It surprised many people when Washington didn’t draft a running back this past weekend, but according to reports, they’ve signed an explosive undersized running back who some compare to Maurice Jones-Drew.
WFT roster needs
The Washington Football Team had an experienced but relatively thin running back room going into the draft on April 29th. They emerged from the draft with exactly the same group of runners that they had going in.
True, the team returns all three starters from last year’s roster – 2020 rookie surprise Antonio Gibson from Memphis, and two veterans, JD McKissic and Peyton Barber – along with veteran Lamar Miller, but Miller has only taken 5 NFL snaps in the past two seasons. It became apparent when Antonio Gibson was injured for a few games last season, that the Football Team didn’t have the talented running back they needed to keep the offense functioning in his absence.
There was some hope that 2019 4th round draft pick Bryce Love would be healthy enough to fill that role, but the team released him before the draft when it became obvious that he simply wasn’t recovering from the ACL tear suffered in his final college game that had kept him on the NFI, PUP or IR lists for the past two seasons.
After the draft, it was reported that the Washington Football Team was planning to sign University of Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson to the team.
Patterson is an exciting back who almost didn’t get to play college ball because of his small size. John Warow reported Patterson’s 2017 struggles coming out of high school:
Jaret Patterson was nearly inconsolable upon learning how difficult it was going to be landing a football scholarship despite a decorated high school career.
Turned down outright during a visit to Eastern Michigan, the undersized running back left his traveling party to hole up in one of the school’s bathrooms where he broke down and cried.
“We had like four people walking around Eastern Michigan’s football house looking for him, and James found him,” Justin Winters recalled, referring to Patterson’s twin brother, who was offered a scholarship.
“Literal tears. He didn’t understand why he was the one who was getting slept on,” said Winters, who was an assistant coach at Maryland’s St. Vincent Pallotti, where the Patterson played. “So we went in there and we talked. I told him to wipe his tears, `Don’t let nobody see you cry.’”
In the end, Patterson got to play college ball at the University of Buffalo, the only school to offer him a scholarship. He promptly rewarded them by spending the ’18, ’19, and ’20 seasons stuffing the stat sheet.
Patterson’s best full season came in 2019, when he put up almost 1,800 yards rushing, over 200 yards receiving, and scored 20 touchdowns!
What looks like regression in 2020 at a glance, is really just limited overall stats due to playing in just 6 games in the COVID shortened season. The amazing thing is that in just six games, he rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 19 touchdowns! Incredible.
In a single game against Kent State last year, he had 36 carries for 409 yards and 8 touchdowns, just 18 yards short of the all-time college single-game rushing recored held by former Washington Redskins running back, Samaje Perine.
Small School Diamond
It’s true that Patterson’s production came against second-tier competition, but the diminutive running back (5’9”, 195 lbs) is one of the most exciting prospects to ever come out of the University of Buffalo – nobody has ever done what he has, and the history of the MAC producing diamonds in the rough is long established. Some great players to come out of the MAC include Khalil Mack, Randy Moss, Ben Roethlisberger, Kareem Hunt, Antonio Brown, Julian Edelman, Corey Davis, Kenny Golladay, T.J. Lang, James Starks and Greg Jennings.
One of the reasons why Patterson stands out and is considered an NFL talent is that he always looking to credit others for success and improve his own game. After watching his own game tape, he said, “You always think it was a perfect game, but it really wasn’t. I missed a few runs,” he said. “It’s never being satisfied with your performance. That’s how I can top it.”
One of his high school coaches told a story about Patterson’s first year in high school, saying that he told Patterson to do 100 pushups, 100 sit ups and 100 squats every day, and to increase the workload by 100 every two weeks. By the end of his freshman year of high school, reported the coach, Patterson was doing about 800 per day.
A native of Glen Dale, Maryland, Patterson will have at least one old friend and teammate ready to greet him when he joins the Washington Football Team: Chase Young.
Chase Young connection
While many people think of Chase Young as a DeMatha high school player, he actually began his high school career at St. Vincent Pallotti high school in Laurel, Maryland, where he was teammates with Patterson.
Washington fans won’t want to be reminded that Young was a misguided Philadelphia Eagles fan at the time.
When Patterson first met Young, he said he was always on “joke time” and an extremely goofy person. He was also a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan, and not a casual one at that. He loved Michael Vick and Patterson remembers Young used to obnoxiously say, “Fly, Eagles, Fly,” whenever the Eagles won, and he had a room painted in the team’s colors that was full of Eagles apparel. Ian Thomas, Young’s defensive coordinator at Pallotti and his manager, let out a big laugh recalling that.
What to expect from Patterson as a Wasthington Football Teamer
What can Washington fans expect from Jaret Patterson? Personally, my mind goes immediately to the former Eagles star, Darren Sproles, who was even smaller, at just 5’6”, but who was about the same weight. Others have compared him to former Jacksonville Jaguars star, Maurice Jones-Drew. Consider this pre-draft profile written by Lee Hunter:
Listed at 5-9, 195 makes it very easy to stereotype [Jaret Patterson] as a third down back at the NFL level however, Patterson has shown he has much more to his game.
He has just enough burst having been timed in the 4.50s for the 40-yard dash, and he is very effective running between the tackles and in tight-spaces inside. He has a low Center of gravity which gives him superb contact balance and agility. His stocky frame means he regularly breaks first contact and finds ways to maneuver through the levels of a defense. He can seriously navigate and isn’t shy on lowering the shoulder and taking contact.
As well as shiftiness inside, the best part of Patterson’s game is his patience and vision from behind the line. He will hesitate and process the defense before cutting into a lane or finding the outside. When he does break free he excels in space and is liable to break through the secondary to make a big-play. His legs are extremely active which when combined with his contact balance, really help him create extra yardage and keep moving forward. His ball-security is a major strength - despite concerns about his running style - he keeps the ball high and tight to his frame.
Without making daring comparisons and bold statements: his game definitely shares some similarities with Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew & Devin Singletary (who was another ‘weaker conference’ stats monster). He has also shown he is well-rounded enough to engage in pass-protection, blocking and contribute catching passes from the backfield.
Interestingly, Pro Football Focus listed Patterson’s closest comparison as being the player whose roster spot he was just signed to fill: Bryce Love.
Of course, the monstrous production that Patterson amassed in his 32 college games won’t be repeated in the NFL, but Patterson seems to be just what the Washington Football Team needs – an explosive, powerful back who can round out the running back room and help keep the offense on-track if an injury occurs.
One thing is for sure, when this Maryland native walks into the locker room for the first time and sees Chase Young, he’ll feel right at home.