Leafing Through Pages: Analysis of Sports and Other Topics


Looking Deeper at the Forty Yard Dash’s Effect In the NFL Draft War Rooms

I stumbled upon this article: 40 Yard Dash History and came upon several interesting quotes which I’ll look at piece by piece.

“They can take somebody who runs a 4.65 and get him down to a 4.55 — and sometimes even better than that,” says Gil Brandt, the Cowboys personnel chief from 1960 to ’88 who works for Sirius Satellite Radio and NFL.com.

It’s noteworthy that the NFL Combine is well known for as of late, being electronically timed. This isn’t more on display than comparing RB Chris “Beanie” Wells who was coming out of Ohio State. At the Combine, he ran a “slow” 4.59 by most scouts. However, at his official Pro Day, he ran at the lowest range, a 4.46 on an admittedly fast track. So even if scouts tooks Wells’ slowest time, he still ran 0.13 faster than he did at the NFL Combine.

“So at the end of the 1960 season, we sat down and worked out a 40-20-10 formula. Everyone would run a 40, but there would be 20- and 10-yard splits. We used the 20-yard split for offensive linemen because how often do they have to run 40 yards in a game? And we used the 10-yard split for wide receivers, in an effort to gauge their burst of speed off the line.”

This is very eye opening as well, especially in regards to wide receivers. Let’s compare several notable receivers from the 2005 NFL Combine, some busts, some worked out great. The first number is the 40, the second number is the 20, and the 3rd number is the 10.

Mark Clayton: 4.40 – 2.59 – 1.55
Chris Henry: 4.50 – 2.68 – 1.64
Vincent Jackson: 4.46 – 2.63 – 1.57
Mike Williams: 4.56 – 2.70 – 1.66
Troy Williamson: 4.32 – 2.57 – 1.58

If you look at the above players, you’d say that Troy Williamson had a hell of a 40 yard dash and was a flat out burner, right? Well, if you look a little bit deeper, you’ll notice that Mark Clayton had a similar 20 yard split and that both Mark Clayton and Vincent Jackson had faster 10 yard splits. Very rarely does a WR come off the line of scrimmage without some physical contact, so that 10 yard split turns out to be much more important as it’s the difference between separation deep and a CB keeping up.

Let’s compare it to RBs, who often make their living with “big plays” of 20-30 yard runs game after game. Here, we see the 10 yard split (and 20 yard split) is just as vital for a RB who needs an explosive start and needs to hit top speed immediately.

J.J. Arrington: 4.40 – 2.62 – 1.58
Ronnie Brown: 4.43 – 2.63 – 1.50
Ryan Grant: 4.43 – 2.65 – 1.57
Brandon Jacobs: 4.56 – 2.72 – 1.69
Darren Sproles: 4.47 – 2.62 – 1.55
Carnell Williams: 4.43 – 2.61 – 1.58

Note that both Ronnie Brown and Darren Sproles are explosively fast within 10 yards while Carnell Williams and Ryan Grant are both very good within 10 and 20 yards. Sproles had the 2nd slowest 40 but the 2nd fastest 10 yard split among this group. Brandon Jacobs’ size means his 40 would still be “exceptional” but you see how limited he can be when you look at his splits.

“Jerry Rice was an example of that in later years,” Brandt says. “He ran in the low 4.60s at the combine — not a stellar time — but with his equipment on, he probably ran faster than some of the players who would have beaten him in shorts. He was just so strong he carried his equipment well.”

This has been a long lament among some NFL fans who follow the NFL Combine, wishing that the players would be forced to run in full pads to better display how they “carry their equipment” and better show how true their on field speed is. There’s the old adage that some players play faster (or slower) on the field and that is just as true now as it was before.

“A slow timer will get a guy in 4.47, whereas a fast timer will get him in 4.42. And that 500th of a second could have to do with how someone uses his stopwatch.”

This is worth noting, especially with the recent spate of reports of college football players running in the 4.2 range (Chris Johnson ran a 4.24 at the NFL Combine) such as Miami WR Sam Shields who was supposedly timed at 4.2. QB Terrell Pryor out of Ohio State was timed at a 4.33. For comparison, ESPN reported that QB Michael Vick ran a 4.36 at his 2001 Mini Camp.


1 Comment »

  1. “A slow timer will get a guy in 4.47, whereas a fast timer will get him in 4.42. And that 500th of a second could have to do with how someone uses his stopwatch.”

    .05 is not a 500th of a second, its 5 hundredths of a second, which would be equal to one 20th of a second.

    Comment by beav — 09/01/2009 @ 1:50 PM | Reply

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