Every time Jaret Patterson takes a handoff, the two most vital physical traits for a running back on full display, crystal clear. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Buffalo ball carrier possesses elite elusiveness and phenomenal contact balance, the cardinal attributes integral to his legendary collegiate career and his ascension up draft boards as you read this article.
After averaging 5.5 yards per carry as a freshman, he upped that figure to 5.8 in 2019 and has been as efficient as a quality quarterback throwing the football this season with an otherworldly 8.6 yards-per-carry average.
Going deeper, Patterson has forced 33 missed tackles on 106 rushes thus far in 2020, which means he forces at least one missed tackle every 3.21 carries, the seventh-lowest (best) rate in the country among 148 backs who've toted the rock at least 75 times this season. Need proof of Patterson's elusiveness? There it is. For evidence of the contact balance needed to be a well-rounded back -- Patterson averages 5.08 yards after contact per rush, the second-highest rate in the country. He's a freaky talent.
But is he a premier prospect? Patterson doesn't appear to be particularly fast by NFL standards -- but tremendous straight-line speed isn't a prerequisite to success as a back in the pros. And he's played against lesser competition than most of the top runners in the class. Those perceived facts won't help him come draft time. However, he's as nuanced as any ball carrier in college and possessing those two crucial traits -- along with stellar vision -- make Patterson someone primed to outperform his draft position.
Check how Patterson's eyes and feet were connected on this long touchdown against Bowling Green, and how that mental-physical sync set up second-level defenders.
Lightning-quick processing and footwork from ##Buffalo’s Jaret Patterson turned this from a short gain into a TD♬ original sound - Chris Trapasso
After watching his film, I firmly believe Patterson's mind works as well as his feet, and it's part of the reason there seem to be so many holes through which he can scamper. Sure, Buffalo's offensive line is one of the more cohesive, powerful units in the country -- especially relative to its competition -- but Patterson creates many lanes himself.
And when he and his line can't materialize a path, Patterson has the tight-space twitch to free himself for extra yards when extra yards seem impossible.
##Buffalo RB Jaret Patterson could make you miss in a phone booth♬ original sound - Chris Trapasso
That run won't make most of Patterson's highlight reels. But it's noteworthy because it proves he's capable of getting more than what's blocked for him. That's truly how a back creates value for his team and how runners can be differentiated.
Lastly, I feel compelled to provide a demonstration of Patterson's contact balance on yet another long touchdown he scored this season. Here it is:
Elite contact balance from ##Buffalo RB Jaret Patterson♬ original sound - Chris Trapasso
That's a run in which Patterson's height actually helps him because of how low his center of gravity is, an attribute all running backs want and typically need to thrive on a regular basis.
Patterson won't be for everybody -- but he's a super-springy, intelligent back built like fire hydrant who's been insanely productive during his career at Buffalo and has the same on-field characteristics of most of the NFL's best running backs.