Since coming to Detroit, Golden Tate has quietly been a great receiver. He has led the Lions in receiving yards twice in the last three seasons and has led the Lions in receptions every year he has been in Detroit. His average season with the Lions has been 93 receptions for 1073 yards. At this point, Golden Tate is an established number one receiver in the NFL, and he has become Matthew Stafford’s favorite target. Here are the reasons why Golden Tate will continue to dominate in 2017.
Golden Tate: Best Receiver After The Catch In The Entire NFL
Most aspects of Golden Tate’s game are not on an elite level – he’s not an elite route runner, he doesn’t have great speed and he’s prone to a few drops. The thing that sets him apart from other receivers is his ability to create yards after the catch. Since Golden Tate has been in Detroit (over the last three seasons) he is the leader in yards after the catch over the entire NFL by a large margin. In that period, Tate has 1831 yards after the catch, which is nearly 200 yards more than Jarvis Landry, who is second place in that statistic with 1639. Also over the last three seasons, Tate leads all receivers in forced missed tackle by a big margin. Tate had 73, and Landry is again in second place with 59. For reference, Odell Beckham Jr only had 57 and Antonio Brown had 49.
Detroit loves to get the ball to Tate quickly on screen passes, as they do here. The play is a middle screen to Tate who is lined up on the outside. The blocking is ok, but not great, it only buys Tate about 10 yards. After Tate gets that far, he does a great job of cutting back to the outside and outrunning the defense for a touchdown.
This is the Golden Tate play that will live on in the hearts of Lions fans forever. In overtime against the Vikings, Tate runs a deep out route and catches the ball at the 15-yard line. He taps his toes on the sideline but then shows great balance as he manages to stay in bounds. Tate then jukes Xavier Rhodes and stiff arms Harrison Smith to break free of the defense. Tate is then free to run into the endzone and “disrespects” safety Andrew Sendejo when he gets there.
Can Play Anywhere
A receiver of Golden Tate’s stature (5’10” 197 pounds) is typically thought of as primarily a slot receiver. That couldn’t be further from the truth regarding Golden Tate. He can do anything you ask him. He can play on the outside, he can play on the inside, he can run sweeps, he can play running back, he can return kicks and he’s even a good blocker. Golden Tate is extremely versatile, and we see Detroit design a lot of plays to get the ball in his hands. He’s going to have success lined up just about anywhere.
On The Outside
Golden Tate’s ability as an outside receiver is extremely underrated. Many people assume he doesn’t have outside ability because of his height, but that is simply untrue. Tate is inconsistent with his ability to separate from defenders, but we have seen him show good ability to occasionally get open deep over the years. We have also seen Tate make more than a few contested catches with the Lions. Here are a couple of examples.
Here is an example of one of the contested catches I was talking about. Tate is lined up on the outside and is running a go route against New Orleans corner Delvin Breaux. Breaux has a three-inch height advantage on Tate. Although Tate doesn’t create a lot of separation, Stafford places the ball perfectly over Breaux’s shoulder, and Tate does a great job of hauling it in with one hand.
On this play against the Rams, the Lions have a free play as Los Angeles jumps offside. Tate is lined up on the outside and takes off on deep route. Although the Rams have several defenders deep, Tate is able to find a massive hole in their defense and comes up with a huge reception.
Over The Middle
Golden Tate also has the ability to make tough, over the middle receptions. In traffic, Tate does a good job of getting open. Whether he is covered by a nickel corner, linebacker or safety, Tate does a great job of working the middle of the field, as shown in these clips I’ve included.
This is one of the more common plays we see out of Tate, a slant route from the outside. This play is effective because the two receivers in the middle can help to block the defense and get Tate open. Here, the Lions run the play in a goal line situation. Tate does a great job of navigating the traffic in the middle of the field, getting open, and scoring an easy touchdown.
On this play against the Eagles, Philadelphia makes the mistake of covering Tate with a linebacker. Tate burns them for it. Tate runs a deep crossing route and creates separation from the defender. Stafford is able to find him, and the play turns into a huge gain for the Lions that would ultimately win them the game.
Because Golden Tate is such an explosive player with the ball in his hands, the Lions like to manufacture as many touches for him as possible. This means that we’ve seen him catch screen passes, run sweeps and reverses and even line up in the backfield. Tate’s ability with the ball in his hands makes him a threat from any position on offense, and the Lions like to use that to their advantage.
This is a play that we saw a lot out of the Lions last year. Tate is lined up at receiver, but motions to the inside. Right before he goes in front of Stafford, the ball is snapped, and Stafford quickly tosses it to Tate. It is technically a pass, but it is much more like a running play. I would expect to continue to see Detroit use Tate in motion like this in 2017.
What Tate is known for more than anything else is his ability to turn screen passes into big gains. Detroit loves plays that are drawn up to get the ball into Tate’s hands quickly. Here, Tate is in the slot, with two receivers to his left side. The pass is almost instantly thrown to Tate, and the other two receivers do a good enough job of blocking that Tate has a clear path to the endzone.
When Golden Tate does not have the ball in his hands, he has no problem blocking for whoever does. This play is an example of his willingness to block from when Tate was with the Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson takes off on a quarterback scramble, and Tate makes a key block on linebacker Sean Lee, creating a lot of extra running room for Wilson. Keep in mind when you watch this, Tate is 5’10” and 197 pounds. Sean Lee is 6’2″ and 238 pounds.
Although Golden Tate doesn’t return punts for Detroit very often, he made a name for himself doing so in Seattle. Tate was Seattle’s primary punt returner, and he was very good at it. This play is probably the best punt return from Tate’s career. There’s not a lot of analysis to do here, just watch what Tate can do with the football in his hands.
Although Golden Tate is an extremely well-rounded football player, he does have physical limitations. He is not very tall, standing at 5’10”. Because of this, he is not a good red zone threat. He isn’t as fast as you would like out of a receiver. He doesn’t run great routes. Because of these limitations, he never has been or ever will be a true number one receiver.
Since Golden Tate has been with the Lions, he has scored very few touchdowns for a top receiver. He only has 14 touchdowns over his three seasons as a Lions, or an average of 4.67 per year. For reference, Jordy Nelson had 14 touchdowns in last season alone. Although Tate is a very good receiver, he has never seemed to have much of a knack for finding the end zone.
Golden Tate is not going to come out and put up Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones numbers next year, but I do expect him to lead the Lions in receptions and receiving yards again in 2017. Tate is not a true number one receiver, but he is undoubtedly one of the more well-rounded receivers in the NFL. Tate has physical limitations, but he can do just about anything that you ask him to. Because of the things I’ve outlined in this article, I foresee another good season from Golden Tate in 2017.
2017 Statistics Projection: 80 receptions, 1050 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns