David Johnson's receiving skills distinguish him as a running back


What worked against David Johnson coming out of high school could, ironically enough, help the Northern Iowa running back as teams give him a long look in advance of the 2015 NFL draft.

"I was tall and lanky," Johnson said of why he only received scholarship offers from Northern Iowa and Illinois State. "I was 190 [pounds] with clothes on. With me playing wide receiver in high school, a lot of teams were projecting me to play wide receiver in college."

Four years and 35 pounds later, Johnson has answered any questions about his size for a running back. And the receiving skills he developed in high school when he also played wide receiver could help distinguish Johnson among the running backs in the draft.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has given Johnson a third-round grade and said the three-time 1,000-yard rusher could go higher than that in the draft.

Johnson, who had 203 receiving yards in a game against Iowa last season, shined at the Senior Bowl, and he could interest the Steelers given their need for a quality backup to Le'Veon Bell.

Johnson measured 6-foot at the combine --- he insists he is 6-1 – and weighed 224 pounds. Even though Johnson clearly established himself as a running back at Northern Iowa he said he continually polished his receiving skills, which should only help his draft stock.

"After practice, I always tried to work on my routes with the receivers," Johnson said.

A couple of notes

  • Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who 283 career catches tied an ACC record, has spent a lot of time watching film of Steelers wideout Antonio Brown. Like Brown, the 5-8, 174-pound Crowder is not the biggest wideout and the two share something else. Scottie Montgomery worked closely with Brown as the Steelers wide receivers coach in 2010-12. He did the same the last two seasons with Crowder as Duke’s offensive coordinator. "Coach Mo thought that in college, my game could really be like Antonio," Crowder said. "I was given opportunity to sit down and watch film of Antonio Brown. I’m a smart guy. I try to watch a lot of guys, Brandin Cooks, TY Hilton, but Antonio Brown is the guy I watched the most."

  • T.J. Yeldon said he has interviewed with the Steelers at the combine and the Alabama running back is familiar with at least one player on the team. "I pretty much like Le’Veon Bell’s running style," said Yeldon, who rushed for 3,322 yards and 37 touchdowns in three seasons at Alabama, "I watch his highlights a lot." Yeldon said he is hoping to turn in a good time in the 40-yard dash at the combine to answer any questions teams may have about his speed.