better than what either Sam Darnold or Carson Wentz did last year, and they were both given another chance to start in 2021.) He was a very good runner, however, finishing with 576 yards on 83 carries. He did not catch a single pass that year, but he caught 77 of them in 2016 for a Browns team that was such a mess that six different quarterbacks (including Pryor himself!) ended up throwing passes for them.
  • Bobby Joe Conrad: Conrad, like Morris, began his career in 1958. He did not get a single rush or reception in his rookie year with the Chicago Cardinals, but in 1959 he had 74 runs with only 14 receptions. The next year the Cards moved to St. Louis, and a few years later Conrad's days as a runner were over. In his last eight NFL seasons, he caught 371 passes (including an NFL-best 73 in 1963) with only one run.

Most of these men played more than half a century ago, making Patterson something of an anachronism. For more recent examples, you would need to look at Patterson's fellow Class of 2013 draftees Tavon Austin (31 more catches than runs as a rookie, 46 more runs than receptions in 2017, three career touchdowns on kickoff returns) or Theo Riddick (37 more catches than runs in 2015, 39 more runs than catches the next year); Dexter McCluster of the Chiefs (68 more rushes than receptions in 2011; 45 more catches than runs in 2013); former Chargers/Saints/Eagles star Darren Sproles (48 more runs than catches in San Diego in 2009, 27 more catches than runs in New Orleans in 2012, nine career special teams touchdowns); or former Browns special teams ace Josh Cribbs (35 more runs than receptions in 2009, 34 more catches than runs in 2011, eight career kickoff return touchdowns).

That's not a very long list, which makes it exceedingly difficult to forecast what Patterson will do in the rest of 2021 and beyond. So far, however, he has been the brightest light in what otherwise looks like a lost season in Atlanta.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
1.
Daniel Jones NYG
28/40
402
1
1
0
155
148
7
NO
Well, hey now! Two weeks ago, Jones was the best quarterback in the third quarter; last week, he was best out of a no-huddle. And this week, he put everything together and was best overall—and he did it without Sterling Shepard or Darius Slayton. That's helped by a perfect overtime period, when he completed all five of his passes (four of which picked up first downs) for a total of 67 yards. He hit a lot of big throws from between the 40s, going 9-of-11 for 192 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.
2.
Patrick Mahomes KC
24/30
278
5
1
1
145
141
5
PHI
By DYAR, Mahomes was in a virtual tie for being the best passer on throws to receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage, completing each of his three passes for 18 yards and two touchdowns. (The quarterback he was tied with: Jalen Hurts, the other starter in this game!) He was also best in the red zone, going 6-of-8 for 34 yards with four scores.
3.
Dak Prescott DAL
14/22
188
4
0
0
145
131
14
CAR
Prescott was lethal inside the Carolina 40-yard line, going 6-of-7 for 114 yards. All six of those completions picked up first downs, including four scores.
4.
Matt Ryan ATL
25/41
283
4
0
1
139
133
6
WAS
Ryan was the league's best passer on third downs, going 10-of-14 for 106 yards with three touchdowns, plus a 28-yard DPI and a sack. That's 10 conversions in 16 plays, including eight in a row at one point. He was also the league's top passer on throws to running backs, but as we have discussed, that's something of a gray area.
5.
Taylor Heinicke WAS
23/33
290
3
0
1
120
107
14
ATL
Heinicke shredded the middle of Atlanta's defense, going 6-of-7 for 104 yards. Five of those passes moved the chains, including a 17-yard touchdown to Terry McLaurin.
6.
Joe Burrow CIN
25/32
348
2
0
1
107
124
-16
JAX
Burrow was the NFL's top passer on throws to tight ends. He threw six such passes, all to C.J. Uzomah, completing five of them for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Uzomah just missed our top five receivers table near the end of this page; he finished in sixth place.
7.
Lamar Jackson BAL
22/37
316
1
0
3
104
100
4
DEN
Jackson was the league's top passer in the second quarter, when he went 8-of-12 for 158 yards with one touchdown and one sack.
8.
Kyler Murray ARI
24/32
268
2
0
3
101
103
-2
LAR
Murray would have ranked higher, but he struggled when passing in scoring range. Inside the Rams 30, he went 5-of-9 for 34 yards with just one first down (at least that was a touchdown) and a sack.
9.
Jameis Winston NO
17/23
226
1
0
0
99
99
0
NYG
The Saints run their offense out of the shotgun quite a bit—maybe too much. In only six passes, Winston finished as the week's best passer from under center, completing all six of them (five for first downs) for a total of 124 yards.
10.
Matthew Stafford LAR
26/41
280
2
1
0
99
100
-1
ARI
The Rams used a lot of no-huddle against Arizona, even before they fell way behind in the second half, and it worked. Stafford was the NFL's top passer without a huddle, going 14-of-19 for 165 yards and a touchdown.
11.
Jalen Hurts PHI
32/48
387
2
0
3
77
76
1
KC
This is the first week our DYAR numbers account for opponent adjustments, which has a major impact for Hurts—he loses 47 DYAR due to playing the worst defense in the league. As noted earlier, he was virtually tied with his counterpart on Sunday, Patrick Mahomes, for the best DYAR on passes to receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage, going 7-of-10 for 92 yards.
12.
Trevor Lawrence JAX
17/24
204
0
0
1
74
61
13
CIN
Lawrence threw four passes in the red zone and didn't pick up a single first down, let alone a touchdown. Three of those passes were completed for a total of 12 yards.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
13.
Mac Jones NE
31/40
275
2
1
4
63
63
0
TB
Jones' average pass traveled a league-low 5.7 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
14.
Justin Herbert LAC
25/38
222
3
0
2
62
61
1
LV
15.
Tom Brady TB
22/43
269
0
0
1
61
57
3
NE
If you ignore Matt Ryan, who had something of an unfair advantage, Brady had the best numbers on throws to running backs, completing three of five passes for 47 yards, with a sixth dropback resulting in a DPI for 31 more yards. However, he was the NFL's worst passer from under center, going 4-of-9 for 42 yards with one sack.
16.
Josh Allen BUF
20/29
248
2
1
1
56
61
-5
HOU
Allen was the best passer this week on deep balls, going 6-of-7 for 144 yards.
17.
Zach Wilson NYJ
21/34
297
2
1
1
48
67
-19
TEN
Wilson did not complete a pass for a first down until the Jets were down 9-0 in the second quarter (and even that barely counted—Corey Davis fumbled at the end of the play, though the Jets recovered). Up to that point, he had gone 2-of-7 with an interception. Those two completions: a 9-yard gain and a 4-yard loss, both on first-and-10.
18.
Aaron Rodgers GB
20/36
248
2
0
3
44
33
11
PIT
Rodgers—of all people!—was the week's worst passer on throws to tight ends, going 3-of-9 for only 15 yards. None of those completions resulted in first downs.
19.
Trey Lance SF
9/18
157
2
0
1
40
41
-1
SEA
Lance's average completion gained 11.7 yards after the catch, most in the league by over 3 yards. Almost exactly half of that YAC came on a 76-yard blown-coverage touchdown that is skewing all of Lance's numbers—he had 43 DYAR on that one play, negative DYAR the rest of the day.
20.
Carson Wentz IND
24/32
228
2
0
2
18
12
6
MIA
Wentz's average completion gained a league-low 2.9 yards after the catch. That's partly why he threw a league-high 13 failed completions.
21.
Jared Goff DET
24/38
299
2
0
4
10
37
-28
CHI
This was not a great game for Jared Goff, but he was still the top passer on throws down the middle, going 8-of-12 for 147 yards and a touchdown; a 13th throw picked up 10 yards on a DPI.
22.
Russell Wilson SEA
16/23
149
2
0
3
8
-11
19
SF
What a terrible start Wilson had this week. He did not pick up a first down in the game's first 25 minutes; he did not even have a successful play in the first 25 minutes. Up to that point, he had gone 4-of-7 for 8 yards (not a typo) while losing 20 yards on a trio of sacks, including one fumble.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
23.
Jacoby Brissett MIA
20/30
199
2
0
3
-12
-11
-1
IND
Brissett's last pass of the first quarter was a 6-yard completion to Will Fuller on third-and-4; his last pass of the third quarter was a 7-yard completion to DeVante Parker on third-and-2. He did not pick up a single first down in between those two plays, going 4-of-9 for 16 yards while losing 14 yards on a pair of sacks.
24.
Justin Fields CHI
11/17
209
0
1
1
-17
-23
6
DET
Fields' average pass traveled 13.2 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, most of any qualifier this week by a yard and a half. He went 5-of-6 for 172 yards on deep balls, but those were his only five completions that picked up first downs. (He had a sixth first down on a 6-yard DPI.) He was the league's worst passer out of a no-huddle, going 1-of-3 for 4 yards with an interception.
25.
Ryan Tannehill TEN
30/49
298
1
0
7
-18
-22
4
NYJ
It was not a good day for Tannehill in the red zone, where he went 3-of-8 for 14 yards with more sacks (two) than touchdowns (one). Tennessee scored only two touchdowns on five red zone trips, one of the biggest reasons they lost in overtime.
26.
Jimmy Garoppolo SF
14/23
165
1
1
1
-21
-21
0
SEA
Garoppolo left this game at halftime with a calf injury. He threw for seven first downs in the first quarter, but only one in the second, when he went 4-of-11 for 33 yards with a sack.
27.
Kirk Cousins MIN
20/38
203
1
1
2
-29
-25
-4
CLE
The Vikings only scored seven points in this game, and Cousins' struggles in scoring range largely explain why. He only picked up one first down inside the Cleveland 40, going 4-of-11 for 27 yards. At least that one first down was a touchdown on third-and-goal from the 12.
28.
Sam Darnold CAR
26/39
301
2
2
5
-31
-50
19
DAL
Darnold had the third quarter from Hell against Dallas, going 2-of-9 for 48 yards with two interceptions and a sack. He was also the league's worst passer on third/fourth downs, going 5-of-9 for 84 yards with more combined sacks and interceptions (two of each) than conversions (three).
29.
Teddy Bridgewater DEN
7/16
65
1
0
2
-34
-31
-3
BAL
Bridgewater's success rate of 28% was the the worst of any qualifer this week—yes, even worse than Davis Mills. Bridgewater's replacement, Drew Lock, was virtually tied with Mills for second-worst.
30.
Baker Mayfield CLE
16/33
155
0
0
3
-61
-60
0
MIN
Mayfield had the league's worst DYAR on throws to his right, going 5-of-12 for 43 yards with only two first downs. He also had an intentional grounding that was listed as "short right" in the play-by-play.
31.
Derek Carr LV
21/34
196
2
1
4
-65
-58
-7
LAC
32.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
26/40
232
1
1
2
-66
-66
0
GB
Roethlisberger had a rotten day on third/fourth downs, going 5-of-10 for 50 yards with two conversions (including a 45-yard touchdown) and one sack-fumble. He did pick up another conversion on a 5-yard DPI.
33.
Drew Lock DEN
12/21
113
0
1
3
-110
-110
0
BAL
Lock replaced an injured Teddy Bridgewater in the third quarter. He was the league's worst passer inside the opponent's 40-yard line, which is remarkable because he only threw three passes in that area: a 9-yard gain on first-and-10; an incompletion on second-and-1; and an interception on third-and-1.
34.
Davis Mills HOU
11/21
87
0
4
3
-200
-199
-1
BUF
Mills gains a league-high 36 DYAR due to opponent adjustments ... and still finishes in last place by a mile. He did not pick up a first down until the Texans were down 33-0 in the fourth quarter. He was the worst quarterback in the first quarter (1-of-5 for 3 yards with a sack-fumble and an interception); he was also the worst quarterback in the second quarter (0-for-2 with an interception and two sacks). The good news is he was only fifth-worst in the second half. Progress! Bryan Knowles will have a lot more to say about Mills in his Loser League column later this week.

 

Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Austin Ekeler LAC
15
117
1
3/5
28
1
80
64
17
LV
2.
Cordarrelle Patterson ATL
6
34
0
5/6
82
3
76
14
61
WAS
Each of Patterson's six carries came on first-and-10 and gained at least 2 yards, with a long run of 13. His three receiving touchdowns covered 42, 12, and 14 yards, and two of them were third-down conversions. Four of his five catches moved the chains.
3.
AJ Dillon GB
15
81
0
1/1
16
0
52
44
8
PIT
Dillon was stuffed just once by Pittsburgh while running for five first downs, the longest a gain of 25. His one catch was a 16-yard gain on second-and-10.
4.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire KC
14
102
0
2/3
12
1
42
33
9
PHI
Each of Edwards-Helaire's 14 runs gained at least 1 yard, and four gained at least 10 yards and a first down, the longest a gain of 17. All three of his targets came on first down, and his two catches both gained new first downs.
5.
Ezekiel Elliott DAL
20
143
1
0/1
0
0
39
45
-5
CAR
The Panthers only stuffed Elliott one time while he rushed for seven first downs and four runs of 10-yards or more, including a 47-yard gain.

 

Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Austin Ekeler LAC
15
117
1
3/5
28
1
80
64
17
LV
2.
James Robinson JAX
18
78
2
1/2
-2
0
32
47
-15
CIN
Robinson was stuffed twice while running for a half-dozen first downs, including gains of 12 and 20 yards.
3.
Ezekiel Elliott DAL
20
143
1
0/1
0
0
39
45
-5
CAR
4.
AJ Dillon GB
15
81
0
1/1
16
0
52
44
8
PIT
5.
Jamaal Williams DET
14
66
0
0/0
0
0
38
38
0
CHI
Williams' longest run gained only 11 yards, but he had nine runs for 4 yards or more and four first downs while being stuffed just one time.

 

Worst Running Back by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Josh Jacobs LV
13
40
0
5/5
17
0
-30
-21
-9
LAC

 

Worst Running Back by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Mike Davis ATL
13
14
0
2/2
12
1
-16
-27
11
WAS
Well, it wasn't a great day for all of Atlanta's running backs. Davis' longest run gained only 8 yards and he had only one first down while being stuffed four times ... and they were big-time stuffs too, each losing 3 yards.

 

Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Tyreek Hill KC
11
12
186
16.9
3
102
PHI
Nine of Hill's 11 grabs produced first downs; the others were a 9-yard gain on second-and-10 and a 15-yard gain on second-and-17. He had three catches of 30-plus yards and converted all four of his third-down targets.
2.
Van Jefferson LAR
6
6
90
15.0
1
54
ARI
Five of Jefferson's six catches produced first downs, the longest a gain of 20; the other was an 8-yard gain on first-and-10.
3.
Kenny Golladay NYG
6
7
116
19.3
0
51
NO
All six of Golladay's catches produced first downs, including three third-down conversions and three gains of 20-plus yards.
4.
Randall Cobb GB
5
6
69
13.8
2
49
PIT
All five of Cobb's catches moved the sticks, including conversions on all four of his third-down targets. Two gained 20-plus yards.
5.
DJ Moore CAR
8
12
113
14.1
2
47
DAL
Moore's totals include 8 DYAR rushing for his one carry for 6 yards. While only five of his eight catches gained first downs, all were considered successful plays, and he scored a pair of goal-to-go touchdowns.

 

Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT
2
8
11
5.5
0
-50
GB
Smith-Schuster's two catches against Green Bay: a 9-yard gain on second-and-10 in the first quarter and a 2-yard gain on fourth-and-5 while trailing by 17 points in the fourth.

Comments

46 comments, Last at 08 Oct 2021, 11:27am

1 Dillon is doing as advertised

The young man picks a hole and goes.  He lowers that proverbial shoulder and moves things forward.  Has also become at minimum competent and maybe even good at catching passes.  I freely admit my bias as I appreciate running inside more than any other offensive play.  No screwing around, no lightweights apply the linemen need to execute and stand up their guy and the back has no time for tippy tap it's hit the hole or fail.  And if everyone blocks as designed, the back gets thru the hole he has one guy to beat and then GONE.  It's a beautiful thing.

