Philadelphia, PA – If football were played in shorts and an Under Armour compression shirt, Louisiana Tech wide receiver Quinton Patton would be making plans to be in Times Square on April 25 as a surefire first- round pick in the NFL Draft.
Pads remain in the equation, however, and "The General" still needs to rise above knocks on his hands, along with his versatility and the level of competition he played against on the college level.
Although Patton is part of a deep class of receivers, he seems to have settled in as one of the better prospects after the "big three," Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson, Cal's Keenan Allen and West Virginia slot star Tavon Austin.
The 6-foot, 202-pound Patton certainly has the physical gifts of a first- rounder, running a 4.43-second 40-yard dash and impressing with a 37-inch vertical leap at his pro day earlier this week.
"The expectation was to come in and compete, and I did a little better than my (NFL Scouting) Combine numbers," Patton told the Shreveport Times after his workout.
Patton has slowly climbed most draft boards, passing every test since the college season ended. He had a solid week of practice at the Senior Bowl, a strong combine showing and has now erased doubts about his speed to stretch the field.
"I don't say surprised," Patton said when asked about sneaking up on people as a top-tier prospect. "Came a little bit under the radar. But that's what I like. Turning people's heads."
Patton's short-area quickness is impressive and he'll arrive in the NFL as an above-average route runner with solid ball skills. On the other hand, he needs to become more consistent catching the ball and blocking down the field.
"Like every (receiver), I can still catch the ball better. "I will say that I'm not the best blocker," Patton said. "But at the end of the day, I just make plays. No matter what it is doing, I'm going to give 110 percent every down, every minute of the game."
He balked, however, at the versatility concerns stemming from the way he was used formationally by the Bulldogs, only lining up outside the numbers to the right.
"The offense was so potent I didn't have to change positions," Patton explained. "In junior college (Coffeyville Community College in Kansas), I always played the slot receiver, to the left and to the right. At Louisiana Tech for some reason, I just played outside to the right. So I had the best of both worlds."
Meanwhile, the jump from Louisiana Tech to the NFL is certainly a significant one, but Patton isn't concerned and can point to a ridiculous 21-catch, four- touchdown performance against Texas A&M, one of the top college teams in the country last year, as evidence he belongs.
"I can play with the best of them," Patton said. "Everybody says I got the exposure off the Texas A&M game, but last year I played against of the best defensive backs in the draft. I really don't care what people say. I'm just a ballplayer."
Asked to compare his game with an accomplished NFL player, Patton came up with the name Chad Johnson.
"I watch all of them. Mostly all the big names. But my favorite one is Chad Johnson, not Chad Ochocinco," Patton said. "He was just so smooth coming out of his routes and breaks. For a period of time, he would catch anything and everything thrown his way."
Interestingly enough Johnson, a six-time Pro Bowl selection with Cincinnati, might even foreshadow where Patton eventually lands in the upcoming draft. Chad was a second-rounder, taken 36th overall by the Bengals in the 2001 NFL Draft,
Right now Patton looks locked in with Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins and Southern Cal's Robert Woods as receivers in the mix to be late first-round picks or early second-round selections.
Patton already has had personal visits with nearly a dozen NFL teams and the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers thought enough of him that they took him out to dinner on Wednesday night after he was done impressing scouts in Ruston, La.
"It gives me the utmost confidence," Patton said of all the attention. "I'm a confident person, confident in my abilities that God has given me."
THE 2013 NFL DRAFT: TSN'S TOP WIDE RECEIVERS
1. - Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
2. - Tavon Austin, West Virginia
3. - Keenan Allen, California
4. - Robert Woods, Southern California
5. - Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech
6. - DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
7. - Terrance Williams, Baylor
8. - Aaron Dobson, Marshall
9. - Markus Wheaton, Oregon State
10. - Justin Hunter, Tennessee
SKILL REPORT: THE WIDE RECEIVERS
Best Route Runner: Robert Woods, Southern California
Fastest: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Best Hands: DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Best Run Blocker: Chris Harper, Kansas State
Underrated: Marcus Davis, Virginia Tech
Biggest Risk: Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech