Fast Rookies at the Combine – Impact Meteors or Cosmic Dust?

Meteors are fast. Information suggests they may be as fast as 160,000 mph! But when they enter Earth’s atmosphere a change takes place. Depending on such factors as their speed, size, and composition (such as ice, rock, or iron), the atmosphere may alter them before they hit the ground. Sources indicate that most meteors entering Earth’s atmopshere harmlessly fall to the ground as small rocks or dust.

Rookies are fast. The gravitational pull to speed grabs the attention of scouts, coaches and maybe even a few eccentric fantasy owners. But what happens to these speedy rookies when they rocket into the atmospheric pressures of the NFL? Will they leave an impact crater, or perhaps just become harmless rocks and dust?

Frequent reader Brian C. from Titusville, FL requested that I do some homework. He wanted to see the 3 fastest running backs and the 3 fastest wide receivers going back in time – Specifically, the top three 40-yard dash times for each combine year for RB and WR. Then analyze if those players translated into relevant fantasy value.

So, I went back 9 seasons to 2009. I should point out that these may not have been the fastest athletes at their respective combine, but they were the fastest at their respective position. If there was a tie in the 40-yard dash time, I did include all players if they were the same position. You be the judge. Did the fastest of the fast leave an impact? Or are their results a fleeting as a solar flare?

Running Backs

40 Time 2009 RB Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.45 Cedric Peerman 185 472 5.1 1 Released by 3 teams til he made 2013 Pro-Bowl as a Bengal.
4.46 Ian Johnson UFA 0 0 0 Career practice squad player for 4 teams ending in 2011.
4.47 Kory Sheets UFA 5 2.5 0 Was MVP for CFL’s Roughriders in 2013 Grey Cup.
40 Time 2010 RB Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.35 Jahvid Best 30 1719 78.1 9 Concussion issues forced him from the NFL after 2 seasons.
4.37 C.J. Spiller 9 4935 54.8 21 Pro Bowl in 2012 (1244 rush yds).
4.43 Ben Tate 58 2710 53.1 14 Missed 2010. Had 942 rush yards in 2011. Played for 4 teams.
40 Time 2011 RB Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.34 Da’Rel Scott 221 213 10.7 1 Released 2 years later after knee and hamstring injuries.
4.38 Mario Fannin UFA 0 0 0 Never played in an NFL game. Released in 2013.
4.40 Derrick Locke UFA 0 0 0 2 teams gave him a shot in 2011 but was released.
4.40 Jordan Todman 183 845 11.3 5 Never had more than 76 attempts and 256 rush yards.
40 Time 2012 RB Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.40 Lamar Miller 97 6293 69.2 34 Last 4 seasons averaged 1279 scrimmage yards.
4.45 Ronnie Hillman 67 2500 44.6 13 2015 was his best season with 863 rush yards and 7 TD.
4.45 LaMichael James 61 238 13.2 0 Was return man in 2013 totalling 572 yards. Gone in 2015.
4.45 Chris Rainey 159 162 9.0 2 Had 1035 KR yards his rookie season. Gone in 2013.
40 Time 2013 RB Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.34 Onterio McCalebb UFA 0 0 0 Was moved to CB but only appeared in 1 game. Cut in 2014.
4.37 Knile Davis 96 1076 18.9 12 Never averaged more than 3.5 YPC. Gone by 2016.
4.48 Kerwynn Williams 230 1097 28.1 4 2017 was his best season for the Cardinals w/ 426 yards.
40 Time 2014 RB Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.26 Dri Archer 97 0 0 0 Claimed by Bills in 2016, he failed to report.
4.41 Jerick McKinnon 96 2902 50.0 12 Just signed by SF as free agent for 2018.
4.43 Henry Josey UFA 0 0 0 Signed by PHI, JAX and MIN, never made 53-man roster.
40 Time 2015 RB Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.42 Jeremy Langford 106 1158 41.4 11 Currently on Jets practice squad.
4.48 Karlos Williams 155 613 55.7 9 Suspended for 3rd violation of league policy on June 28, 2017.
4.49 Trey Williams UFA 12 6.0 0 Signed by 7 teams yet only played in 2 games for the Colts.
40 Time 2016 RB Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.31 Keith Marshall 242 0 0 0 Tore patellar tendon in 2017 during camp.
4.41 Tyler Ervin 119 0 0 0 Special teamer.
4.45 Kenyan Drake 73 1108 34.6 6 Started 6 games in 2017 after Jay Ajayi was traded.
40 Time 2017 RB Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.37 T.J. Logan 179 0 0 0 Dislocated wrist in preseason, placed on IR.
4.41 Joe Williams 121 0 0 0 Ankle injury, placed on IR September 2, 2017.
4.42 Tarik Cohen 119 723 45.2 3 3rd-down back saw 19% of redzone looks.