 

Anyway, Dillon looks like he has improved.  As the GB line rounds into shape the running game with Jones/Dillon (maybe a dash of Hill?) should the fulcrum of the offense as the season advances

2 This is the first week our…

This is the first week our DYAR numbers account for opponent adjustments, which has a major impact for Hurts—he loses 47 DYAR

77 DYAR, after losing 47 DYAR, with opponent adjustments only at 40% strength...

(quick math in head)

Holy $#!+, Kansas City. What the heck, does Mahomes literally complete every pass for a touchdown in practice?

21 I think you've hit on the…

I think you've hit on the reason Mahomes has so many wacky throwing styles.

Reid: "Okay, for today's practice, to make things a little more equal, Mahomes can only throw balls underhand and between his legs."

Spagnuolo: "Umm, Andy, we don't want to demoralize our secondary too much, do we?"

Reid:  "Good point.  Left-handed.  Today Mahomes can only throw balls underhand, between his legs, left-handed."

26 Reminds me of the story…

Reminds me of the story about Sandy Koufax, retired for 20 years, coming out to Dodger Stadium to toss BP to the Dodgers before game one of the World Series. Koufax gets going, and after about 2 or 3 guys in the cage, one of the Dodgers coaches, maybe La Sorda himself, has to go out to tell Koufax to dial it back, because he's killing the confidence of the hitters.

3 The Viking blocking revival…

The Viking blocking revival was brief, and  Cousins' performance followed accordingly. The QB market is what it is, but I just hate devoting that much cap space to a guy who isn't well above average in handling poor protection.

6 The QB market is what it is,…

The QB market is what it is, but I just hate devoting that much cap space to a guy who isn't well above average in handling poor protection.

Keep in mind that Cousins's cap hit is supposed to be around ~15% of cap, not the ~16.6% it actually is. Realistically, Cousins is pretty much spot on in terms of overall value.

I still see Minnesota's overall issues just being that they took an odd path dealing with the cap shrink. It's kinda like you built this nice performance race car, only to find out they changed the rules and you're way overweight - so you just start gutting things randomly and hope it holds together.

12 Their issues, like so often…

Their issues, like so often in the NFL, stretch back years, in a way that makes it hard to seperate management performance from random chance. In the Spielman era, the Original Sin was the drafting of The Ponderous One, from which many bad things followed, but I'm about 90% sure that's on the owner, who has since wised up. They really have had some terrible health luck with 1st and 2nd round draft picks, Bridgewater simply being the most prominent example. I still don't blame them for trying to salvage their season after Bridgewater's knee exploded, because it was a really good roster, and they couldn't know that the injury tsunami would continue. Trying to salvage that season was pretty costly, however.

Anyways, it may result in Zimmer being put in the cornfield this year, which is unfortunate, because the next guy they hire isn't likely to be better.

 

13 Tough to judge

But my rule of thumb is that coaches have about a 5-6 year shelf life barring a SB win.   After that with a few exceptions things get stale.  Hard to lead any organization successfully for an extended period of time 

15 There's different kinds of…

In reply to by big10freak

There's different kinds of stale, of course. The one that matters most is the relationship with the players. It seems the Zimmer has not grown stale with them as of yet. He has had the typical issues with the odd wide receiver or corner, but that's pretty normal.

They are well prepared and play hard. They just don't have enough talent blocking, and their qb isn't talented enough to compensate well for poor protection. The schedule eases, however, they still only have one loss in conference, zero in the division, and maybe their first round pick can still contribute something at left tackle, so a decent season is still possible.

If Zimmer is stale with the fans, who cares? The only thing that matters in that relationship is wins, so you may as well just keep, fire, and hire coaches based on your best guess as to which coach will best facilitate that. If you really strongly believe that there's a particular guy who would be better than Zimmer available, sure, pull the plug, especially if that guy is younger than 50. If you're just making a wild-assed guess, sit on your hands.

