Versatility isn’t talked about enough in the NFL. We talk about minimally when evaluating defensive draft prospects. “He’s great in man and zone”, “he can stuff the run and drop back into coverage”, “he has the size to be an effective pass rusher, but also the speed to keep up with slot receivers”, yada yada yada.
On offense, when versatility is talked about, it’s almost always in reference to either a dual-threat quarterback or a halfback who can catch passes out of the backfield. Furthermore, when a player comes along who is truly versatile and finds themselves in a system willing to use them in a variety of different ways — such as Tavon Austin, Deebo Samuel, or Taysom Hill — they get labeled as “gadget players”, AKA players that rely on weird usage in order to be effective. Somehow, Falcons’ halfback Cordarrelle Patterson has evaded this label, and yet he’s become the most versatile player in the NFL.
In November, Falcons’ defensive coordinator Dean Pees mentioned that there was a defensive package that involved using Patterson as a free safety. Collectively, the entire NFL world just kinda brushed that comment aside, like “Well, he’d probably be used in the same way that Randy Moss or Rob Gronkowski got used on defense — in last-second situations used to catch or swat Hail Mary attempts, but that’s such a niche situation, I doubt it’ll ever come up.” Then yesterday, the Falcons’ depth chart got updated.
Patterson is officially a third-string safety for Atlanta.
Well, I’ll be damned.
Patterson is good enough on defense to make the Falcons’ depth chart! That’s insane versatility! In response to earning a spot on the depth chart, Patterson said “I want to catch an interception. That’s my next goal in the NFL.” I want to see it too. I think the entire NFL would like to see Patterson record an interception. If he does so, Patterson will have a leg up on every other great return man in NFL history. Devin Hester was a monster, but he never caught an interception. Patrick Peterson was an All-Pro corner and returner for much of his career, but how many receiving touchdowns does he have, hmm? Deion Sanders has three receiving touchdowns in his career, but he has none on the ground. Patterson has all of the above.
I apologize if I’m talking about Patterson as if he’s already recorded his interception. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but man, it’s tough not to get excited over this. Patterson is a literal Swiss Army knife on the football field. When asked which position group Patterson works out with and watches film with at practice, Patterson had a simple answer : “I just come in and wherever they tell me to go, I go. I’m here just trying to help the team win.” How can you not root for someone like that? I swear, if Younghoe Koo ever gets injured mid-game, I know who I’d call on to take PATs if I were Arthur Smith — not the punter, not someone who kicked in high school, I’m going straight to Patterson and asking him how he confident he feels hitting 30-yard field goals.
Remember those “Bo Knows” commercials from the ‘80s? Bo could do it all…except hockey, per Wayne Gretzky. I’m thinking those commercials need a remake, with Patterson as the front man. Come on, let’s make it happen!
I’ve talked plenty about Patterson’s Hall of Fame case in the past. If he snags an interception, just based on versatility alone, I’m not even sure it’s a debate anymore. Put him in Canton, and give him the biggest bust in the whole damn building!