2021 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Jaret Patterson (Fantasy Football)

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Top-tier NFL running backs come in all shapes and sizes. The difference between Derrick Henry and Austin Ekeler is nearly six inches and 50 pounds. Henry went to school at an NCAA powerhouse, while Ekeler played his college ball at a Division II program. Yet both of them have produced RB1 fantasy numbers. Jaret Patterson is one of, if not the, smallest running back from the incoming rookie class. He also comes from a lesser-known collegiate program. Even so, he also profiles as one of the most productive running backs in the 2021 draft class. Let’s take a look at what we can expect from Patterson as he transitions from the MAC to the NFL. 

Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2021 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the brand-new UDK+ for 2021.

College Production Profile
Games Rush Att Rush Yards Yards/Att Rush TD Receptions Receiving Yards Rec TD
2018 13 183 1013 5.5 14 7 62 0
2019 13 312 1799 5.8 19 13 209 1
2020 6 141 1072 7.6 19 0 0 0

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a running back with more college production than Patterson. He rushed for more yards (3,884) than Saquon Barkley did in three seasons and Najee Harris did in four (coincidentally 3,843 each). He had more rushing touchdowns (52) than Jonathan Taylor (50), also each in three collegiate seasons.

He also had one of the most productive single games in NCAA history. As a junior, he rushed for 409 yards and eight(!) touchdowns against Kent State. The eight touchdowns tied the NCAA record, while the 409 yards fell just 18 yards short of the record set by Samaje “Painbot” Perine in 2014.

The elite production, however, didn’t come against top-tier competition. There are worse conferences than the MAC, but it doesn’t exactly stack up to the same level as the SEC or Big Ten. He only played two career games against Power Five conference teams and had mixed results. As a freshman, he went for 104 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against a dreadful Rutgers team. When he took on a strong Penn State team as a sophomore he turned 23 carries into just 71 yards. 

Height Weight 40-yard dash  247 Sports
5’6 ½ “ 195 4.53 sec 2-star recruit

When it comes to measurables, Patterson is clearly undersized. His height and weight both fall well below the NFL RB1 thresholds from the UDK Dynasty Pass. He was listed at 5’9” on the University of Buffalo official 2020 roster but measured significantly shorter at his pro day on March 18. He openly compared himself to Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew while being interviewed at his pro day, though it should be noted that both Rice and Jones-Drew ran a faster 40 while weighing in about 10 pounds heavier than Patterson. Another solid comparison would be former undrafted rookie star Phillip Lindsay, though again, Lindsay put up a faster 40 time. However you look at it, Patterson will be fighting an uphill battle from a measurables perspective. 

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What’s on Tape

Games Viewed: Robert Morris (2019), Bowling Green (2020), Kent State (2020), Akron (2020)

1. Patterson doesn’t waste any steps

It’s tough to judge Patterson’s raw speed on tape but one thing is for sure, he can hit the home run. One big reason for this is how deliberately he totes the rock. He doesn’t waste time dancing in the backfield or trying to beat defenders to the outside; when he sees a hole, he hits it at full speed. He shows an excellent ability to make a single jump-cut and burst upfield without hesitation. Even better, if there’s no need to make a cut he’ll hit the crease and burst through the secondary in the blink of an eye.

2. His legs don’t stop moving.

When you aren’t going to separate yourself from other prospects through pure athleticism you have to do it in other ways, such as pure effort. Patterson constantly keeps his legs driving through contact. He held his own as a goalline back despite his small stature and showed the ability to run through tackles or, at the very least, to fall forward as he continuously fought for each additional yard.  If nothing else, NFL scouts won’t be able to question his effort when watching his tape.

3. He has elite contact Balance

Perhaps Patterson’s best trait, he isn’t going to be brought down by a defender’s shoulder check. He has no problem running through contact and continuing his forward progress, despite his relatively small frame. This showed up on the tape time and time again, and the clip below perfectly exemplifies both his contact balance and the leg drive mentioned earlier.

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What’s NOT on Tape

1. Work in the receiving game

It’s tough to judge Patterson’s pass-catching work because, frankly, it was practically non-existent. He topped out at 13 receptions as a sophomore, then didn’t catch a single pass in his final collegiate season. To be fair, Buffalo simply didn’t use their running backs in the passing game. In 2020 the Bulls only completed five passes to running backs. Still, NFL teams would prefer to see a larger sample of pass-catching work for an incoming rookie back.

2. Pass protection

The NFL has become a passing league and running backs are likely to lose snaps if they can’t be trusted in pass protection. Patterson is already at a disadvantage in blocking schemes given his size, and he hasn’t put anything on tape to make NFL teams trust him as a blocker. Pass protection is a skill that can be learned from a good position coach but entering the draft, it’s clearly a weakness for Patterson.

2021 Fantasy Outlook

Patterson shouldn’t have high expectations heading into the 2021 season. He’s likely to get drafted on the third day and will have to battle it out in camp for a roster spot. We’ve seen late-round and/or undrafted rookies make an immediate impact in recent years, Phillip Lindsay and James Robinson come to mind, though they’re more the exception than the rule. It’s tough to predict Patterson commanding even a late-round ADP come August, but he could be a hot waiver wire add if things fall his way early in the season. While it’s possible that he ends up working his way into a significant role, it’s far from a guarantee. We know that for every Phillip Lindsay or James Robinson, there’s a Jordan Scarlett or Jason Huntley. Still, when it comes to throwing darts in the later rounds of dynasty rookie drafts, Patterson is worth selecting in hopes that he could work his way into a consequential role with an NFL team.

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