Devin Hester is the best return man of all time. I don’t suppose that’s a really controversial opinion. Sure, some folks may disagree, however basically, I think about most individuals will both agree or perceive how I might suppose he’s. Hester was named to each the NFL Hall of Fame’s All-2000’s and 2010’s groups as a return specialist. He is the all-time NFL chief in punt return touchdowns (14) and the all-time chief in mixed return touchdowns with 19.
While Devin Hester is way from a surefire Hall of Famer, you’d be arduous pressed to undergo a small group of NFL followers with out bumping into someone who thinks Hester deserves a spot in Canton. Hester was by no means an important receiver, though he did report 757 yards and three touchdowns in 2009. His worth to each staff he ever performed on lied virtually solely on his talent as a return specialist, and nonetheless his Hall of Fame credibility isn’t put into query.
I’m not saying that I query it, or that it needs to be put into query both. Hester was a demon as a returner. He struck worry into opposing particular groups coaches as a result of they knew that in the event that they didn’t put together for Hester, he’d get them fired. He didn’t even must discipline a punt or kick with a view to be harmful. His faux punt return in opposition to the Packers remains to be one in every of my favourite NFL moments of all-time and Hester didn’t even do something. I’m saying, nonetheless, that if Devin Hester goes to get into Canton, or at the very least, be nominated for enshrinement, we’d need to begin placing some respect on Cordarrelle Patterson’s title.
A former first-round pick of Tennessee, Patterson by no means lived as much as his expectations as a receiver for the Vikings. Although, he did discover a place in the NFL as a kick returner. Patterson led the NFL in kickoff return touchdowns his rookie season. He’s led the league, or been tied for the league lead, in the similar class 5 instances since. He’s led the league in kickoff return yards twice and has reached over 1000 kickoff return yards for the season thrice. He’s eleventh all-time in profession kickoff return yards, yet has tried 39 fewer kickoff returns than the subsequent fewest in the top-ten (tenth place: Leon Washington). To make an extended story quick, Patterson has been one in every of the greatest return males of this period, and was named alongside Hester to the NFL Hall of Fame All-2010’s staff as a kick returner.
Patterson by no means bought into punt returning, and to be truthful, that’s the place Hester really shined as a specialist, however Patterson has been a significantly better kick returner than Hester ever was. In 295 profession kick returns, Hester accrued 7333 yards and 5 touchdowns. Patterson has amassed 7450 return yards and eight touchdowns 253 profession kick returns. He’s executed extra with much less and his profession isn’t over yet.
Obviously, Hester added a ton of worth as a punt returner too. Patterson has only one profession punt return. However, not like Hester, Patterson has added first rate worth on offense as effectively. While he was by no means an unbelievable vast receiver, he nonetheless generated worth as a rusher. When used as a gadget kind participant, Patterson was extremely environment friendly, averaging 6.1 yards per carry earlier than changing into full-time halfback for the Falcons in 2021. Is it any surprise that he grew to become a way more efficient participant when he made the transition to the backfield, then?
This profession rejuvenation for Patterson could possibly be the final push he must get critical Canton discuss. At 30 years previous, Patterson’s greatest years are most likely behind him, however he’s seemingly bought some juice left in the tank. After all, Hester performed till he was 34. Despite the 4 yr age distinction, Hester collected 14,455 profession all-purpose yards in comparison with 11,339 for Patterson. Patterson has additionally reached the finish zone 33 instances altogether. Hester, simply 37 instances. In 4 years, and given how effectively he’s been utilized in Arthur Smith’s offense in Atlanta, there’s a critical likelihood that Patterson might surpass Hester in each all-purpose yards and touchdowns. Currently, Patterson has 753 touches for his profession, giving him 15.06 all-purpose yards per contact. Hester recorded 901 profession touches, placing him at simply 16.04. Hester recorded only one further all-purpose yard per contact than Patterson regardless of Patterson having a a lot heavier run workload throughout his time in the NFL.
The NFL started incorporating kickoff rule adjustments in 2011, two years earlier than Patterson was drafted. Since 2011, NFL kickoff return charges (i.e.: kickoffs which are really taken out by the returner) have dropped 62 %. In an period the place kickoff returns are simply not seen as extremely as they as soon as have been, Patterson has nonetheless managed to carve out a job as a premiere return man. He’s earned 4 Pro Bowl nods and acquired All-Pro recognition 4 instances (the solely returner to ever amass 4 All-Pro honors) for his talent as a returner. To put that in perspective, Hester, who performed in a a lot happier time for return males, additionally acquired Pro Bowl honors 4 instances however was named an All-Pro simply thrice. Furthermore, Patterson is the solely lively participant to have been named to a couple of All-Pro staff as a returner, kickoff or punt.
Patterson might not be as well-known as Hester was in his prime, and if title recognition has any say in NFL Hall of Fame credibility, Patterson seemingly doesn’t stand an opportunity. I doubt that’s the case, nonetheless, seeing as how quite a few offensive linemen, who informal followers would seemingly wrestle to place a face to, are named Hall of Fame finalists yearly. He could not have the sheer variety of return yards as Hester does, however Patterson has managed to discover a stability between effectiveness on offense and effectiveness on particular groups, which is one thing Hester might by no means fairly do.
I like Hester. If I had a vote, I might seemingly put a verify subsequent to his title on my Hall of Fame poll. With all this respect we’ve given Hester for his capacity to return punts and kicks although, Patterson has seemingly been disrespected and neglected a lot so to the level the place referring to him as only a strong soccer participant, previous to 2021, drew many questionable glares. Given the present state NFL kickoffs discover themselves in, it’s a marvel what Patterson has been capable of do in his profession. All I’m asking is we begin giving related props to Patterson that we’ve all been giving to Hester. Is that an excessive amount of to ask for?