Oregon has had an impressive run of safeties in recent years including Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward. The latest is Avery Patterson, their converted cornerback who has been their starting free safety most of the past two seasons. Patterson has given them an extremely athletic option that can fly around the field, help in a number of different spots and play in different roles depending on the situation. While he has largely played man coverage, he also has played in zone for the Ducks and been an aggressive run defender, giving them a little bit of everything over the course of his career.
Projecting to the NFL, Patterson is a great athlete and versatile option that has a good amount of upside in part because he is still not a finished product. When he knows where he is going and has a bead on the play, he can be outstanding with tremendous range and the ability to make big plays against the run. The biggest issue that hurts Patterson and also makes him play slower than he should is his angles, whether against the run or the pass. Too often, he is wrong on his aiming point and has to make dramatic changes in direction which not only make him look slow, but also cause him to miss too many plays. Patterson is an intriguing prospect that should go on day three of the draft and could be a valuable contributor as a sub package player and on special teams with the potential to be a starter over the long term.
Vitals & Build
Patterson is listed at 5’10” 189lbs with a lean build. His acceleration and speed are impressive and he should test well in those areas. His quickness and ability to change direction is not quite as impressive, but still far above average. Patterson shows good functional strength and power but certainly has the frame to continue adding strength and muscle depending on where the NFL team who picks him ultimately wants to put him.
Patterson has shown he can be a terrific tackler when he trusts his technique. He does a good job of using his arms as a wrap up tackler for the most part and gets good pad level. There are times when he will drop his arms and try to shoulder bomb opponents but they are not terribly common.
The issue that shows up most for Patterson is that he consistently leaves his feet to make tackles. He is smart about when he leaves his feet, but launching has its share of risks, so he would be better suited to keep his feet and drive through contact. If he adds strength, he might feel more confident in doing it, but it needs to happen.
Patterson has shown he can be a powerful tackler and has made his fair share of impact hits in his time at Oregon. He is a good tackler for a safety, which makes him a great one if a team sees him as a corner.
Patterson is a willing and extremely aggressive run defender. When he reads run, he comes downhill with a ton of speed looking to make an impact. His angles ultimately determine how successful he is and when he is right, he can get to the play as quickly as anyone. Patterson is especially dangerous when opponents try to go wide to his side.
Too many times, he gets caught taking a bad angle and he ends up playing catch up, looking slower and out of position at times. Some of this should improve with continued reps and experience but this is really an area he needs to put a lot of effort into improving.
Patterson is not afraid to take on and fight through blocks on the edge, but like anyone else, this is an area he can continue to work to improve. He works hard and makes wide receivers put in their full effort if they want to be able to stop him from making a play.
Patterson has shown he is not afraid to take on anyone and does not hesitate when the play is in front of him. He has shown he can make tacklers on bigger runners and has the range to chase down plays.
He has shown he can attack from the back end as a safety, picking up a ton of speed and momentum coming downhill, but he might be more dangerous when he is up in the box, because he is closer to the play. If he can improve his angles on a regular basis, he can be a consistent and impactful run defender.
Patterson has been used in a number of different roles within the Ducks defense. He has been used to cover in man, as a slot corner and as a center fielding type of roving safety.
Patterson appears to be most comfortable playing in man coverage, given his experience as a former corner. He needs to keep working on how well he mirrors routes and his lack of size can cause him to be bodied out by opponents.
Just like with his run defense, his angles in coverage can cause him problems. When he has a good read on the play, his speed and range are impressive and he has the strength and aggressiveness to fight for the football. When he makes a misstep or is coming down to help in coverage from a back end spot, he will get caught in a bad spot and is spending the rest of the play trying to make up for the mistake.
Patterson has maybe the least amount of experience as a deep safety, but his range is a real weapon there. His straight line speed is impressive so when he sees it and he has the right angle, he can close ground in a hurry. Where Patterson can get hurt is in his ability to read and diagnose where opposing receivers are attacking him. As a result, he can hesitate or make a misstep and be behind on the play.
Patterson has shown that when he is right, he can track down the football and come up with interceptions. The more he can work on getting comfortable and right with his reads, he can continue to improve and become more dangerous.
Patterson is good when it comes to mitigating the amount of damage a player will get after the catch because he is a confident tackler and he is someone who can dislodge the football when a receiver tries to secure the catch.
Patterson is natural with his hands and makes it look pretty easy when he has the ability to catch the ball. The interceptions Patterson has made have been by himself though, so it remains to be seen how he can go up and compete for the football and make a play on it through contact.
Nevertheless, when Patterson has had his chance, he catches the ball easily and does not overthink it or get impacted by the bright lights or the big stage. He is dangerous after he gets the interception because of his speed but he is almost too comfortable with the ball in his hands, occasionally taking the scenic route as a ball carrier.
Patterson should definitely be attractive when it comes to special teams in the NFL. His athleticism, strength and hardnosed mentality should land him on every special team except field goal.
When it comes to Patterson, it really depends on where teams like him best and it could be different depending on the team. Patterson has shown he has the athleticism to play corner but the strength and power to contribute as a safety.
Initially, Patterson projects as a sub package player and could be a nice addition as a nickel and dime player. After that, where Patterson goes will depend on where teams would like to project him as they develop him. Safety might be his best option, but he has not really found a clear home yet in terms of a position. He does appear to have the potential to become a starter if he can continue to refine his game.
Patterson might be somewhat similar to Don Jones of the Miami Dolphins. Jones came into the league as a safety from Arkansas State but could be used as both a safety and a corner. Drafted largely on athletic potential initially, Jones has been able to play well for the Dolphins with further development. That might be the type of situation that develops for Patterson.
Avery Patterson is an extremely athletic but still slightly raw player. He has demonstrated the ability to be an impact run defender and someone who can help in coverage, but it is not clear which position he would ultimately play at the next level. Angles are the biggest issue that Patterson needs to improve, both for the pass and the run. He has the potential to develop into a starter at the next level but likely starts his career as a sub package contributor and plays on every special team possible. As a result, Patterson projects as a day three pick that has a good amount of upside at the next level.
Some of the film used for this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com