Spielman's a more complicated decision (and of course, the GM decision affects the coach decision). On balance, I'd Spielman has done pretty well, considering the bad luck they have had with injuries at the top of the draft.

17 If you really strongly…

If you really strongly believe that there's a particular guy who would be better than Zimmer available, sure, pull the plug, especially if that guy is younger than 50.

There's this guy available, heard he's pretty good, won a Super Bowl even, just had a bit of trouble with a giant ass of a GM.

7 Cousins is the perfect…

Cousins is the perfect embodiment of a tier 3 quarterback.

The upside is there provided you have optimal roster construction or close to it. The 49ers nearly won a championship with such a roster and such a quarterback. 

If Vikings fans( well Will) feel this buyer's remorse, what must Cleveland Browns fans feel with Baker Mayfield, who I believe is close to a certainty as a tier 3 quarterback?

16 That's because the Vikings…

That's because the Vikings got screwed with a once-in-forever cap drop which they couldn't've predicted when they signed Cousins. They signed him for a 2 year extension at $66M total just before the pandemic struck.

From 2021-2023, the pandemic is going to lop off something like $52M in cap value. Nearly the entire value of Cousins's contract. 

Which is why I said the Browns fans would be thankful - because they won't have that. They've still got Mayfield for 2 more years at well below Cousins's current cap hit. Way below. 2022 he'll be 8.6% (~15M underpaid), 2023 (franchise) he'll likely be 12-13% (~5M underpaid). And if he's still performing the level that he's at, I'd have to imagine that a ~37M/yr contract at that point would be reasonable (otherwise he's nuts and hopefully you will have realized that beforehand). And that's a totally manageable contract at that point.

Why does this hurt the Vikings more? Read your own comment:

The upside is there provided you have optimal roster construction or close to it.

With a QB like Cousins, you just don't have a lot of margin to screw up. And functionally, the pandemic is the same thing as every team signing Hole in Zone to a 3-year, $52M contract. Some teams had margin to deal with it. The Vikings didn't.

19 I was suggesting that…

I was suggesting that optimal roster construction really is an ephemeral thing. And thus unless Cousins is coming with a discount, it suggests a perpetual desire to chase something better. I don't think at this point Will wants Cousins on a fair cap figure because he just isn't the kind of QB that can move the needle unless he gifts the team additional cap flexibility.

20 And thus unless Cousins is…

And thus unless Cousins is coming with a discount,

Cousins was at a discount. Just not much of one - not enough to save $40+M of cap space. Also why I said Browns fans would be glad that $37.5M is only 15% of the cap - because that's still a raise for Mayfield, and it's a pretty darn reasonable discount.

Cap hits (not AAV) in 2024: Prescott $48.45M, Allen $41.75M, Mahomes $44.3M.

A QB contract with AAV of $37.5M in 2024? Yes, please.

28 This is exactly why I am all…

This is exactly why I am all in on just letting Trey Lance do the Josh Allen rookie thing the rest of the way completing 50% of his passes and running for 700 yards and 8 tds with some splashy highlight TD throws sprinkled in there. Deebo and Kittle are so good at YAC that he could probably lead us to 6-8 more wins just doing that. Then you have the potential upside of him actually getting better quickly. Injured Jimmy is a bottom 5 QB in the NFL if he tries to play through it like he did last year. Healthy Jimmy is top 14 at best with rookie level turnover issues. Being stuck in the 3rd tier QB world sucks. The 49ers have gone to 4 NFCCGs and 2 SBs with tier 3 guys over the past decade. In between those 4 successful seasons are a bunch of dumpster fires that murdered coaches. That screams to me that the QB has been the problem and Harbaugh/Shanahan have been blamed for it. This is why I was so happy the 49ers actually went all in and drafted a QB. With that rookie contract they can keep a really good roster together and use the Jimmy money to fill up the secondary next year while resigning their quality O line players.

