Cordarrelle Patterson had a breakout offensive season in his ninth NFL season. That, well, doesn't happen often. Or, ever, really.
But a career receiver known best as a return man became a real threat working out of the backfield as a runner and receiver.
Even Patterson admits he didn't know a year like 2021 was in the making during the preseason.
"I just have to thank coaches for giving me a chance," Patterson said in his year-end press conference. "I didn't play in the preseason, and I didn't really think much in camp about this season being special. They trusted me to go out and make plays, and I really appreciated that."
Let's take a closer look at Patterson's season and the state of the running backs in this edition of Falcons Breakdown:
Primary 2021 production:
Cordarrelle Patterson: 153 carries, 618 yards, 4.0 ypc, 6 TDs; 52 receptions, 548 yards 10.5 ypr, 5 TDs
Mike Davis: 138 carries, 503 yards, 3.6 ypc, 1 TD; 44 receptions, 259 yards, 5.9 ypr, 1 TD
Qadree Ollison: 21 carries, 105 yards, 5.0 ypc, 1 TD; 4 receptions, 12 yards, 3.0 ypr, 0 TDs
Keith Smith: 9 carries, 31 yards, 1.0 ypc, 0 TDs; 9 receptions, 56 yards, 6.2 ypr, 1 TDs
Who stays: Cordarrelle Patterson, Qadree Ollison, FB Keith Smith
On the chopping block: Mike Davis
Biggest offseason question: Can the Falcons find a way to keep Cordarrelle Patterson? That'll be an offseason focus as you can see from my roster projection above, I think the Falcons will keep him because: A. The fit is so natural, and benefits both parties. And, B. The market for an older skill player, even one without tons of tread on the tires, is never sky high. He'll have suitors, but I ultimately think a pact is reached. It's clear from his cleat designs that Patterson wants to stay in Atlanta.
Mike Davis has another year left on his deal, but the dead money associated with his release is pretty small, per overthecap.com. They could walk away from Davis and add a drafted runner of the future. They could also keep him, which is why there are no bold prediction with Davis. I think his future with the team could go either way. Davis would like to run it back, especially after what he considered a disappointing first season repping his hometown team.
Ollison’s an exclusive rights free agent and should be back to compete for carries.
The Falcons definitely need more from their run game, the offensive front and ball carriers included. Adding some new talent in here could help achieve that effort. After running primarily with veterans, adding more youth to the mix may benefit the Falcons.