Sure, it doesn't always translate to the regular season (just ask the 49ers' two-time preseason-powerhouse running back Thomas Clayton), but Quinton Patton's stellar output this offseason gives San Francisco some much-needed optimism at a wide receiver group that sorely needs it.
The excitement surrounding Patton started the moment he was drafted. Hailed as a steal in the fourth round, the young wide receiver out of Louisiana Tech was so fired up to begin his professional career that he took money out of his own pocket to book a flight out to the Bay Area immediately after being selected by the 49ers. In that singular moment, it seemed clear that the young receiver would quickly endear himself to head coach Jim Harbaugh-a man who abides by a family-instilled mantra to "attack the day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind." Attack with enthusiasm he did.
Upon arrival, Patton suffered an unfortunate finger injury that prevented him from catching passes in training camp. Despite the setback, he was still able to develop his route running, playbook knowledge, and separation skills. Since the finger healed, Patton has put the coaching staff and fans on notice that he's for real. In limited action during the past two preseason games, he's scored two touchdowns and displayed a knack for making plays when the ball is in his hands.
As Niners Nation detailed in its scouting report of Patton back in April, many had the wideout graded as a second round selection. He was viewed as a guy likely to develop into a solid number two wide receiver. In the report, SB Nation's Dan Kadar noted good route-running skills and an ability to make sudden moves. Those accolades have rung true in his time on the field thus far. In fact, the quick moves to evade defenders after the catch are not so unlike Michael Crabtree-the fallen receiver San Francisco is desperately trying to compensate for.
Is Patton the biggest guy? Standing at 6'0, 204 pounds, certainly not. Is he the fastest guy? His 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash, while not shabby, isn't necessarily blazing speed. But that's why they play the game.
A wide receiver the 49ers selected in 1985 didn't have the greatest speed or the biggest frame and he went on to become the best the game has ever seen. Before the torches and pitchforks come out, I'm not suggesting Patton is the next Jerry Rice-nobody will ever be. I'm merely reinforcing the idea that measureables are only a fraction of the equation. The rest of it comes down to drive, determination, intelligence, and the ever important, albeit indefinable, "it" factor. These are the categories in which Patton appears poised to excel.
Thus far, Kyle Williams is penciled in as the de facto number two WR but don't be surprised if Quinton Patton leapfrogs him at some point. Williams is much more of a slot receiver and Patton has the makings of a great number two alongside Anquan Boldin. Even if Patton remains in the number three slot, he's going to see the field and he's going to make some much-needed noise for the Niners. With a lack of film to study at the pro-level, look for Roman and Harbaugh to leverage that advantage and get the rookie receiver into the mix often against Green Bay.
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