The Minnesota Vikings indicated that second-year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson would be limited in kick returns this preseason as the Vikings keep the Pro Bowl returner focused on receiving. What does that have to do with the New England Patriots? Well, to the fans and analysts that had New England staying at #29 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft and taking Patterson with their first-round pick.
Instead, the Patriots traded down with Minnesota getting the #52 overall pick in the second-round, the #83 overall pick in third-round, the #102 overall pick in the fourth round and the #229 overall pick in the seventh-round in the 2013 NFL Draft. The Vikings drafted Patterson, and the Patriots turned those picks into linebacker Jamie Collins, cornerback Logan Ryan, wide receiver Josh Boyce, and a season of running back LeGarrette Blount.
While Patterson made the Pro Bowl as a returner, he had the typical rookie struggles at wide receiver adapting to the NFL. In the second half of the season he became a primary target from week 11 through 17 as he racked up 46 targets and 27 receptions in the last 7 games after only 26 targets and 18 receptions in the first 9 games. Patterson finished the season with 45 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns. The dynamic returner had 43 kick returns for 1,393 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 12 rushing attempts for 158 yards and three touchdowns (stats courtesy of NFL.com).
Blount was picked-up by New England for Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps and the #229 overall pick in the seventh-round. Blount rushed for 772 regular season yards and 941 total including the playoffs. In the last quarter of the season Bount closed out the year with 76 yards and 2 touchdowns in week sixteen at Baltimore, 193 yards and 2 touchdowns in the season finale against Buffalo, and then 166 yards and 4 touchdowns in the Divisional Playoff game against Indianapolis. While he was shut down (6 yards on 5 rushes) against Denver and left in free agency, the Patriots got their money’s worth for that seventh round pick.
Fourth-round draft pick Boyce struggled to get healthy and stay on the field as he had only nine catches and finished on injured reserve after starting the season slowly and being slowed by injury in the middle of the season as well. Boyce is expected to contribute in 2014 and beyond on special teams returning kicks as well as eventually taking snaps in the slot.
In the third-round with the pick from Minnesota for Patterson the Patriots snagged Rutgers cornerback Logan Ryan. At five-foot-eleven and 191 pounds Ryan displayed impressive quickness and football intelligence. Not a lockdown cornerback, but a serviceable back-up at the position who can contribute in the sub-package is a good deal at cornerback. Ryan gave the defense a boost last season when at half-time against the Dolphins in week eight he came off the line with two sacks to swing momentum. With more playing time he improved his coverage as he gained more playing time and finished with a 53.3 quarterback rating in passes into his coverage which was good for second in the NFL to only All-Pro Richard Sherman (per ProFootballFocus.com).
Finally, the Patriots used their second-round pick in the deal on linebacker Jamie Collins. Collins started eight games as a rookie and is expected to be a full-time starter at the “Will” or weakside linebacker position. Collins had a slow start as a rookie playing only 133 snaps through week thirteen. Once he got on the field regularly starting against Cleveland he made an immediate impact. By the playoffs he was all over the field making plays and had a memorable Divisional Playoff game against Indianapolis stuffing the run, rushing the passer and dropping into coverage and making big plays. With his intelligence, speed, strength and athleticism, Collins looks like a future star on the defense.
The Patriots got their wide receiver in the second-round with Aaron Dobson at #59 overall. Dobson finished with 36 receptions for 521 yards and 4 touchdowns in the regular season. Unfortunately, he hurt his foot in week 11 against Carolina and missed the next four games before returning while clearly limited at the end of the season. He had offseason foot surgery and is still working his way back to the field. Before his injury, he had his first 100 yard receiving game in week nine against Pittsburgh as he hauled in 5 passes for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns. When he returns, he is expected to be a downfield threat in the offense.
The trade between Minnesota and New England appears to have been a rare trade that leaves both teams happy. New England got a year of Blount, a backup wide receiver, a potential starting cornerback, and a difference-maker at linebacker. Minnesota got the big, athletic and explosive receiver they were in need of with Patterson. While Patterson would have been a fun toy for quarterback Tom Brady to throw to, they should make him quite happy with Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. It is the addition of Ryan and Collins on defense that will have the biggest impact from the 2013 NFL Draft on the team’s future.