There aren't many people who have worn the red and black that have had an impact on their team more than Brayden Patton had during his career at NIU. Patton played multiple positions on the offensive line, but ultimately settled at center. He was the perfect anchor for a young and inexperienced line that saw immense growth over the last two seasons. Patton was a captain, an All-MAC player, an academic All-MAC student, and a two-time MAC champion. However, the Elletsville, Indiana native has already signed with a team. The Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL used a compensatory draft pick to Select Brayden ahead of the league's inaugural season.
As someone who has worked with players in the AAF, XFL, and Arena Football Leagues, I know for a fact that all of these contracts have an out. If Brayden is given the opportunity to sign with an NFL, he will likely be able to do so with no penalty or breach of contract. For now, this is the perfect opportunity for Patton to continue adding film to his resume and, most importantly, stay active.
You have to give the guy credit given the fact that he is coming off the shortened COVID-19 season then play a full season last year. With with a bowl game and MAC Championship this past season, Patton is now starting up his next season on April 17, only four short months after the Cure Bowl game where Patton was awarded the OL of the game award. He's been busy, but Patton appears ready for his next challenge.
Another thing that bodes well for the former Huskie in a USFL to NFL scenario is his youth. I'm not saying he is playing in a league with significantly older players, but when the NFL picks players from leagues like the USFL and XFL, youth always wins. I find it ironic that he was also selected to a team that is named the Maulers, because that is the one word I would say is best to describe Patton in the trenches.
Unfortunately after searching various outlets, I was not able to find a cumulative highlight tape or even Twitter clips of Patton playing at NIU. With his first USFL game this weekend, it was out of the question to ask for a tape, but as someone who has seen him play for the last three seasons, he has a special type of nasty to him.
Patton was nearly perfect on snaps in the last two seasons and he can get to the second level in a hurry to take on linebackers. This season alone, he was a part of a few games where NIU quarterback Rocky Lombardi was not sacked once. Lastly, he was a part of an OL unit that lead the way for one of the most dangerous rushing attacks in all of college football.
Patton is a leader, and one of the few people who stayed around amidst all the transfers NIU saw over the last few seasons. When you look back on his career at NIU, he will be remembered as a tough, resilient, talented, smart, and great football player.
Leading Up to the Draft
Brayden Patton did not participate in the 2022 NIU Pro Day, but he did participate in the 2022 Miami (OH) Pro Day, since his father is the OL coach there. Patton was training during the offseason when the opportunity to play in the USFL arose. As you see with the graphic above, his pro day numbers are not available, but he does have the desired size that NFL teams want in a center.
The issue for Patton becomes numbers, as there are only 32 starting centers in the NFL and less than 100 centers in the league. To counteract that point, Patton has also spent time at guard during his time at NIU, meaning he has meaningful versatility in his game that can translate in the NFL. If I had to predict what I think will happen for Patton, it is that he will have a quality rookie season in the USFL.
The beautiful part about the USFL season is that it ends before the NFL season starts. That way, if an opportunity should arise, he could likely still join an NFL camp roster. I would have projected Patton as a UDFA, and it still isn't out of the question. He is eligible to be signed, but we'll have to see how things unfold in the coming weeks. If he has the season he is capable of having, an opportunity will arise. But for now, he is a Pittsburgh Mauler and for those that know Patton, he could not be happier to have that opportunity in front of him and that is where his focus is.
His first game will be Sunday, April 17 on FS1 as the Pittsburgh Maulers take on the Tampa Bay Bandits. Patton will be the first player from this year's group of NIU seniors to make his pro debut.