The Washington Football Team has had some recent success with signing undrafted free agents that eventually become contributors.
In 2019, they signed Steven Sims Jr. He made the team in 2019 after a stellar performance in Week 4 of the preseason and went on to total over 1,000 all-purpose yards as a WR/KR during his rookie season before taking a step back in 2020, struggling with drops issues and fumbles.
Isaiah Wright was signed as a UDFA following the 2020 NFL Draft. Taking advantage of a meager wide receiver room, he made the final 53 and contributed mostly on special teams.
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While nothing overly spectacular, Washington is on a two-year streak in finding undrafted free agents that contribute. This year, they may have found another contributor as well. They only signed one UDFA and that was Jaret Patterson, a running back from Buffalo.
Patterson is has been close with Washington’s star edge rusher, Chase Young, since middle school. They spent a year together at St. Vincent Pallotti High School before Young moved to DeMatha Catholic. After signing with Washington, Patterson said, Young vouched for the team to sign him.
Patterson already has one supporter on the team, and I believe he is soon to have more. He has a real shot to make it three straight years that one of Washington’s undrafted free agents makes the final roster.
Here is how Patterson could contribute to the Washington Football Team.
How Jaret Patterson can make the Washington Football Team’s roster
In three years at Buffalo, Jaret Patterson totaled 3,384 rushing yards and 56 touchdowns, while averaging 6.1 yards-per-carry. He had at least 1,000 rushing yards in each of his three years at Buffalo. His best year of production on a per-game basis was his junior year. In six games, he ran for 1,072 yards and 19 touchdowns.
This included a game against Kent State where his stat line was 36 carries for a ridiculous 409 yards and eight touchdowns. He has the second-most rushing yards in a single game behind Samaje Perine’s 427-yard performance against Kansas. As many remember, Perine was a fourth-round pick of Washington back in 2017.
Patterson also is the second player in NCAA history to rush for 300 plus yards in two consecutive weeks joining Ricky Williams. The Buffalo product had rushed for 301 yards the week before against Bowling Green State.
However, despite his stellar production at Buffalo, Patterson is not a perfect prospect. That’s why he went undrafted. For starters he is a rather small back, standing at 5-foot-6, 195 pounds. He also does not offer much in the passing game, only totaling 271 receiving yards and one touchdown throughout his three years at Buffalo.
He had no receptions in his final year at Buffalo. And his production did come against lesser talent, so that needs to be taken into account as well.
Despite his smaller frame and limited ability in the passing game, Patterson still possesses many positive traits to counteract these perceived weaknesses. He is surprisingly a strong runner, shrugging off any and all arm tackles. His 40 time (4.52) does not show it but he was also explosive in the run game as well, a threat to do a house call on any given play.
His lower center of gravity with his smaller frame helps with his contact balance as he is able to stay on his feet after contact. He keeps his feet moving at all times and fights for extra yards. He also is a capable and willing blocker in pass protection, which gives him some value as a potential every-down back despite his limited upside as a pass-catcher.
Patterson has the traits to be a quality complementary back. Behind Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic, Washington has Peyton Barber and Lamar Miller on the roster. Peyton Barber averaged a meager 2.7 yards per carry on inside rushes last year according to Sports Info Solutions, which was where the majority of his carries occurred. While his role as a power back can be valuable, his production can be replaced and upgraded.
Miller, 30, was a late-season addition in 2020 and did not log a carry for Washington in 2020. His best days are probably behind him.
If Patterson comes in and performs well in training camp, he has a clear path to the roster. His ability to be surprisingly powerful for his size coupled with his willingness to be the last line of defense for the quarterback creates a valuable skillset.
As Washington learned the hard way late last season, they need to upgrade their depth at running back in case of an Antonio Gibson injury. Patterson may just be that upgrade that Washington was looking for.