Marshall Faulk is a big fan of Theo Riddick

San Francisco -- Theo Riddick led all running backs this past season by catching 80 passes. He finished with 697 receiving yards and 645 yards after the catch, both second behind San Diego's Danny Woodhead.

Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk caught at least 80 passes five seasons in a row from 1998-2002. He was one of the best run-catch backs in NFL history, which is why he has a bust in Canton.

Faulk is a big fan of Riddick. He even thinks the Lions aren't using him enough as a runner.

"I think Theo is a complete back," Faulk said during a media event Thursday. "Obviously, they use him sparingly (as a runner)."

Riddick split his time between receiver and running back at Notre Dame, and Faulk said he'd really like to see Riddick learn to play the running back position behind the line of scrimmage at this level.

"It's a tough situation for him because they have three guys there (Riddick, Ameer Abdullah and Joique Bell)," he said. 

"They have a guy (Abdullah) that plays a lot of first downs, who can catch the ball just as well. You just don't have enough footballs to spread around. I want to see how he's going to continue to get the reps. It's hard. That's a tough backfield."

Abdullah, the team's second-round draft pick last year, led the Lions with 143 carries for 597 yards (4.2 average) with two touchdowns. Bell was second with 90 carries for 311 yards (3.5) and added four touchdowns.

Riddick wasn't even the team's third leading rusher. Quarterback Matthew Stafford earned that honor with 44 carries for 159 yards.

Riddick was fourth with 43 carries and just 133 yards (3.1 average). His career average per rush is just 2.9 yards, which doesn't exactly jump off the stat sheet.

Faulk described Riddick, who was drafted in the sixth round by Detroit as part of that terrific 2013 draft class, as the kind of back the New England Patriots have made famous over the years.

"We didn't think at the time Shane Vereen was that good, but now look at him," Faulk said. "And I think Theo could be that if he had more reps and more opportunity, but he's in a crowded backfield right now."

Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter will continue to find ways to get Riddick the ball in space, but that seems more apt to happen in the passing game, where Riddick excels as one of the league's best.

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