MANKATO — The comparisons are inevitable.
Not because they look alike: One is four-year veteran who stands 5-11 and weighs 192 pounds. The other is an NFL rookie who checks in a 6-2, 216.
But Percy Harvin and Cordarrelle Patterson will be forever linked in the minds of Vikings fans. Harvin was an outstanding return specialist/wide receiver for the Vikings who was traded during the offseason. Patterson is the first-round draft choice who will be asked to fill much of the same role.
But before fans get into the habit of referring to Patterson as the new Percy Harvin, the rookie has a message for them.
“I’m not Percy,” he said “I know he was a great player here and still is, but I’m Cordarrelle Patterson. All I can do is be myself.”
Patterson comes to the Vikings with high expectations, much of them put on the newcomer by the team itself. The Vikings traded away four draft choices to New England to move back into the first round and nab Patterson with the 29th pick.
In addition, the Vikings have issued Patterson jersey No. 84 — Randy Moss’ old number.
“That was all me,” Patterson said of the number. “I’ve been wearing 84 since high school and when I saw it was available I just asked for it.
“It’s nice that Randy Moss used to wear it. It’s awesome that I get a chance to play on the same field as him.”
Vikings’ offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is a believer in all the initial hype surrounding Patterson.
“He’s definitely gifted with his size and his speed,” Musgrave said at mini-camp. “He’s really asserting himself in the meeing room trying to learn our system. He just needs to get more familiar with the system and play faster — less thinking, more reacting.”
In his one year at the University of Tennesse before turning pro, Patterson caught 46 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns. He also had a 25.3 punt-return average and a 26.8 kick-return average.
The fact that he ran a 4.33 40-yard dash, had a vertical leap of 37 inches and broad jumped 10-feet-8 at the NFL combine indicates a wealth of potential.
Physically, few can deny that he’s equipped to be an NFL standout. The only question is how well and how quickly will he learn to play at the professional level.
“The playbook is definitely my biggest challenge,” Patterson said. “It’s a pretty big playbook and they’re throwing a lot of stuff at us in a short period of time to see how we handle it.
“Fortunately, Joe Webb has been helping me out a lot and so has Greg (Jennings). Greg told me not to worry about the pressure, to just go out and be myself.”
Patterson is aware that many offensive skill players make their initial NFL impacts on special teams. If that’s the route he has to take to make a contribution, he’s fine with that.
“Whatever the coaches have planned for me, that’s going to be my role,” he said. “I love returning, I love the open field .... but who doesn’t?”
Special teams coach Mike Priefer sees a very high upside for Patterson based on what he saw on film and in mini-camp.
“He is so talented and just such a great athlete,” Priefer said. “I think he’s done a great job on just working on some of the little things; keeping his elbows in tighter, keeping his hands up, keeping his hands away from his body a little bit; just some of the smaller details.
“I think he’s more comfortable catching kickoffs right now than punts like a lot of young guys, but we’re making progress in both phases. You don’t want to overload any rookie because I know he’ll contribute on offense as well but I think the sky is the limit for this young athlete, I really do.”