Arguably no running back in college football was more productive than Buffalo's Jaret Patterson in 2020. Yet, despite an outstanding season last fall, Patterson's small stature -- 5-foot-8, 195 pounds -- likely scared teams away during the 2021 NFL Draft.
Patterson ended up signing with his hometown Washington Football Team as an undrafted free agent and has not only proven he belongs this preseason -- he's drawing comparisons to some big names.
Patterson's combination of quickness and strength is something few rushers his size have. Speaking on 106.7 The Fan's BMitch & Finlay, former Washington tight end Logan Paulsen said Patterson's blend of those two skills has reminded him of former Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
"When I watch him, I'm always reminded of [Maurice Jones-Drew]," Paulsen said. "Because one thing MJD was really good at was running physically for a small guy. You see that all the time with Patterson, which is fantastic."
And, through two preseason games, the former Buffalo star has absolutely proven that despite his limitations, he certainly belongs in the NFL.
Jones-Drew and Patterson have similar body types. The Washington rookie is listed just one inch taller than the former Jaguars tailback. There's only about a 10-pound difference in weight, too.
In Jacksonville, Jones-Drew was never the fastest or strongest running back in the league. But, the three-time Pro Bowler knew exactly how to use his size to his advantage, something Paulsen believes Patterson can do as well.
"One of the best short-yardage running backs I ever got to play with was Maurice Jones-Drew," Paulsen said. "He's not a big guy... but he would just cram it in there. He had enough quickness to make a guy miss in the hole. But also, those small backs, since they have a low center of gravity, they can get under a linebacker and kind of push the pile forward. Patterson has shown an ability to get that done."
Jones-Drew isn't the first to compare Patterson to a former Pro Bowler, either. Head coach Ron Rivera has said that the rookie reminds him of Darren Sproles, something backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke echoed following Saturday's preseason win over Cincinnati as well.
"He's a small dude but he's got a lot of toughness and he's really quick," Heinicke said. "If you go back and watch the tape of Darren Sproles back in the day, [Patterson] reminds me a lot of him."
Paulsen sees a little bit of Sproles in Patterson's game, but also thinks the Washington runner brings a physical presence that Sproles didn't have.
"He's got a little Sproles in terms of foot speed and quickness, but he also can break tackles," Paulsen said.
For an undrafted rookie like Patterson, earning comparisons to two Pro Bowlers before ever playing a regular-season game is high praise. Patterson doesn't plan on slowing up now.
"[I run] for a lot of different reasons," Patterson said on Saturday. "You know, the saying ‘he’s too small’, you’re just always hearing that negative. ‘He’s not fast enough’. Always hearing that negative throughout my football career, just trying to be an inspiration to a player that’s up and coming like me. Seeing me, I feel like I can be an inspiration for sure."