EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- When the Minnesota Vikings traded Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks in March in exchange for three draft picks, they gave themselves both a significant hole on offense and the means to fill it. They went into the draft with 10 picks, and while they spent the first-rounder from Seattle on cornerback Xavier Rhodes, they were able to send four picks to the New England Patriots to move back into the first round and draft Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. His versatility immediately set him up for comparisons to Harvin.
Now, Patterson and Harvin appear to be on something of a collision course set for Sunday afternoon in Seattle. Harvin, who was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list last week, could play his first game for the Seahawks on Sunday. Patterson, meanwhile, might start at split end if the Vikings decide to discipline Jerome Simpson for his drunken-driving arrest over the weekend; the rookie caught his first touchdown pass last Thursday against Washington, and was starting to see a bigger role in the Vikings' offense anyway.
Patterson had little interest in the Harvin comparisons when asked about them on Wednesday. "I'm me. I can’t be nobody else. Why would I want to be Percy Harvin? I’m trying to set my own standard," he said. Those parallels, however, will likely be drawn as long as both players are relevant.
The Vikings took a major chance in parting with Harvin, who was in the middle of a MVP-caliber season before he sprained his ankle in Seattle last year. But at least on kick returns, they appear to have recouped what they gave up when they traded him. Patterson has two returns for touchdowns this season, and has been so effective that teams have stopped kicking off to him.
But Patterson's growth as a receiver has been harder to chart. Coach Leslie Frazier has said the Vikings have brought Patterson along as fast as they could have, even though he has the 10th-most reception among rookie receivers and the Vikings have been reluctant to use him on bubble screens like they did with Harvin. Considering how good Patterson is at hitting holes, those plays would seem like a simple, effective way to get him the ball and let him do damage, but the Vikings haven't tried them so far.
"Run after the catch shows up with Cordarrelle," Frazier said. "Jerome's been having a terrific season for us, made some tough catches, run very good routes. But the one thing that sticks out with Cordarrelle and you see it on kickoff returns, his ability with the ball in his hands. He's a hard guy to tackle, can make people miss and can run away from you. Those are playmaking qualities that you look for in a player, and in this case a receiver. So, that's the one thing that sticks out."
If the Vikings use Sunday's game as a way to discipline Simpson, they'll also be going away from their leading receiver against the league's second-best pass defense. That could create a natural opportunity for Patterson -- and against the Seahawks and Harvin, a chance for him to shine.
"I can't be him. I can only be myself," Patterson said. "Percy Harvin, he's a great player, but he's not here anymore. We can't worry about what Percy did here. We've just got to go on and build something new."