Back in March, the Jets confirmed the signing of former 49ers wide receiver Quinton Patton, who will compete for a role on a group of receivers that became a little more crowded over the weekend with the addition of a few receivers. One in particular, third round pick ArDarius Stewart, seems to bring similar things to the table as Patton, so we’re going to paying particular attention to how they compare. We broke down Stewart yesterday here.
The 26-year-old Patton is listed at 6-foot-0, 204 pounds, and was a former fourth round pick out of Louisiana Tech in 2013. He played his first four seasons with San Francisco and gradually worked his way up the depth chart, catching a career-best 37 passes in 2016.
Patton was a junior college transfer that exploded onto the scene with some big numbers in his two years at Louisiana Tech. After catching 79 passes for 1,202 yards and 11 scores in his junior year, Patton improved on those numbers as a senior with 104 receptions, 1,392 yards and 13 scores.
After being drafted in the fourth round, Patton played sparingly over his first two seasons with the 49ers, catching just eight passes. He had been injured throughout nearly all of his rookie year and was a healthy scratch for most of his second season. Nevertheless he had some exciting flashes including a couple of key plays that set up the winning score against the Cardinals in each season.
In 2015, he made the first four starts of his career and caught 30 passes and his first NFL touchdown. Entering 2016, he had 38 catches and 497 yards in three seasons but almost matched those career numbers by posting a career-high 37 catches for 408 yards. He had his first 100-yard receiving game in November with a six catch, 106-yard effort against the Saints. Despite those numbers, the 49ers let Patton become an unrestricted free agent on expiration of his rookie deal at the end of the season.
Let's move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Patton brings to the table, based on my research and film study.
Patton has good size and a decent build. His listed weight is the same as Stewart’s combine weight and just one inch taller.
Most of Patton’s combine workout numbers were about average, but he made improvements with a 4.48 40-yard dash and 37” vertical at his pro day. At the combine, Patton’s short shuttle – 4.01 – stood out, but his bench press (only 8 reps) was disappointing. He displays some good acceleration and quickness on film. Stewart, didn’t do a full workout due to a groin injury but posted 4.49 in the 40-yard dash and a 34” vertical leap.
With his size and agility, Patton is to be well-suited for a slot receiver role, but was primarily used on the outside when in San Francisco. He only had a handful of receptions from the slot over his first three years. However, in 2016, there were signs that they were starting to look for him more there and he had a catch rate of over 75%, averaging just under 10 yards per reception out of the slot.
In addition to being used as a conventional receiver, Patton also will feature in wildcat-type packages, running end arounds and jet sweeps. He has four carries for 50 yards in regular season action and also had a few receptions on plays where he ran underneath the formation and took a forward pitch from the quarterback. Again, this is something that Stewart has done extensively in college.
A bona fide deep threat in college, Patton has displayed some ability to do that at the pro level with the 49ers with some big downfield catches over the top, albeit only a couple each year. He beat Justin Bethel for this big catch:
Perhaps tellingly, there were also a few examples of Patton getting behind the defense only for the pass to be off-target. Again, this all sounds pretty similar to Stewart’s college film.
Patton’s blocking contributions are excellent. He doesn’t make many mistakes and works hard to get an angle on his man down the field, leading to a lot of plays where his block turned a good play into a much bigger gain. Here he does that to free up Frank Gore to get to the end zone. Note how he is smart enough to resist the temptation to block the defender in the back:
There was a similar example of him hustling to free up Anquan Boldin to break into the open field on a 63-yard play.
Here’s a good example of him crashing down onto a linebacker and opening up a big running lane off the edge:
Patton is also capable of making cut blocks in the screen game and driving smaller defenders out of the play downfield.
To compare his blocking with Stewart, it’s certainly a strength for both of them, although Patton is more disciplined, while Stewart shows more aggression.
Patton is a decent route runner, who is notably adept at breaking down sharply on hitch routes. He’s also shown to be adept at finding open spots in the defense or finding space once a play gets extended.
This study (link - http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000779682/article/tyreek-hill-leads-top10-no-3-receivers-in-separation ) identifies Patton as one of the best number three receivers in the NFL at creating separation. Given his modest numbers, this suggests that perhaps he would be capable of posting break-out numbers with better quarterback play – although I’m not sure he can expect the benefit from that this season based on the Jets’ current depth chart.
This may be one area where Patton is ahead of Stewart, who he is three years older than. As I mentioned within Stewart’s scouting report, it could be good for him to compete with Patton because he’ll be able to learn a lot from him.
Patton is regarded as having good hands and has displayed an ability to go up over a defender or hang on to the ball when hit by a defender. He adjusts really well to the ball well in the air and has good awareness when making catches over by the sideline.
Nevertheless, he has had some drops over the last couple of seasons. Here’s a particularly costly one that led to an interception:
On a brighter note, here’s a tough catch he made in a clutch situation at the end of his rookie season:
Again, while Stewart’s hands are not a cause for concern, Patton seems to have the edge on him in this area. Stewart needs to work on his focus and snatching the ball out of the air cleanly and keeping it protected. Perhaps this is again something he can pick up from the more experienced Patton.
Yards after the catch
Patton is good at turning upfield to gain extra yardage after making the catch and has shown that he can create yardage even on short passes and break tackles. Perhaps his most impressive moment came on this touchdown in his rookie preseason:
This is another area that Stewart performs well at. I’d give him the edge here, if only based on the sheer volume of yards after the catch he’s amassed over the past two seasons, accounting for over two-thirds of his yardage totals.
I didn’t see evidence of any blown assignments from Patton, although he did give up yardage trying to make something happen by reversing his field a few times. As already alluded to, his instincts as a blocker in space and in terms of getting open seem to be excellent.
Since new offensive coordinator John Morton was Patton’s position coach in San Francisco, the move obviously comes with a seal of approval. I’m sure that even if Morton wasn’t the man behind the move to get Patton, he could have talked the team out of it if he felt it was a bad fit from a scheme or character perspective. The fact he did not bodes well for Patton’s chances.
As noted, Patton can play outside but seems suited to a role in the slot and did increase his production out of the slot in 2016. With Jalin Marshall suspended for the first month, he has a chance to put a stamp on that role, along with bringing those same skills in terms of special packages that Marshall also brings to the table.
The addition of the two rookies perhaps makes that slightly less certain, but if either or both of the draft picks prove too raw to play initially, then they may effectively end up being stashed on the active roster and the Jets will carry a larger than usual number of receivers.
Patton has seen plenty of action on special teams, primarily as a blocker or covering kicks. He’s made a few tackles in coverage or as a gunner, but his best moment saw him block a punt and recover it in the end zone for a touchdown:
He’s also seen some action as a return man, although he averaged less than 20 yards per return on 10 regular season kick-offs with a longest of 35 yards. He was a bit more effective in limited preseason kick-off return work, averaging almost 25 yards with a long of 38.
He’s returned a few punts in college, but not since becoming a pro, and reportedly didn’t look entirely comfortable fielding punts anyway. I don’t really expect him to compete for that role, but it’s something he could be called upon to do if there’s an injury.
While he was at junior college, Patton was also a punter, averaging just under 40 yards. It’s unlikely, but I guess that’s something else he could do in an emergency.
On the whole, Patton brings more to the table from an experience perspective, but Stewart’s skill-set could allow him to make similar contributions if he puts in the effort.
Patton has a fiery on-field approach to the game. He gets extremely fired up when making a big play, to the point where he can arguably go a bit over the top. This was after a meaningless preseason touchdown and was seen by some fans as being a sign of immaturity:
He also has been somewhat penalty prone, with 11 flags in 40 appearances with the 49ers. That included two unsportsmanlike penalties and two unnecessary roughness penalties. One of the unsportsmanlike penalties saw him flagged and, later, fined for berating an official following a no-call.
Off the field he apparently has good character, as evidenced by his decision to donate a $300 bowl game gift card to make-a-wish children while still in college.
Another thing that drew some attention was his decision to fly out to San Francisco’s team premises shortly after he was drafted. The team was forced to turn him away because it was too early for him to report, but the coaching staff were pleased that it seemed to show how keen he was to get to work.
The maturity concerns could be one reason why Stewart would have the edge in a direct competition. The Jets’ draft class seems to have targeted a specific type of character and if Stewart fits the profile of the sort of person they’re hoping to build their nucleus with, then Patton’s roster hopes could be diminished.
Patton missed most of his rookie season with a broken foot, a problem that resurfaced last year when he re-broke it late in the season and ended up on injured reserve. Earlier in the season he’d also been dealing with foot pain and also had a concussion.
Patton’s film is impressive and he’s a dynamic player who is on the rise and perhaps has only just started to scratch the surface of his capabilities. He’s a potential deep threat, capable of doing damage out of the slot and after the catch and adds value with his efforts as a blocker. Unfortunately for Patton, that describes Stewart pretty accurately too.
Since there are concerns over his maturity and durability, it’s difficult to predict what he’ll bring to the table in 2017. Unless the Jets get rid of Eric Decker, the receiver position is pretty crowded now, so Patton could find himself in a battle with the likes of Charone Peake just to earn a roster spot, let alone significant reps.
However, as a cheap pick-up with potential high upside, this is a move that certainly bolsters the overall strength of the receiver group. That’s important because whoever takes the majority of the reps at the quarterback position will need as much help from this group as possible.
Prior to the draft, I would have said that this is another good risk/reward move that seems to fit right in with the current plans for this roster. However, now that the Jets have added two draft picks, and – reportedly – a couple of undrafted rookies into the mix, where does this leave Patton?
The fact Stewart and Patton bring similar things to the table suggests a player of that type will fit into their new offense, but is there room for both? With suggestions that Chad Hansen has plenty in common with Eric Decker, is it possible that the Jets became so snake-bitten by all the injuries last year that they’re ensuring they have two of everything? Are they bringing in younger versions of all their key pieces so that they have a pipeline in place to develop an effective next-man-up philosophy?
It certainly seems beneficial to have competition, and to have players who bring similar things to the table that will naturally look to improve any areas in which they are less proficient than their counterpart. With Patton only having signed a minimum-level deal, they’re only going to be on the hook for $25,000 if he doesn’t make the team and that’s looking a lot more likely after Stewart’s selection. Maybe they didn’t really upgrade the 2017 roster with that move, but it should pay off down the road.
It’s a shame, because after watching Patton’s film, I initially thought that this was one of the underrated moves of the offseason and one which would bolster the offense. Now it seems like there’s not much room for him to make the team unless they have a lot of injuries. The best case scenario now might be that he looks good enough in preseason to earn the Jets a late round pick via trade.
Up next: Our next scouting report on the offseason additions will be on cornerback Morris Claiborne, but we’ll be returning back to the draft class tomorrow to look at fourth round pick – and another receiver – Chad Hansen.