Receivers with RB on resume bring value in draft

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Lions wide receiver Golden Tate played running back in high school, and watching him play, it's obvious he uses that past experience to gain yards after the catch.

In this year's NFL draft, a few wide receivers hope their past experience as backs will give them the well-rounded ability to attract teams.

"As a receiver, if you've been playing the position, you think reception, you're just worried about possession," USC receiver Nelson Agholor said at the NFL combine in February. "As a running back, you're thinking big play every time. To have that mentality as a receiver to think big play every time, when you catch the ball you're going vertical and you're going for six.

"You're not worried about first downs. When contact comes, you're not falling down, you're trying to run through contact and keep going."

When the Lions are on the clock this year, they will likely consider a receiver with running back skills or a back who can catch. They'd like to upgrade the returner position, and a player with a mindset like Tate's or Agholor's would be ideal.

The 6-foot, 198-pound Agholor played primarily running back in high school, but moved to receiver in college. Last year, he had 104 catches for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns and has proven he can make contested catches and run after the catch, which is why he could be a first-round pick.

The 5-foot-10, 209-pound Antwan Goodley from Baylor grew up playing running back before switching to receiver, and his run-after-catch ability should help him be a mid-round pick.

Running back skills transfer to other positions in many ways, and playing receiver can help running backs become better rounded, too.

When Lions running back Theo Riddick became a standout special teams player as a rookie in 2013, former special teams coordinator John Bonamego, now the head coach at Central Michigan, said Riddick's position helped him understand angles for the kicking game.

Riddick also played a lot of receiver at Notre Dame, primarily in the slot, and when he had an increased opportunity in the backfield in 2014, he had 34 catches for 316 yards and four touchdowns.

Tate, meanwhile, ranked first among all receivers in yards after catch in his first year with the Lions and ranked eighth with the Seahawks in 2013.

"I guess just me being a running back in high school and having to deliver hits, run through the middle, really taught me how to play on the outside," Tate said during training camp last year. "Cornerbacks usually aren't as tough as the linebackers and safeties, so I kind of fell like I have an advantage after being groomed as a running back all my life until college."

Tate has also excelled returning punts during his career, and Agholor scored four punt return touchdowns for the Trojans the last two years.

Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery, a likely mid-round pick, is considered one of the top return men in the draft, and he played running back in high school, too. Goodley returned kickoffs his first two years at Baylor.

Goodley, who had 1,339 receiving yards in 2013 before an injury-plagued 2014, said he tries to turn into a running back any time he touches the ball. He even started several plays in the backfield last season and had eight carries for 71 yards.

"I'm thinking score every time I touch the ball, not letting one guy bring me down," he said at the combine. "I actually played running back my whole life, so I'm kind of used to toting the rock like that. So, when I get it, I just try to transform into a whole different animal."