As the NFL combine approaches, many general managers, coaches, and scouts will be watching 335 prospects showcase their skills. With each prospect probed under the smallest of microscopes, all 32 NFL teams will be closely monitoring their every move. Amidst numerous events to take place, no event is more anticipated than the infamous 40-yard dash. The 40-yard dash has been equivalent to the NBA’s slam dunk contest, a joy to watch, but nothing more than a crowd pleaser. Although some players have experienced NFL success with low running times, such as Chris Johnson (4.24), DeSean Jackson (4.35), and Mike Wallace (4.33), the majority of the speed demons, do not pan out. Take for instance, the Oakland Raiders.
Al Davis’ sole purpose was to draft players based mainly on their 40-time. In 2005, the Raiders reached for cornerbacks Fabian Washington (4.29) in the first-round, and Stanford Routt (4.25) in the second-round. The two cornerbacks have since had difficult times in the NFL, with Washington out of the league and Routt playing a reserve role with the Houston Texans.
As if that was not bad enough, in 2009, the Raiders selected WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (4.30) over the likes of WR Michael Crabtree. The pick was quickly scrutinized by NFL pundits and for good reason, as Heyward-Bey has been nothing more than a first-round bust, while Crabtree is flirting with frequent trips to Hawaii.
So why do scouts love this event? Because, you can’t coach speed, and in the NFL, speed kills. However, the event is completely flawed, leaving many of us to ponder why the event is continually used year after year.
First of all, rarely will you see a player run in a straight line for 40 yards. Football is all about taking angles, and in football you need to be able to stop and go on a dime, making the short shuttle a better indicator of speed and acceleration, not the 40 yard-dash. In addition, there is a difference between football speed and track speed. Football speed is the best indicator of how fast a player is, because he is in pads, whereas in the 40-yard dash they are in their clothes, without pads. I don’t know about you, but if I am evaluating talent, I would rather take a look at game film, rather than see which player can compete with Usain Bolt in a track meet.
It remains to be seen how much influence the 40-yard dash has on NFL teams, considering each scouting department is different. However, if there is one thing scouts should take into consideration, it is to prioritize game-film, pro-days, and then the NFL combine.