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The four-month gauntlet through which an athlete transitions from college student to NFL millionaire is demeaning by just about any standard. But for Tennessee wideout Cordarrelle Patterson, the scrutiny has been especially unkind.
His test scores were leaked and mocked, his intelligence and ability to run routes questioned. Various sources have complained about his interviews, his attitude and his body language.
Despite it all, Patterson will be seated at Radio City Music Hall for the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday (TV: ESPN, 8 p.m.). Most prognosticators — even those skeptical of his intellect — will be surprised if the evening ends without Patterson being picked.
“This is going to be my dream come true,” Patterson said Wednesday during a brief appearance on ESPN.
Patterson could be the first of at least five Vols drafted during the three-day draft weekend. Two other players who finished their careers elsewhere after being kicked off the team at UT — receiver Da’Rick Rogers and defensive tackle Montori Hughes — also are expected to be picked.
During his only season at Tennessee — and his only season of major college football of any kind — Patterson set a Vols record with 1,858 all-purpose yards. He became a walking highlight reel and an impressive story in an otherwise dismal year for Tennessee football.
But even as he was setting records, there were limitations. Receivers coach Darin Hinshaw, now co-offensive coordinator at Cincinnati, recruited Patterson from junior college and knew almost immediately that he had someone special. But he also acknowledged Patterson’s limitations.
“I’ve talked to a large amount of NFL teams. I told them, ‘He’s a guy you’re going to have to teach and be patient with. Not because he’s
stupid by any means, the guy’s as smart as can be,’” Hinshaw told the Akron Beacon-Journal. “His issue is every single play, ‘What’s the scheme? What’s my responsibility? Am I hot? Am I not hot? Oh, yeah, now I’ve got to beat this guy in my route. Or if it goes to Cover 2 I’ve got to run a little different route. Cover 3, I’ve got to run a different route.’ Those are things that he will get better at when he’s doing it all the time, when he doesn’t have to worry about school.”
Is Patterson so much of a project that he could scare off some teams looking for an immediate-impact player? ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., said he believes some teams might look for a “polished” receiver — say, Southern California’s Robert Woods — and avoid someone who needs a lot of seasoning.
“Patterson is raw. I don’t think he can help you necessarily as much as his talent indicates as a rookie,” Kiper said.
Hinshaw disagrees, and he’s been telling anyone in the NFL who will listen.
“He will impact the game next year,” Hinshaw said. “He scared defenses to death and he’ll do the same thing in the NFL ... He’s not a one-year wonder. He’s a 15-year wonder in the NFL.”
The St. Louis Rams, who have the 16th and 22nd overall picks, are a popular destination for Patterson in mock drafts. Others think he could slip into the early second round.
Wherever he’s selected, Patterson will face skeptics.
“Mentally, it’s going to be a project,” an unnamed NFL scout told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Running routes — he doesn’t know how to do any of that stuff.
“You may have to keep it simple for him, but this is football. It’s not building a super glider or anything.”
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.