Cordarrelle’s nine-year history of not being properly used on offense is a tragedy. It looks more like a pity now that Patterson, who was once a wide receiver, has made a comeback in Atlanta and is a fantasy-star running back at age 30.
The Falcons best player has long been a top gadget playmaker, and kick-return specialist. Patterson’s 29.6 yard per kick return is second in league history. Also, his eight kick returned touchdowns are tied at first. Patterson’s ability to elusively bounce a pingpong ball away from his middle-aged dad is unmatched, and he has been known for making an electrifying play or two every season.
He has never been a reliable fantasy selection. Patterson had never been a reliable fantasy option before Matt Nagy had him switch to Bears receiver in 2020. Before that, he was an infrequently used receiver who had only 80 targets and only 500 yards per year. He averaged 4.3 fantasy points per contest during his 2013 rookie season, which was 9.4 points more than his record season.
Patterson looks like a potential winner in fantasy football leagues. Patterson has already racked up 354 yards with five touchdowns during 2021. Patterson also has 18 receptions. Due to his remarkable 0.86 fantasy score per snap, Patterson ranks third in the PPR RB3 category. This is an incredible feat for all flex-eligible football players. He is also second among PFF’s running backs. The PPR league’s overwhelming majority did not draft the specialist in journeyman returns. He is on track for one the best fantasy seasons of any running back older than 30, in league history. There is only one question: Can this continue?
Skeptics will counter that Patterson is not the Atlanta’s leading backfield player in snaps. Mike Davis leads the pack with a 188-197 advantage, which includes a majority the team’s redzone rushes. Patterson is PFF’s highest overachiever by far in expected fantasy goals, and he’s never maintained that level of production for a full season, despite occasional glimpses in the past.
Patterson could be being held back by historical precedent. Curtis Martin, Priest Holmes, Fred Jackson,and Lamar Smith are only four other runningbacks that have started a season with Patterson’s 83.4-point average through four weeks. These four running backs average 26 touches per week, but Patterson’s average is just over 11. This ranks Patterson outside of the top 30 in his position for this season.
However, there are still opportunities for Falcons running backs to improve their rest-of season fantasy value. He averages about 11.3 touches per contest, which is roughly 181 for a typical 16-game schedule. This puts him in 2018 James White territory. It was 2018, when the Patriots received back the year as their PPR RB7. Over the past six season, Danny Woodhead has turned similar usage to top-12 Fantasy campaigns. Before them, Darren Sproles logged consecutive top-12 Fantasy finishes in 2011-2012 despite having only 148 touches.
Patterson shares a lot with this second, less prominent, group of names but it is still true that Patterson could be having an actual PPR breakout.
To count touchdowns and receptions, any low-usage rusher who plays in PPR formats is a key statistic. Patterson will score regression after a Week 4 3 touchdown performance. However, Patterson’s 6.8 carries per match White and Co.’s 4.5 receptions and 6.8 running yards per game. White and Co. averaged approximately five receptions and about 5.5 carries each game despite no one being a fulltime starter. Patterson might see his touchdown efficiency drop to 1.25 per games, which is not something that can be sustained. Arthur Smith, the Falcons’ new head coaching is clearly able to get Patterson back in the red. The team’s red zone passing percentage is the third-highest in the league. They have targeted Patterson repeatedly, who ranks fourth in red zone targets among running backs and first with an 100 percent catch rate. For the season he has touched the ball on 46.4% of his offensive play.
Even if Wayne Gallman II is drafted into the Falcons hot-hand committee, Patterson will likely retain his role as a hybrid running back and receiver for an Atlanta team that has been short on playmakers since Julio Jones was traded to Tennessee. Russell Gage Jr., the Falcons’ WR2 at the start of the season, hasn’t played in Week 2 since sustaining an ankle injury. He also hasn’t been impressed when he’s on the field. Many consider Kyle Pitts to the best tight end prospect in history, yet he has struggled this season despite running more routes then Travis Kelce (and George Kittle) Davis, last year’s PPR RB12 filling in for Christian McCaffrey was lacking in burst. His 2020 tackle rate isn’t even close. Patterson is Atlanta’s primary player outside of Calvin Ridley, who is more like a WR2 than he was playing alongside Jones. His defined role does not appear to be changing.
Patterson’s first of three touchdown passes against Washington was Atlanta’s longest of the season. He dodged four would be tacklers for his second touchdown. The third magic trick was his escape from four would-be tacklers by Moss starting cornerback Kendall Fuller.
Patterson is Smith’s go-to man for spark (Patterson’s nickname translates to Flash “)–he’s literally the straw that stirs Gatorade. The team and fans both know this.
Matt Ryan declared Monday that Ryan had seen “a tremendous impact on his life over the last four weeks.” “He’s an old-timer. He’s a guy who can do it all. He plays on special teams, covering kicks, running football for us, and catching the ball from the backfield. He’s been an important part of our ability get the ball moving and scoring points.
The Falcons play a moribund Jets squad in Week 5 and will be back from their Week 6 bye armed with a slate potentially high-scoring matches against the Cowboys (Saints), Panthers and Saints. Patterson could still see ample receiving opportunities.
Although some remain concerned about Patterson’s snap rate or scoring regression, Patterson is proving capable of making good use of his opportunities. Patterson has also earned more playing time in the future.
Patterson said, after Atlanta’s loss, that Patterson would call her “every time they call.” “They did a great job calling mine.”
Patterson continues to be a good PPR runner. Patterson should also continue to offer solid flex values in most PPR leagues. While he will likely not be the PPR RB3 in the final season, it is unlikely that he will. Managers needing help elsewhere on their rosters might find it difficult to sell higher on the slashback. All those who have struck the kind fantasy gold we rarely see, you can enjoy the ride.