Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson had the ever-popular age-30 breakout two years ago. He followed that up with a rather disappointing season. With even more competition in this backfield, is there any hope for a rebound? What is Patterson’s fantasy football outlook for the 2023 season?
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Cordarrelle Patterson’s Fantasy Outlook
I remember way back in 2014 when Patterson was the next big thing. He had a third-round ADP despite averaging just 9.4 PPR fantasy points per game as a rookie and failing to reach 500 receiving yards. Unsurprisingly, he was one of the biggest busts of the season, averaging 5.8 ppg.
Patterson spent the next seven years establishing himself as the greatest kick returner of all time. What he did not do was anything to suggest he would ever matter in any role other than kick returner.
Then, in 2021, Patterson was suddenly this unique RB/WR hybrid who ran for 618 yards, had 548 receiving yards, and scored 11 touchdowns en route to a 14.7 ppg finish.
Heading into the 2022 season, there was naturally some healthy skepticism about whether a 30-year-old coming off a ninth-year breakout would be able to sustain anything. In Patterson’s defense, he kind of did.
Patterson averaged 11.9 ppg last season. While it was obviously a step back, which was to be expected, he was still a useful fantasy asset over the course of the season.
The primary difference between 2021 and 2022 was Patterson’s receiving usage. In 2021, he was used as both a running back and a wide receiver. In 2022, with the addition of Drake London to the team, Patterson was exclusively used as a running back.
Patterson saw a heavier workload on the ground, but his target share plummeted from 13.3% to 9.7%. 1.2 fewer receptions per game explains the 2.8 ppg drop.
The addition of London added a talented player who commands touches ahead of Patterson, contributing to Patterson’s decline in fantasy value. This year, the Falcons did it again, spending a first-round pick on Bijan Robinson. This is on top of 2021 fifth-round rookie Tyler Allgeier having taken over the lead-back role by the end of last season.
Patterson enters the 2023 season as the RB3 on the depth chart, with at least four players who will command volume ahead of him. It presents a challenge for the 32-year-old to avoid fading into complete fantasy obscurity.
Should Fantasy Managers Draft Patterson at His ADP?
With Robinson as a true three-down back and Allgeier a very capable backup, the Falcons don’t have much need for Patterson at running back. I surmise they may utilize him more as a receiver this year.
Behind London and Kyle Pitts, the Falcons don’t really have any true third option in the passing game. They did sign Mack Hollins, who was solid in Las Vegas last season, coming off the best year of his career. However, Hollins has no track record of success besides — if you want to call it a success — 2022.
While the Falcons don’t exactly throw enough to support more than two fantasy-relevant pass catchers, knowing Patterson’s role on the offense is key to figuring out what his fantasy upside is in the event a key player gets hurt.
Last season, the Falcons ran the ball 54% of the time. While they can’t possibly throw less this season, this still projects to be a very run-heavy team.
Patterson’s ADP sits at RB55, No. 181 overall. That is well outside the 156-168 players typically selected in standard-sized 12-team leagues (excluding kickers and defenses). I have Patterson ranked as my RB69, which is pretty far behind consensus.
My projections have Patterson carrying the ball just 43 times for 185 yards and one touchdown while grabbing 20 receptions for 119 yards and another score. That came out to 3.7 ppg. It goes without saying that I don’t think there’s much value in drafting Patterson this season.
However, we do know Patterson is capable of producing at a high enough level if the usage is there. Don’t draft him, but keep an eye on him. If he ends up as the team’s WR2 ahead of Hollins, he is going to be significantly better than where I’ve projected him and could be of use in deeper leagues. And if someone gets hurt, Patterson is a do-it-all backup who could help plug a hole at either running back or wide receiver.
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