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Playmakers available for teams seeking receivers, running backs

INDIANAPOLIS -- Much of the attention at the NFL Scouting Combine has been focused on quarterbacks and defensive players, but game-breakers such as Golden Tate, Dez Bryant and Jahvid Best also are vying for first-round draft consideration.

Tate had the greatest season for a receiver in Notre Dame history, with 93 catches for 1,496 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2009. He set school records for receptions and receiving yards and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver.

Tate is just 5-foot-10 and 196 pounds, but he's a downfield threat with the skill of a running back after the catch.

Tate's best quality could be that he played in Charlie Weis' pro-style offense. Tate knew that could benefit him when he chose to play for the Fighting Irish.

"Coach Weis is a professional-caliber coach," Tate said. "I knew I was going to have a headstep when I decided to pursue my dream and play professional football. That's one of the things going into college I understood."

Weis is now the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. Tate wouldn't mind ending up with them.

"It's always going to be a dream to play for the head coach who taught me how to be a receiver," he said.

Dez Bryant's challenge will be answering questions about why he lied about a trip to former NFL star Deion Sanders' house. The NCAA suspended the Oklahoma State receiver for 10 games last season after an investigation. He said in an interview earlier in the week that his punishment was unfair, but he backtracked a bit Friday.

"I was nervous from the way they came at me," he said. "Come to find out what I did, going out to Deion Sanders' house wasn't a violation. Me lying, that was a violation, so I got the punishment for it."

Bryant played in Oklahoma State's first three games of the season before being suspended. He declared that he would enter the draft soon after the NCAA rejected his appeal.

Bryant had 147 catches for 2,425 yards and 29 touchdowns in 28 career games. He had 87 receptions for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns in his sophomore year, and 17 catches for 323 yards and four scores last season before the suspension.

Bryant's physical tools might be enough to make teams overlook his fib. Bryant is 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, and his downfield speed and ability to attack the ball in the air make him a top prospect. However, he will not participate in combine drills because of a hamstring injury sustained last week.

Still oozing confidence, Bryant said Friday that he most resembles Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and New England's Randy Moss.

"They've just got that knack for going up for the ball," Bryant said. "I have that same knack."

Receiver Arrelious Benn, a 6-1, 219-pound wideout with exceptional leaping ability, had a breakout season two years ago with 67 catches for 1,055 yards. He didn't see much action last season, catching 38 passes for 490 yards while Illinois struggled with its passing game. He's still projected by many as a first-round draft pick, but he said he doesn't think playing for a passing team would have made a difference.

"People probably would have looked at things different, but numbers don't tell everything," Benn said. "A guy can have so many numbers and he's not a receiver, based on the type of offense. I don't have regrets going to Illinois."

Benn said he wants to show that he's better than his production at Illinois, a program he helped reach the Rose Bowl as a freshman.

"There's always things to prove," Benn said. "Playing football, you have that mentality to go out and do something unthinkable that a lot of people think you can't do. A lot of people thought I wouldn't have the ability to help change things around at Illinois, but I did."

Best was considered a top prospect after he piled up 1,580 yards and 15 scores for California in 2008. He ran for 867 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, but he missed the final four games of the season. He sustained a concussion and sore lower back after being undercut while diving into the end zone against Oregon State.

"I remember all the way up to the point where I was asleep," Best said. "I remember the play, I remember jumping in the air, and the next thing I remember is being in the hospital."


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Best said he won't finish runs that way in the future.

"That's not going to be a part of my game anymore," he said.

At 5-10 and 199 pounds, Best understands that he might not be an every-down back, but he likes the fact that several of the league's top runners last season were smaller, quicker backs. He said he's ready to prove he can contribute as a running back or as a return man.

"I feel like I'm coming in with a chip on my shoulder," Best said. "Everything I did in my past, it's erased. It's almost like it doesn't matter anymore."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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