One of the sneakiest needs for the Washington Football Team heading into the 2021 offseason was a complementary running back. While Antonio Gibson has cemented himself as the starter and J.D. McKissic was sensational in a receiving role, catching 80 passes for 589 yards, they did not possess a volume running back after Gibson missed time late in the season with a turf toe. Peyton Barber was brilliant in short-yardage situations last season, but he posted a mere 2.7 yards per carry. Late season signing Lamar Miller did not receive a snap last season, but did return to the team on a one-year contract. Although Washington did not use a draft pick on a running back, Ron Rivera and Company did sign Jaret Patterson as an undrafted free agent.
The Buffalo product was projected to be a late-round pick, but did not hear his name called in the draft. After spending four seasons (including a redshirt season) under coach Lance Leipold and rushing for 3884 yards, Jaret Patterson could make an immediate impact for the Washington Football Team.
Jaret Patterson Could Make An Impact With the Washington Football Team
Short Yardage Situations
Without question, Jaret Patterson’s most vital skill at the NFL level is his physicality in the run game. Despite his 5-’6.5’’ frame, Patterson weighs 195 pounds, which makes him difficult to tackle in one-on-one situations and in the open field. Since 2019, Patterson forced 132 missed tackles. This was second among the 2021 draft class as he trailed Travis Etienne, who was a first-round draft pick. He was also tied for first in yards after contact per run in 2021, at 4.74. His physicality was a driving force to his incredible 2020 season, where he ran for 1072 in just six games, including a ridiculous 409-yard and eight touchdown performance against Kent State.
Most rushing missed tackles forced since 2019:
1. Travis Etienne, Clemson – 134
2. Jaret Patterson, Buffalo – 132
3. Javonte Williams, UNC – 131
4. Najee Harris, Bama – 128 pic.twitter.com/HsQHEh7OEl
— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 22, 2021
Jaret Patterson among draft eligible RB in 2020:
🌋 4.74 Yards After Contact/Run (t-1st)
🌀 47 Missed Tackles Forced (t-3rd) pic.twitter.com/i1vjknxmti
— PFF Washington (@PFF_Washington) May 1, 2021
While Barber impressed in short-yardage situations last season, Patterson also has shiftiness in his game that reduces the effectiveness of arm tackles. In the video below, not only does Patterson use patience to set up his blocks, but he makes a beautiful cut to juke out the defender.
Sheesh, vicious cut in a phone booth!! Jaret Patterson possesses some of the best footwork in the class!!
— Damian Parson 🏈 (@DP_NFL) November 20, 2020
These traits, strength, vision, and agility, could make Patterson a viable running back on third and short early in his career and potentially make Peyton Barber expendable in the running back room.
Making an Impact on Third Down
In addition to getting snaps on third and short situations, the Maryland native could also be an option on third down and intermediate or long situations. Last season, Scott Turner employed many two running back sets, mostly with Gibson and McKissic, on third downs. Patterson’s maturity in pass protection and solid hands could make him a Gibson “insurance policy” if an injury were to arise. After Gibson’s injury last season, Washington couldn’t split two running backs out wide due to the lack of depth. However, Patterson has shown decent hands at Buffalo, despite catching just 20 passes in his career. He also impressed teams at his pro day, where he addressed some of his pass-catching concerns. A few draft profiles even referred to Patterson as having “natural hands.”
While many running backs enter the league with “NFL ready” receiving skills, pass blocking is one of the most difficult aspects to learn at the pro level. But, Patterson also possesses a solid blocking foundation, which could earn the trust of Scott Turner in third-down situations. Former Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold applauded Patterson’s effort to improve in pass protection.
Work Ethic and Special Teams
Finally, the most important factor for an undrafted free agent is their work ethic and willingness to play special teams. Jaret Patterson checks both of these boxes. Leipold referred to Patterson as “the best practice player he has ever coached.” Other sources allude to Patterson’s work ethic as “legendary.”
Stemming from his work ethic, Patterson has been willing to play special teams, even when he was a star in college. According to Leipold, Patterson practiced kick coverage at practice after he ran for more than 300 yards against Bowling Green. This willingness and ability to play on special teams could propel Patterson to the fourth running back spot on the roster.
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