USA TODAY photo

Scouting Combine Research Series: Receivers (Part 2)

Which native of Oman took advantage of a fresh start? Which player found friendship in a boy with cerebral palsy? Which player with NFL ties had a record-setting season? Those answers and more as we get to know the top receiver prospects.

Here are the 57 wide receivers who have been invited to the Scouting Combine. Players are listed in alphabetical order. Heights and weights come from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com. All players are seniors unless noted

Malachi Dupre, LSU (6-2, 190): Junior. In three seasons, Dupre caught 98 passes for 1,609 yards (16.4 average) and 14 touchdowns. After turning his 14 catches into five touchdowns as a freshman, Dupre caught 43 passes for 698 yards (16.2) and six touchdowns as a sophomore before concluding his career with 41 catches for 593 yards and three scores. He saved his best for last with a dominant performance vs. Louisville in the Citrus Bowl.

Combine Coverage
COMBINE PORTAL - CLICK HERE!
Use code COMBINE2017 to get two free months with purchase of one!
JOIN TODAY!
He is a phenomenal athlete. As a high school junior at New Orleans, he won state titles in the triple, long and high jumps. To get away from the pressures of class and football, Dupre likes fishing. Just like when he was a kid. "When it came to fishing, he was the most patient person on Earth," his dad said. "He could fish all day and not get tired of it. To me it was mind-boggling. He didn't have any patience for anything else, but if you got him out there with a fishing pole, he was as calm as could be."

Travin Dural, LSU (6-1, 206): Dural finished his career with 100 catches for 1,716 yards (17.2 average) and 13 touchdowns. His best season came as a sophomore, when he caught 37 passes for 758 yards (20.5) and seven touchdowns. That included scores of 94 yards against Sam Houston State and 80 yards against Wisconsin. He fell back to 28 catches for 533 yards (19.0) as a junior and 28 catches for 280 yards (10.0) as a senior.

Dural missed the 2012 season after a preseason knee injury. "I'd say that helped me out a lot," Dural said. "It showed that football isn't guaranteed. You've got to play every play like it's your last play. In fall camp, I was never thinking that I was going to get hurt, especially the way that I got hurt. I didn't get touched, I didn't get hit, my leg just snapped. So that showed me that football isn't always guaranteed and it made me grow up a lot."

Injuries have been an issue — a severe hamstring injury in 2015 and a nagging shoulder injury in 2016. Because of the hamstring injury, he jokingly said he gained 30 pounds because of his fondness for fried chicken. “A lot of people ask me about the Popeyes incident,” Dural said. “It was a misunderstanding, a miscommunication. I didn't really gain 30 pounds because of Popeyes. I just couldn't run for about six months.”

Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse (6-1, 198): Etta-Tawo caught 61 passes in three seasons for Maryland before transferring to Syracuse for his senior season. "It was my last chance," Etta-Tawo said. "I wanted an opportunity to get a fresh start."

The fresh start paid off, with Etta-Tawo earning All-American honors with Syracuse records of 94 catches for 1,482 yards and a school-record-tying 14 touchdowns. The yardage mark ranks second in ACC history to Torry Holt’s 1,604 yards in 1998. Among Power Five conference players, only Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook (1,524) had more receiving yards and only Clemson's Mike Williams (98) and North Carolina's Ryan Switzer (96) had more receptions.

Etta-Tawo was born in Muscat, Oman. The family — father, mother and four sons — came to the United States in 1999 via a visa lottery. Their father left for Nigeria in 2001, leaving oldest son Etta as the man of the house. Etta played football at Clemson briefly before a heart condition was discovered. "I just remember being at (middle-school football) practice crying," Amba said. "I was in sixth or seventh grade and I just remember crying the whole practice. That's my father figure. To see him weak, that broke me, every time. From that moment on, I decided I was going to put my foot forward and make it happen."

Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech (6-1, 190): Junior. Ford turned in a brilliant three seasons with 210 receptions for 2,967 yards (14.1 average) and 24 touchdowns. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons — 75 catches for 1,164 yards (15.5) and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore and 79 catches for 1,094 yards (13.8) and seven touchdowns as a junior. Before Ford’s 1,000-yard season in 2015, there had never been one in school history.

Ford is no stranger to hard work. “The older he got the harder we worked him,” his mom said. “Before actual practice we made him practice, and there were no days off. Even after a game on Saturday during Pop Warner days, there was another practice once he got home, for the most part. (Isaiah) Eventually started practicing extra on his own.”

In high school, he almost gave up football so he could play basketball alongside Grayson Allen, who now stars at Duke. He even committed to play basketball for Rick Pitino at Louisville — with the understanding that he could play football, too. “A lot of kids say they want to play both sports in college and I kind of laugh at it,” former Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “But Isaiah was one of those rare talents. He was one of the few I knew could pull it off.”

