It didn’t take Randy Moss long to become a legend in Vikings country 15 years ago. By midseason of his rookie year in 1998, after a Monday Night Football performance that humbled the Green Bay Packers and a Thanksgiving Day game that embarrassed the Dallas Cowboys on national television, Moss’ stature as one of the best receivers in the game expanded nationally within a matter of months around the NFL landscape.
Since they traded him in 2005, the Minnesota Vikings have struggled to replace him. Moss now has 982 catches, 15,292 receiving yards and 156 touchdown catches in the NFL.
The Vikings’ attempts to replace his production haven’t gone as well. First there was Troy Williamson, chosen No. 7 overall to replace Moss – with the pick the Vikings received from the Oakland Raiders when they traded Moss – but he quickly went bust in Minnesota. He lasted only three seasons. Then came the free-agent acquisition of Bernard Berrian, another veteran bust at receiver.
There have been others in between, but Cordarrelle Patterson, the electric receiver the Vikings drafted with the last of three first-round draft picks on Thursday, isn’t shying away from his affection for Moss.
Patterson stepped to the podium at his introductory press conference in Minnesota Friday and proudly sported a No. 84 jersey, the same number Moss turned into a best seller among the fan base in Minnesota.
“Randy Moss was my role model growing up since I was little,” Patterson said. “I wore 84 in high school, and I was purple and gold. So, I looked up to Randy Moss the whole time. I got a chance to practice on the field he practiced on and play in the game he played in.”
As dangerous as they are to make, there are similarities between Moss and Patterson. They have similar height – Moss was 6-foot-4, Patterson 6-foot-3. They both have game-breaking speed, running in the 4.3-second range on 40-yard dashes. And both will go up to pluck the ball out of the air at its high point.
That’s why the Vikings became the first team since 2001 to make three first-round picks, trading away second-, third-, fourth- and seventh-round draft picks to the New England Patriots to obtain the 29th overall selection after already drafted defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (23rd overall) and cornerback Xavier Rhodes (25th overall). The Vikings were already armed with an extra first-round pick after they traded away another moody receiver, Percy Harvin, before the start of free agency.
Although Patterson admits he’s raw and has a lot to learn about route-running, an under-appreciated skill of Moss, he offers other elements Moss didn’t have. Patterson is quicker to change direction and returns kickoffs and punts and will take carries out of the backfield.
But if speed kills, Patterson possess it, just like Moss did 15 years ago when he was the 21st overall selection of the Vikings.
“He was so fast,” Patterson said. “When he got that ball in his hand, the cornerbacks would say he didn’t want to get touched. Receivers don’t like to get touched. So, Randy Moss getting the ball in his hand, he’s just going. He’s just getting to the end zone.”
Moss made it seven seasons in Minnesota before the Vikings grew tired of his attitude and traded him away to the Oakland Raiders in 2005. He returned for a short stint in 2010, but was released after only four games when then-coach Brad Childress also became fed up with him.
The Vikings will have Patterson’s rights for five years once he signs his rookie contract. The desire is that he makes it longer than Moss and certainly sticks in Minnesota longer and with more production than Williamson, Berrian, Harvin or others in between.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.