(Photo Courtesy of Westside Shooter) Quinton Patton won't be running routes in front of the Red-and-Blue of LA Tech anymore.

(Photo Courtesy of Westside Shooter)
Quinton Patton won’t be running routes in front of the Red-and-Blue of LA Tech anymore.

by Mikey Hlebasko

Coming into the Draft, Quinton Patton was ranked as the #58 overall prospect by ESPN, and was picked by with the 128 th overall selection by the San Francisco 49ers. Still, the selection received nothing more than muted praise from any draft pundits. Now that Patton had a minor breakout in the third preseason game of the year for the 49ers (4 catches, 35 yards and a touchdown), there has been talk that he could be a major piece for a team desperately in need of pass catching options in the absence of Michael Crabtree. Will he be a legitimate weapon for the 49ers this season, or is just that very desperation leading to fans reaching at straws looking for a difference maker? I believe it is the former, and that the 49ers have a major steal on their hands.

The discussion of draft picks tends to obsess over the nebulous concept of “upside.” What a player is going to be, or what a player could be if he maximized all of his physical abilities. What San Francisco has in Quinton Patton is a player who has already maximized his relatively modest physical abilities and turned himself into an NFL Wide Receiver. Patton has decent size for his position at 6’0’ and average speed with a 40-yard dash of 4.49. It is this lack of breakaway speed that dominates most of the scouting reports you can find on Patton from the lead-up to the 2013 NFL Draft. This deficiency seemed to blind evaluators to the rest of Patton’s game: he is a polished route-runner and reliable pass-catcher who only makes drops in heavy traffic. For lack of a more nuanced description, the guy is a football player . The sort who finds a way to make plays and contribute (he punted while playing in junior college and also returned kicks at Louisiana Tech).

Here is Colin Kaepernick echoing these sentiments in comments after the Minnesota game, “ “He is a great player. He is someone who just knows football. He knows how to get open. He knows how to make plays. I am looking forward to seeing what he can do for us.” First-round picks need to be spent on guys with star potential, any pick after that in the draft that nets a legitimate NFL player is a good one. Quinton Patton was the #1 option in a pass-happy attack at Louisiana Tech and performed spectacularly, but he will never have to be that #1 option for San Francisco. He will be matched up against second and third corners and have the opportunity to use his savvy and reliable hands to run crisp short and medium routes and help the 49ers move the chains and set up their superstars to make big plays.

The only substantive knock of Patton seems to be the aforementioned lack of top-end speed, but here are some numbers to consider: 4.65, 4.58, 4.49, 4.46. Those are the combine 40 yard dashes of Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, Victor Cruz, and Randall Cobb, considered 4 of the very best slot receivers in the NFL. Quinton Patton has the tools to be a major contributor out of the slot for the 49ers right now, and makes the team’s wide receiver situation feel much more comfortable.

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