In the third of our series of articles focussing on the ‘Small School Sleepers’ in the lead up to the 2021 NFL Draft (only 74 days to go!) we’re going to take a look at the leading running back in the Mid-American Conference in both 2019 and 2020, Buffalo’s Jaret Patterson.

In a running back class where all the talk seems to be about 4 guys – Najee Harris, Travis Etienne and the two North Carolina backs Williams and Carter, Jaret Patterson might just be the purest downhill runner of them all. 

The MAC has given rise to some great NFL players in its time – Michael Turner, Randy Moss, Antonio Gates, and Ben Roethlisberger to name just a few – so you’d be foolish to write him off just because of the level of competition he’s come up against so far in his career. 

Stats definitely aren’t everything when it comes to how players will transition from college to the NFL, but just for fun let’s take a look at Patterson’s anyway. As a Sophmore in 2018 he put up 1,072 yards on 141 carries, in 2019 1,799 yards on 312 carries and in just 6 games in 2020 1,013 yards on 183 carries. 

Throw in 52 touchdowns across those three years, with 19 of those coming in that shortened 2020 season, and you start to get a sense as to what kind of runner Patterson is. 

He’s tough in between the tackles, has a good cut and hits the hole powerfully. He keeps his feet churning and always fights for that extra yard, and having a low centre of gravity and strong stature means he’s nearly always winning at the point of contact. 

The worry with physical runners is that, in fighting for those extra yards they can suffer with fumbling issues. Not so for Patterson who has only fumbled twice in the last two seasons (over 500 carries). 

At 5’9 and with less than 20 receptions over his 3 years at Buffalo, Patterson is not going to be a 3 down back – at least in the short term – in the NFL. But for a team looking for someone to pound the rock on 1st and 2nd down, picking up Patterson in the back half of the third or early in the fourth round would probably be a very good idea indeed. 

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