Cordarrelle Patterson, Devin Hester, and the Myth of Sisyphus
Yesterday, Matthew Freedman put together an awesome piece on Cordarrelle Patterson and argued in favor of including his rushing yards in computing his Dominator Rating. I’m glad he disagrees with the consensus RotoViz opinion. When there’s no internal dissent, a group of writers – or group of anythings – can quickly go down a bad path. In the most extreme examples, you end up at war in an unrelated country. There’s also something to be said for losing an argument, since the loser is the person who gains the most information from the exchange (and gaining information is almost always a positive).
I could certainly be wrong on Patterson. His Height-adjusted Speed Score of 113 leads the 2013 receiving group, and, while that’s not truly elite, it’s very draftable. For the sake of debate, here a handful of reasons I still like my stance.
1) Even if you include Patterson’s rushing numbers as part of his market share – bumping up the team’s total receiving numbers by the corresponding amount – he doesn’t reach a DR of .25, which is basically the bare minimum threshold you need to be draftable. Not in the first round – at all.
2) There’s a temptation to compare Patterson to Justin Hunter. In such a comparison, it’s worth noting that Hunter is younger, taller, and outperformed Patterson despite coming off of an ACL tear. But comparing them to each other can obscure the fact that they’re both probably overrated. And here’s where market share comes into play. While it’s easy to believe Hunter and Patterson struggled to put up elite market share numbers because they were competing with each other, that’s simply not the case. They actually ceded 55% of the market share to ancillary players on their own team. Taken as Cordarrin Hunterson, they barely outperform Keenan Allen and fail to match Stedman Bailey. And Bailey was competing with the receiver most now expect to be the first wideout off the board.
3) Matthew points out that many good receivers rushed for 75 yards or more during their final seasons in college, but they almost uniformly had good DR scores as well, so the argument could be made that their rushing totals don’t add a lot to our understanding of their probabilities for success.
4) On the other hand, there are a handful of guys who were spectacular with the ball in their hands but weren’t stud receivers in college. Their coaches wanted to make them into a Welker-type player anyway and for exactly the reasons Matthew outlined. I recently made the case for Tavon Austin as an amalgam of Dexter McCluster and Ted Ginn, but the much darker comparison would be to guys like Devin Hester and Dante Hall. Almost no one in the history of the game has combined lateral explosiveness with open field vision the way Hester and Hall have. The problem is that being good with the ball in your hands is almost entirely irrelevant to being an NFL wide receiver. The key is to be good when the ball isn’t in your hands.
5) Most of the receivers that we talk about as being “good with the ball in their hands” are possession receivers, and as I explain in my article on Tavon Austin, possession receiving success is unrelated to draft position. If that’s the case, it’s entirely the wrong type of player to target in the first round.
6) It’s easy to underrate the skillset of a player like Wes Welker. Wes went for over 3500 yards from scrimmage in college. My 2012 study on possession receiver sustainability suggested his profile as such a receiver is entirely unique.
7) Advanced metrics do matter. Take for example the following two receivers:
On the surface they look fairly similar. You might even have a slight preference for Receiver B. Of course, since I’ve cherry-picked these two players, you know that’s not the case. Let’s put their names in and instead of using raw stats, go with Dominator Rating and Height-adjusted Speed Score.
This is a highly prejudicial example, but the fact remains that an algorithm employing concepts like DR and HaSS crushes draft order in predicting WR quality. Using slightly different methodology, Chad Parsons has found the advantage is almost 2-1.
Cordarrelle Patterson Dynasty Value
While I think Patterson is a crazy risk in reality football, the risk is significantly less in fantasy. Whichever team takes on the daily task of rolling the boulder up the hill with Cordarrelle will be massively incentivized to make the selection look good. When they discover he’s not particularly adept at receiver, they’re likely to employ the same strategy as Tennessee. It will be strange to see a 6’2” receiver playing the Percy Harvin/Randall Cobb role, but strange doesn’t necessarily equate with unlikely.
Matthew suggests Patterson will go late in the first round of rookie drafts. If that’s the case, you should snap him up immediately. I would be surprised if that happens. This is a terrible draft for skill position players. As many as five different runners could be the first RB off the board. Even though I’m high on Geno Smith and E.J. Manuel, quarterback simply shouldn’t be a priority in rookie drafts. Moreover, the two best wide receivers – Keenan Allen and Stedman Bailey – are unlikely to go ahead of Patterson. It’s not impossible that we’ll see Patterson go No. 1 overall this summer, especially in formats that emphasize the receiver position.