Remember when Cordarrelle Patterson topped NFL.com’s “Making the Leap” list last year? The website envisioned a 70-catch, 1,100-yard season from Patterson, and described him as a combination of Devin Hester, Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones, Spiderman and the Road Runner. With his untapped ability and rare combination of size and speed, fans, analysts, and other players expected Patterson to truly “make the leap” in 2014.
If anything he, jumped backwards.
Patterson finished the year with 33 catches for for 384 yards and one touchdown — far below lofty projections — and even lost his starting job to Charles Johnson, a practice squad player who previously spent time in Green Bay and Cleveland. It was a disappointing season for Patterson, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner recently told reporters that the third-year receiver is “in the mix” for an important role with the offense heading into 2015.
The reason Patterson’s only fighting for playing time and not enjoying a starring role? That would be the aforementioned Johnson, who burst onto the scene after a solid end to the 2014 season. He led the team with 47 targets, 25 receptions and 415 receiving yards over the last seven weeks, with Turner calling him “far and away” their best receiver.
Johnson has won over his offensive coordinator and even general manager Rick Spielman, and now, the national media is taking notice — he’s No. 20 on this year’s “Making the Leap” rankings and a prime candidate to truly break out as the Vikings’ X-receiver. The hype is officially real, and all signs from minicamp point to an exciting year from Johnson, but it’s too early to proclaim him the next Josh Gordon (on the field, of course). Let’s hope his appearance on the list isn’t a curse like it was for Patterson.
What other NFC North receivers are poised for breakout seasons in 2015? Find out after the jump:
Green Bay Packers
As a wide receiver in Green Bay, it’s easy to fly under the radar, especially when you’re playing behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Last year, rookie receiver Davante Adams did just that, finishing the season with 38 receptions, 446 yards, and three touchdowns. The Fresno State product, who played high school football in the Bay Area, has drawn praise from the organization this offseason and looks to expand on a limited route tree that included mostly slants and streaks. Cobb is the team’s star, and Nelson is one of the league’s best receivers, but Adams has the perfect combination of size, elusive speed, and understanding of the game to thrive under Aaron Rodgers — what receiver wouldn’t?
The Lions love to pass the ball. If I were Matthew Stafford, I would too; targets like Calvin Johnson, the NFL’s best receiver, and Golden Tate, a dynamic slot/split hybrid, make the passing game a joy. Inside, Stafford has a number of tight ends to throw to, including Eric Ebron, Joseph Fauria, and Brandon Pettigrew. But who will step up and fill a crucial role behind those playmakers? Look no further than Ryan Broyles, a fourth-year receiver out of Oklahoma whose struggled through injuries in his young NFL career. According to reports, he looked excellent during minicamp, catching almost everything thrown his way and winning a good portion of his one-on-one matchups.
Kevin White was selected with the seventh-overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, but that doesn’t guarantee he’ll become the next Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, or Odell Beckham Jr. Per the Chicago Sun Times, White has struggled to adjust to the speed of the NFL, and his chemistry with quarterback Jay Cutler is still a work in progress. He’s rotated from the first-team offense to the second-team offense, and the game is “finally starting to slow down” as training camp approaches. Fans in Chicago shouldn’t worry — White will be a starter come September, and he’ll likely give Josh Robinson nightmares when the Bears come to town.