For the sake of all the Browns fans I hope they give Baker the Kirk treatment and just tag him before trading him potentially. These 3rd tier guys do not work at their current price tags. It is a huge market inefficiency in the NFL at the moment driven by the desire to avoid disaster. Think of a universe where Kirk and Baker are making $25 million a year and maintaining their success/availability level? Now you have a viable third strategy at QB in the NFL that does not collapse a season after success. In this current market it only makes sense to mine rookie QBs until you hit on a superstar pick. I honestly want to see a team start finding the Baker type QBs, play out their rookie contract, and trade them before the 5th year ala the Darnold trade this year. It is going to be fascinating to watch the NFL QB market evolve over the next 5 years.

30 You've summarized my…

You've summarized my thoughts quite nicely. It's a real dilemma. 

It's interesting to compare them to tier 4 players who can be had for deep discounted prices. Let's say Tyrod Taylor or Teddy Bridgewater. No offense to either of them, but even optimal roster construction is not likely going to be enough. The Jets sort of ran this experiment with Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez and even with their success, it took a string of upsets to get there. And of course any slippage meant a catastrophe.

I was telling a friend of mine who is a 49er fan. I like Kyle shanahan a lot as a head coach, but if Trey Lance ends up a bust he's guaranteed to be fired. Whereas hitching his wagon to Jimmy G probably ensures a safer route to job security. The point is to illustrate that even going the mining rookie QB route is fraught with risks. You basically need a big vote of confidence from ownership to do that, which I just don't think you're going to get. The minute a team busts on a quarterback you get howls from the fan base to fire everybody. See the Bears.

 

31 I was not so happy to see…

I was not so happy to see them go all in on a QB, because they could have traded up to 6 and got whichever of Lance, Fields, or Jones fell that far.  Shoot, they could have traded up only to 11 and gotten the same deal, it turns out.  Trading all those 1s just to get your pick of those guys stinks of hubris to me.  How sure are you that Lance is going to be vastly superior to Fields?  Two extra 1s and a 3, it turns out, that's how sure.  Maybe they were right.  But what are the odds?

33 I didn't like the trade…

I didn't like the trade either, but to defend it a bit further. There's more to it than just, "We absolutely have to have Trey Lance." The trade buys you certainty. Certainty that you will get any one of the three left behind and possibly even Zach Wilson.

Its easy to look at NE or Chicago and use them as examples to wait, but those were still gambles. The 49ers were at 12. Even if they trade up to 6, Atlanta could have gone QB, leaving 2 slots.. Even worse if they stayed at a 11; then Philly, Detroit, Carolina and Denver would potentially mean all 5 of these QBs are now gone.

 

39 I know all the media…

I know all the media nonsense from Mortensen, Schefter, Simms, etc. was hyping up the Mac to SF narrative, but the move the 49ers made to 3 made that seem like nonsense. I am pretty sure they moved to 3 because they actually weren't nearly as high on Mac/Fields as people thought. The team has definitely missed on some picks in the past but they have never seemed to really misjudge how other teams valued the players in the first round of past drafts. It seems far more likely that they wanted Trey from the jump, figured out they had to move up that far to get him, and did not want the Jets to take him second. Were they right? Don't know that yet.

37 Oh I hated the trade at the…

Oh I hated the trade at the time as well. After listening to Kyle and John talk about why they wanted Lance it made a bit more sense. Listening to Shanahan talk about it made it sound like they had mystery QB and Lance as the clear best prospects in the draft. Shanahan even made the comment about if Lance had been able to play his last season at NDSU they wouldn't have a chance of getting him. So I am at least happy that he got the guy he actually wanted. Now the question is was the evaluation right? I don't know but the Shanny track record is not exactly great. He traded up in the 3rd for CJ Beathard, coveted Cousins so much he skipped out on Mahomes/Watson, and said no to Tom Brady last off season. So he's missed on every off season QB decision so far. The coach Kyle has always reminded me of most is Andy Reid. Reid supposedly did not want Mahomes even though the FO was after him. Andy then rebuilt his entire offense around his strengths and got a ring. At the very worst I could see Kyle building some crazy running offense that looks like the 2018 Ravens. One thing is certain after watching Lance play against the Seahawks on Sunday, his rushing ability will work in the NFL. I am really excited to see all the crazy zone-read play action plays he is going to create. Basically Kyle has 3 years to prove Trey was the right pick or the whole FO is gone.