FOR MORE ON THE RECEIVERS

Part 1 ... Part 2 ... Part 3 ... Part 4 ... Part 5



Shelton Gibson, West Virginia (5-11, 195): Junior. Eighty of Gibson’s 84 career catches came during his final two seasons. Gibson caught 37 passes for 887 yards (24.0 average) and nine touchdowns as a sophomore and 43 catches for 951 yards (22.1) and eight touchdowns as a senior. That gave him 84 catches for 1,898 yards — a whopping 22.6-yard average — and 17 scores in three seasons. He also boasted a career mark of 23.5 yards per kickoff return. There might be one thing he does better than make big plays — and he made a lot of them, with his eight touchdowns in 2016 averaging 39.3 yards. “Shelton,” Mountaineers cornerback Rasul Douglas said, “is going to talk.”

Gibson talks better and more than his friends, Vickie and Vanessa. Rather than explain, just click the link above. “She’s helped me a lot,” Gibson said. “I catch the ball a lot better now. I’m better at catching everything now. If I do drop a ball now, it’s just, like, move onto the next play. I had two drops this season. Next year, we want to have none.”

Chris Godwin, Penn State (6-1, 205): Junior. Godwin needed three years to move up to seventh in career catches (153), fourth in receiving yards (2,404) and fourth in receiving touchdowns (18). He had a strong junior year, tallying 59 catches for 982 yards (16.6 average) and 11 touchdowns. As a sophomore, Godwin caught 66 passes for 1,101 yards (16.0 average), making him one of only three players in school history (Bobby Engram, Allen Robinson) with a 1,000-yard receiving season.

Godwin proved to be a quick learner, whether that was making big plays in the passing game or cruising around campus. Godwin has made his mark off the field, too. As a junior at Middletown (Del.) High School, Godwin volunteered helping disabled children play baseball. He was matched with a boy named Hayden, who was afflicted with cerebral palsy and cerebellar hypoplasia, a condition in which the brain does not develop completely and his muscle tone is compromised. Their relationship moved from the ballfield to Hayden’s house, where they enjoy video games and barbecues. “It's easy when you're playing football to have a bad day of practice and get down on yourself," Godwin said. "But there are people out there who can't do what you do. Me spending time with Hayden, I get to see that.

Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois (6-4, 213): Golladay played at North Dakota, posting a 69-catch season as a sophomore, before moving up to the FBS ranks and moving back near his hometown of Chicago. At Northern Illinois, Golladay caught 73 passes for 1,129 yards (15.5 average) and 10 touchdowns as a junior and 87 passes for 1,156 yards (13.3) and eight touchdowns as a senior. How did such a big and talented prospect go so far under the radar, with North Dakota being the only offer? "I was more of a guy who flew under the radar (in high school). People didn't know too much about me. St. Rita is a running team. We kind of opened up the passing game my senior year but you pretty much need that film from your junior year (for recruiting). That's how that went down."

Chad Hansen, California (6-1, 195): Junior. Hansen caught 45 passes at Idaho State in 2013 before transferring to Cal. After sitting out the 2014 season, Hansen made a modest impact in 2015 with just 19 catches. It was a different story in 2016, with Hansen catching 92 passes for 1,249 yards (13.6 average) and 11 touchdowns.

How’s this for motivation: After his strong debut at Idaho State — the only school to offer a scholarship — Hansen began contemplating a transfer to a Power Five school. A coach at Arizona State had this to say: “You're not cut out to play at the Pac-12 level. You should just stay at Idaho State and continue your career there. That's probably the best and easiest way to go about things.” Amid Hansen’s big season, he caught 10 passes for 110 yards and one touchdown vs. Arizona State.

Keon Hatcher, Arkansas (6-1, 206): Hatcher caught 130 passes for 1,866 yards (14.4 average) and 19 touchdowns in five seasons. After playing in only two games in 2015 due to a broken foot, Hatcher took advantage of an extra year of eligibility to grab 44 balls for 743 yards (16.9 average) and eight touchdowns. All four of those figures were the best of his career as he attempted to make up for lost time.

Hatcher grew up in Tulsa, Okla., and had dreams of playing for the Sooners. Oklahoma, however, wasn’t interested. He thought he found a great fit with Bobby Petrino’s spread offense at Arkansas but Petrino was fired and ultimately replaced by Bret Bielema, who brought his run-first offense from Wisconsin. Hatcher contemplated transferring but decided to stay at Arkansas. In the game in which he broke his foot, a 16-10 loss at Toledo, Hatcher refused to take off his shoe so he could be examined. “The game’s not over,” Hatcher told the trainer. “I know if you take this cleat off, it’s gonna be over with.” Hatcher returned to action and had an 18-yard catch on the frantic, failed attempt to win the game.

Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech (5-11, 191): Junior. Henderson caught a combined 65 passes and nine touchdowns in his first two seasons. The goal was to unleash Henderson 2016. Unleashed indeed. He caught 82 passes for 1,535 yards (18.7 average) and 19 touchdowns. That includes a 326-yard, five-touchdown game vs. UMass and a pair of 200-plus yard games against Western Kentucky. In three seasons, he rushed for 257 yards (8.0 average) and caught 147 balls for 2,878 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also boasts a career average of 26.5 yards per kickoff return with three scores. "He's a special player. You take a guy like that and get him the ball," Tech coach Skip Holtz said.

Henderson comes from a family full of athletes. Brother Charles played football at Utah and Nicholls State and sister Nicole is a sprinter at Ole Miss, and his late father Charles played football at Southeastern Louisiana.

Krishawn Hogan, Marian (Ind.) (6-3, 224): Hogan was a touchdown machine in his three seasons. He piled up a whopping 67 total touchdowns — 42 receiving and 25 rushing. As a senior, Hogan scored 25 touchdowns — 15 receiving and 10 rushing — to be a first-team NAIA All-American. He caught 80 passes for 1,435 yards (17.9 average) in 2016. That was actually down from what he did the previous season, when he caught 101 passes for 1,824 yards and scored a total of 31 touchdowns. He piled up 263 receptions for 4,395 yards (16.7) and 42 touchdowns in his career. In 63 career carries, Hogan rushed for 25 touchdowns.

“My motivation first off is to do what my coaches tell me and get this team back to a national title,” said Hogan, who caught 20 passes as a high school senior and started his career at Walsh (Ohio) University. “But I have goals beyond that. I want to play football after college. All of that drives me every day. I’ve had a couple of agents reach out and whatnot, but for the most part, I try to do what my coaches tell me, stay focused on this season and everything that will happen will play out.”

Mack Hollins, North Carolina (6-4, 210): Hollins led the nation with 24.8 yards per catch as a junior. His senior season, however, ended with a broken collarbone. He finished his career with 81 receptions for 1,667 yards (20.6 average) and 20 touchdowns. That includes back-to-back seasons of eight touchdowns in 2014 and 2015 and 16 catches for 309 yards (19.3) and four touchdowns during his abbreviated senior season.

Perhaps if football doesn't work out, he can become an agent. He walked on at North Carolina in 2012. He was a special teams captain in 2013. But with no scholarship, Hollins couldn't afford the huge price of tuition. So, he told coach Larry Fedora that he would be leaving the program. The next day, Hollins had his scholarship. If that's not a different enough story, he owns a boa and a python. He'd like to open a fish and exotic reptile store. Why snakes? "They don't scratch my couch, they don't (poop) on my floor." He also had the receivers warm up in bathrobes before one game.

Bug Howard, North Carolina (6-4, 210): Howard caught 146 passes for 2,048 yards (14.0 average) and 18 touchdowns in four seasons. He saved the best for last: 53 receptions, 827 yards (15.6) and eight touchdowns as a senior to earn an honorable mention on the all-ACC team. One of those touchdowns was the game-winner with 2 seconds left vs. Pittsburgh.

Johnathan Jamaul Howard is his real name; “Bug” is a moniker he got as a toddler. “It came from my Grandma. She said I used to bug her a lot. It used to be, ‘Bugger,’ but it got shortened down to Bug. That’s how I got that name.”

Howard was a tremendous athlete -- and a tall one -- throughout his childhood. An excellent baseball and basketball player, he chose football because he thought that's where his height would, well, stand tall. "I thought to myself that my best chance would probably be at football, because there aren't that many 6-5, 6-6 guys in the league at receiver,'' Howard said. "Calvin Johnson, some of those guys inspired me to play football."

Zay Jones, East Carolina (6-2, 202): Jones caught 158 passes for 1,746 yards (11.1 average) and eight touchdowns. As a senior. Yes, those were his senior-year numbers. He was an All-American and one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the nation’s top receiver. For his career, Jones caught 399 passes — why not 400? — for 4,279 yards (10.7) and 23 touchdowns. The career and 2016 reception totals are NCAA records. Not only was he productive, but five-way Zay is smart.

Jones comes from a football-playing family — though it made little difference to recruiters, with Jones’ only offer being East Carolina. His father, Robert, was an All-American linebacker at East Carolina and owns three Super Bowl rings from his career with the Cowboys. A brother, Cayleb, played receiver at Arizona and signed with the Vikings in January. Another brother, Levi, is a four-star linebacker who will attend USC in 2017. The most famous player in the family might be his uncle, former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake. “(Growing up in that environment) definitely helped,” Jones said. “It definitely transitions to the field … I’ve had the privilege to talk to some great wide receivers like Michael Irvin. He told me and my brother (Cayleb) to never take a play off, and my dad emphasized that as well.”

The good hands come from his mom, he said, while his competitiveness comes from his brothers. “We competed in everything we did,” Jones said. “Whether it was video games, basketball, track, football, which one of us could eat their food the fastest, which one of us could race upstairs the fastest … everything we did had a competitive aspect.”

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


Bear Report Top Stories