The wide receiver position is arguably the most difficult to draft. Go through a list from any year and you’ll find a high pick that’s failed to live up to his billing. The reason for this is largely because of two aspects of the game that players at positions also sometimes fail: mental and physical.
The mental side of the game ranges from executing the proper technique, whether it’s a “foot-fire” technique at the line of scrimmage or properly executing a cut (round or sharp) at the top of a route, to knowing which route to run based off of a cornerback and safeties leverage once identifying a specific defensive coverage. All of these are vital to having a long term career at the position as they combine to make a complete receiver.
Physically, it’s a different hurdle for wide receivers. In college, they saw a lot of soft coverage, thus were able to win matchups by creating additional separation from the already separated. Despite having great size and strength to go along with a fast 40-yard dash, they struggle in the NFL. The chances of a receiver, such as Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton, of having this issue is less likely because despite not having great size, strength and speed, he does have quick feet, freeze-frame body control and soft hands that often leaves me reminiscing about New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.
Patton is 6’2”, 195 lbs. and the starting senior receiver for Louisiana Tech. He does not possess all of the great qualities that a personnel man may look for in a wide receiver, but he has plenty to offer to the NFL even if it is as a early to mid-round selection. He has given fits to multiple defensive backs in the country, including two of its top players at the position in Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks and Illinois’ Terry Hawthorne. The former gave high praise for Patton following the game, which is transcribed and immediately recognizable when first linking to Patton’s university page:
"I feel like (Quinton Patton) from Louisiana Tech is the best receiver I've played against since I've been here. I've gone against some good ones in the SEC, too, but he's probably the most complete."
The latter didn’t comment after getting torched for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Patton ran circles around Hawthorne with crisp route running and highlight reel receptions, including two downfield that illustrated his impressive body control.
On the first, Patton lined up in the boundary (short side of the field) just past midfield where Hawthorne was giving little cushion, a meager yard and a half. It was 1st down and 10 yards to go and a prime opportunity to dial up a play action pass. Patton exploded with his left on his first step, lightly continued jogging to make it look as if he’s going to block the near safety then blew past him and Hawthorne (who was peeking in the backfield) as he executed a Post route across the field to make an immaculate diving reception. A proportional upper half gave him balance, full extension of arms and a catch followed.
At the tail end of the first quarter, Quinton Patton came up big again with another diving reception; this time down the right sideline. With a safety rotated over the top of Patton to deploy bracket coverage, Patton beat Hawthorne with four quick steps at the line of scrimmage before deciding to go forward once the Illini cornerback opened up the flood gates by opening his hips. Hand-fighting down the field, Patton ultimately separated from Hawthorne, dove forward and catching it outside of his frame with only his hands.
Possessing the body control to adjust to passes is vital in the NFL, especially when dealing with the ever-growing mobile quarterbacks. Mobile quarterbacks naturally throw more on the run due to schematic designs to utilize their strengths, thus throwing the ball from different platforms that make it come from various angles. Former Denver Broncos and current New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd noted this when discussing the difference between traditional drop-back and mobile passers.
“Running routes is easy, especially with a pure drop-back passer like [Kyle] Orton. But with Tim [Tebow] the ball is going to be coming from different spots and different angles. That takes getting used to,” Lloyd told Trotter.
While body control is essential, the most important aspect of receiving is creating separation. Although there have been questions if Patton can do this on a consistent basis, I believe he can do it because of his quick feet. He does not have to waste steps, or “motor down” as it’s called in scouting circles, when breaking off his route and can separate from defensive backs at the top of his route. One minor example of many plays came in week six against Texas A&M, a team he torched for 21 catches, 233 yards and four touchdowns, on a goal-to-go slant route that he ran for a touchdown reception.
The route showed Patton’s discipline and quick feet that enabled him to separate from the Aggies defensive back. Patton was given a cushion of roughly five yards and intelligently used it. At the snap, he got off of the line of scrimmage and attacked the cornerback with a vertical stem that saw his shoulders parallel to the goal-line, giving the cornerback no chance of knowing what route Patton was going to be running. Then with the defender appearing to be staring at Patton’s waist to identify which direction he’d be going in, Patton gave a quick, false-jab to his right to slide the corner over and suddenly snapped inside for the wide open touchdown. His quick movement created separation from the defensive back in a tight situation and he was rewarded with a touchdown.
The play depicted Patton’s quick feet that allow him to create separation from defensive backs and also gave foreshadowing to his potential after the catch, where he could ultimately be adept at picking up yards in chunks as he’s done at Louisiana Tech on developed pass routes and screen passes. Along with his quickness, Patton possesses great body control and soft hands that should enable him to make plays in the NFL. He will have to continue to hone his skills, particularly his technique, pad level and of course, the mental aspect of the game which all receivers will need time to learn.
With the wide receiver position lacking definition in terms of preferred height-weight-speed, it’s difficult to say which city he might play for but one thing’s for certain: he’ll have suitors.
All use of videos to take snapshots is done by DraftBreakdown.com.