ALAMEDA — Cordarrelle Patterson’s skills as a kick returner are unquestioned after four seasons in the NFL with two first-team All-Pro selections, the second highest-return average since World War II, and five momentum-changing touchdowns.
When the Oakland Raiders told him they wanted to get more out of him as a big-play wide receiver, he jumped at the chance to sign a two-year deal as a free agent.
“That was one of the deciding factors,” Patterson said Tuesday. “We sat down and talked. They were just saying how they can work on getting me a better receiver. Things I’m good at, they’re going to keep continuing to do that. Those things I need to work on, they’re going to help me improve on that.”
Despite being clocked at a 4.42 40-yard dash at the NFL combine with speed that has shown up on kick returns, Patterson has never developed into a downfield threat as a receiver in Minnesota. His 8.7 yards per catch were the fewest for any qualifying wide receiver last season and he’s not had a catch go for more than 40 yards since his rookie season.
According to Sportradar, Patterson caught 19 of his career-high 52 passes last season on screens, with his average overall reception coming less than 3 yards downfield.
In Oakland, he won’t need to be counted on heavily as a receiver with 1,000-yard wideouts Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree already on the roster.
“It’s a blessing from the skies,” he said. “I can’t even believe it. I haven’t even been to sleep since I left Oakland and got back home. I’m just excited to team up with all those guys over there. Not just ‘Coop’ and Crabtree; every guy over there.”
Where he will be counted on is for kickoff returns; the Raiders haven’t had a return for a touchdown since Jacoby Ford did it in 2011.
Patterson has averaged 30.4 yards per kickoff return in his career, second only to Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (30.6 yards) since 1941. He has five kick returns for touchdowns, including one at Oakland in 2015.
“It’s just a feeling you wouldn’t understand until you’re back there when you get that ball in your hands,” he said. “You’re 9 yards deep in the end zone and you have those 10 guys in front of you who are going to block and give you their all for you. I’m willing to bring it out anytime I can. If the coach gives me the OK, I want to bring it out. I want to go somewhere and know that I can help on special teams. I feel like that’s my best in the game right there.”