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Patterson still the 'best kickoff returner in the league'

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While a lot has been made of Cordarrelle Patterson's drop in production from his dynamic rookie season to his second season in the NFL with the Vikings, not much has been made of his ability as a kick returner.

Patterson went to the Pro Bowl as a returner in 2013, when he led the NFL with a return average of 32.4 yards. He returned two kicks for touchdowns, including a record-tying 109-yard burst against the Green Bay Packers.

His average decreased to the sixth-best mark in the NFL last season, with an average of 25.6 yards and no touchdowns.

Although it's unrelated to Patterson's drop off last season, FOX Sports North reports the Vikings have been giving rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs and running back DuJuan Harris kick return reps at organized team activities.

But special teams coordinator Mike Priefer says Patterson will be awaiting kicks at the goal line when the games get real.

"In my mind, Cordarrelle Patterson is the best kickoff returner in the league," Priefer said, per FSN. "It would be crazy for me to try and put someone else in that spot. But we're still bringing competition; we still want him to get better. There's things that he can't do this year that he did last year; put the ball on the ground and those things, but he's still very talented and every time that he's back there, you guys see what teams do -- they get nervous and they don't like kicking to him. We get great field position because of that."

Viking Update notes that Patterson's production as a returner dropped off largely in part because teams starting kicking the ball away from him, or putting more air under the ball in an effort to give Patterson less room to operate in.

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