MINNEAPOLIS — Cordarrelle Patterson was sliding down the draft board, there for the taking when the Minnesota Vikings jumped back into the first round to grab the speedy receiver from Tennessee.
Then Patterson went and grabbed something of his own: He picked No. 84 for his jersey, the number made famous in these parts by Randy Moss.
The No. 84 carries with it expectations, and to some degree, a stigma. Moss was both a breathtaking talent in Minnesota and a rather large headache, especially in his second tour with the Vikings in 2010. Like most people around here, Patterson never mentions Moss's numerous transgressions that enraged coaches and some teammates. He just remembers the touchdowns.
"Randy Moss was my role model growing up since I was little," Patterson said. "I wore 84 in high school and we were purple and gold so I looked up to Randy Moss the whole time. Now I have a chance to practice on the field he practiced on and play in the game that he played in."
Back in 1998, Moss dropped down the draft board because of character concerns, and the Vikings pounced on him at No. 21. He became the most dangerous deep threat in the NFL from the moment he first set foot on the Metrodome turf, breathing life in to a stagnant franchise.
Patterson's plummet had more to do with inexperience than character, though there were some who questioned his work ethic and ability to pick up a complex offense. But the Vikings saw too much raw skill to pass up, so they packaged four draft picks to jump back into the first round at pick No. 29 to take him.
"That showed how much they believe in me to take a risk for a player like me because a lot of teams didn't believe in me," he said. "You see that when they passed up on me but the Vikings believe in me, and they did what they had to do to come and get me."
Now Patterson's education begins.
The Vikings are holding organized team activities this week, an essential exercise for a receiver that has so much to learn before his first professional training camp begins in late July.
Patterson spent all of one season with the Volunteers after making the jump to the SEC from junior college in Hutchinson, Kan., a thin resume that has left him short on the nuances of playing receiver.
"Ninth and 10th grade years, I wasn't in any sports," Patterson said. "I really didn't care about my grades. But 11th and 12th grade years when I started playing sports then I (saw) I needed my grades. By that time, it was too late and I had to go the junior college route."
Patterson admits that he needs work to refine his route-running and ability to get off press coverage. He also had a couple of big drops in key situations for Tennessee.
"My biggest challenge will be that I will have to come in and work hard every day," Patterson said. "The first thing I will have to do is get into that playbook and start learning the different coverages and hook up with the quarterback and a couple of receivers and get ready to work."
Patterson heard whispers about his study habits in college, and so did the Vikings. They had well-respected receivers coach George Stewart meet with him leading up to the draft and also feel confident that newly signed veteran Greg Jennings will be there to act as a mentor, perhaps the same way Cris Carter did for Moss all those years ago.
"I hope he's ready to work," Jennings said. "I hope he's ready to jump right in. I'm not a fan of treating a rookie like a rookie. It's all about the guy who knows the least, getting him up to speed just as quick as the guy who knows the most in the room. So that's the mindset I'm taking, hopefully that's his approach. I've already reached out to him. I'm looking forward to working with him."
Quarterback Christian Ponder can use all the help he can get on the perimeter, especially after Percy Harvin was traded to Seattle. Jennings is the only proven member of the receiver corps, with Jerome Simpson and Stephen Burton also in the mix there.
"He's a legitimate size receiver," Ponder said of the 6-foot-2 Patterson. "We'll probably put him at the 'X' and do some things with him. We'll obviously try to get him the ball and see what he can do."