42 Baker the Kirk treatment and…

Baker the Kirk treatment and just tag him before trading him potentially. These 3rd tier guys do not work at their current price tags. It is a huge market inefficiency in the NFL at the moment driven by the desire to avoid disaster. Think of a universe where Kirk and Baker are making $25 million a year and maintaining their success/availability level? 

I just think this is trying to stretch a weird analogy way too far.

The Vikings picked up Cousins at age 30, on a three-year deal, which they extended for 2 years in year 3. Which means they've only ever been carrying Cousins's contract two years in the future. No void years and only a spiked last year in the extension. It's just an incredibly weird situation, like I said - it's as if they know Cousins is a short-term solution but expect to transition to a new QB and immediately be contenders. Nobody else did stuff like this. The Vikings have been carrying a 13% cap charge for Cousins his entire time there. Just very odd.

Everyone else just assumes that if they have to move on from a QB early in a contract (or if it's actually a short contract like Brady's), you're going to be going with a young/cheap guy anyway who will probably suck, so just push money forward and eat the charge (when it's a smaller percentage of the cap) then.

The Browns are just in a much different situation. They've still got him for really cheap in 2022, and obviously they can franchise him as well in 2023. Even if they did a 3-year, $120M contract with him next year, that still on paper looks top-end, but they can easily make it such that he's cheap in 2023-2025 (hitting that $25M/yr charge would be trivial) and then eat a sub-10% dead cap charge in '26-'27. 

The Vikings situation, to me, is just completely of their own choosing in terms of how they're trying to manage the cap.

5 Cross overs

Ronnie Harmon was another crossover player of note. 

8 I would have thought a smart…

I would have thought a smart coaching staff would have found a way to use someone like cordarrelle Patterson in the most optimal fashion.

In the same way Darren sproles became this devastating weapon once he got paired with Sean Payton in New Orleans.

But Patterson has been available on the scrap heap for everyone for years, so maybe that theory doesn't work.

29 Scrap Heap

I think scrap heap is a bit strong given his earnings over the last 5 seasons:

2017 $5,600,000

2018 $3,250,000

2019 $5.250,000

2020 $4,789,332

2021 $3,000,000

 

Those are a far cry from the kind of Vet minimum salaries I'd associate with the 'scrap heap' designation

9 What?

Are we suppose to forget Frank Gifford ever existed. His conversion from running back to receiver was only mentioned on every MNF he was ever one. Come on, man. 

18 +1

In reply to by johonny

+1 comment…from an old guy who actually remembers him.

22 Feedback

Ronnie Harmon was another crossover player of note. 

Good call. 60 more runs than receptions with Buffalo in 1987, 33 more receptions than runs with San Diego in 1994.

Are we suppose to forget Frank Gifford ever existed. His conversion from running back to receiver was only mentioned on every MNF he was ever one. Come on, man. 

He likely would have qualified for our 40/40 club if he had not ben playing in the days of 12- and 14-game schedules. He had 108 more runs than receptions in 1956, 38 more receptions than runs in 1963.

24 "then add his ability to…

"then add his ability to catch the ball with his hands, and I see a promising wide receiver"

Anybody else wonder what the other players, other than Patterson, who Waldman was scouting that year were using to try to catch the ball?

27 "Catching the…

"Catching the ball with your hands" = reaching out with your hands away from your body and catching the ball between your palms.

"Catching the ball with your body" = letting the ball hit you in the chest or shoulder and cradling or trapping it with your arms. Leads to more bobbles and drops.

35 Lost in Translation

Each of Patterson's six carries came on first-and-10. One gained 13 yards, one lost 2, and the others were all 2- to 4-yard gains.

The implied math here didn't add up, so I checked the game log.  Sure enough, per PFR, Patterson's carries went 5, 4, 2, 5, 13, 5.