Wide Receiver

40 Time 2009 WR Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.30 Darrius Heyward-Bey 7 3089 44.8 18 Best season was a 64/975/4 line in 2011.
4.33 Mike Wallace 84 8313 58.5 57 Pro-Bowl in 2011. Best year was 2010 with 60/1257/10.
4.34 Johnny Knox 140 2216 49.2 12 Spinal cord injury in 2011 game ended his career.
40 Time 2010 WR Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.28 Jacoby Ford 108 919 24.2 5 Scored 7 TD as rookie including returns. Released in 2013.
4.41 Taylor Price 90 80 13.3 0 Placed on IR in 3 consecutive seasons. Gone in 2012.
4.41 Emmanuel Sanders 82 6262 54.5 33 2 Pro Bowls. Had 230 yards in 3 playoff games in 2015.
40 Time 2011 WR Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.37 Edmond ‘Clyde’ Gates 111 381 11.9 0 Had 843 KR yards his rookie season.
4.37 Ricardo Lockette UFA 451 13.3 4 Played all 16 games in 2014, yet targeted only 15 times.
4.39 Julio Jones 6 9163 96.5 43 5-time Prop Bowler. First team All-Pro twice.
40 Time 2012 WR Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.36 Travis Benjamin 100 3154 37.5 18 Best year was 2015 with 966 yards and 5 TD.
4.36 Stephen Hill 43 594 25.8 4 Tore ACL in 2015. Waived by CAR in 2016.
4.36 Chris Owusu UFA 319 12.8 2 3 teams in 3 seasons. Last played in 2015.
40 Time 2013 WR Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.27 Marquise Goodwin 78 1807 32.9 8 Had his best year with SF in 2017 and is on the rise.
4.34 Tavon Austin 8 2927 39.0 21 Nearly half of his yards (1238) are rushing yards.
4.34 Ryan Swope 174 0 0 0 IR/retired list due to concussions.
40 Time 2014 WR Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.33 Brandin Cooks 20 4104 70.8 28 Averaged 1131 yards the last 3 seasons.
4.34 John Brown 91 2551 45.6 17 Best season was his 1003 receiving yards in 2015.
4.40 Donte Moncrief 90 1891 35.7 18 Best season was his 733 receiving yards in 2015.
4.40 Paul Richardson 45 1307 27.8 8 Just signed with Washington.
40 Time 2015 WR Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.28 J.J. Nelson 159 1495 35.6 11 His 74 targets in 2016 was a career high.
4.33 Phillip Dorsett 29 981 23.9 3 Best season was 528 receiving yards in 2016.
4.35 Chris Conley 76 904 24.4 1 Best season was 530 receiving yards in 2016.
4.35 Kevin White 7 202 40.4 0 Tibia, fibula, and scapula fracture in consecutive seasons.
40 Time 2016 WR Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.32 Will Fuller 21 1064 44.3 9 Broken collar bone sidelined him for 6 games in 2017.
4.39 Kolby Listenbee 192 0 0 0 Signed futures contract with Colts for 2018.
4.42 Trevor Davis 163 0 0 0 Totaled 996 return yards for GB in 2017.
40 Time 2017 WR Player Draft APY YPG TD Skinny
4.22 John Ross 9 12 4.0 0 3rd WR taken. Fumbled on first carry. Ended season on IR.
4.31 Curtis Samuel 40 179 19.9 0 Season ending ankle injury after 9 games.
4.40 Josh Malone 128 65 5.9 1 Was a healthy scratch for the first 5 CIN games of 2017.

It’s probably no surprise that most players drafted in rounds 1 through 4 (approximately pick 140 or better) had a more solid NFL orbit. But there were some arguable busts and disappointments in this group too, such as C.J. Spiller and Kevin White. Any late-round picks that made a 53-man roster usually were relegated to the vacuum of special teams space. The NFL life of undrafted speedsters was generally a game of training camp ping-pong, ending in a release or as a practice-squad body.

So the big meteoroligical question for 2018 is how will the recent combine results work out for the latest speedsters? If history is any indication, it may depend where they are drafted.

40 Time 2018 RB 40 Time 2018 WR
4.38 Nyheim Hines 4.34 D.J. Clark
4.40 Saquon Barkley 4.37 Marquez Valdes-scantling
4.46 Kalen Ballage 4.41 Antonio Callaway
   4.41 Robert Foster

Sources: American Meteor Society, NFL.com, Pro Football Reference, Wikipedia

Key Description
Draft Position the player was drafted in the NFL entry draft.
UFA Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent.
APY All-Purpose Yards, includes rushing and receiving yards.
YPG Yards per Game average.
TD Total of all rushing and receiving touchdowns.

 

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Joe Mica

Written by 

Joe has been passionate about fantasy football since 2001. He has experience as an owner as well as a commissioner in H2H, auction, redraft and IDP leagues. He has written fantasy football columns since 2010. Submit any fantasy football questions you may have to me on twitter @JoeFMica

8 thoughts on “Fast Rookies at the Combine – Impact Meteors or Cosmic Dust?”

  1. Really like the topic. Makes you realize that running in a straight line for the 40 yard dash doesn’t really translate onto the football field.

  2. Yea I think the point is clear. Speed does not always kill, but I still am not giving up on John Ross 4.22 yet. Please let him be a meteor.

    1. Nice compelation of data. As I suspecred, speed alone does not necessarily translate to the NFL.

  3. Thanks for the article Joe. It was nice to see the actual NFL numbers correlated with their 40 times. I know that took some time to find the stats on some of these guys. Well done with the 2013 MVP of the CFL Roughriders LOL. As we all suspected, speed doesn’t always mean you are a good football player, but it doesn’t mean that you aren’t either. In the end though it’s a terrible barometer of football skills.

  4. Wow love this Great Read!
    and what an interesting choice of content for a FF article

    Well done sir

    i will certainly be back lurking in these parts for more articles of this type

    Again love it

    Ps i hope a feller i play with does catch up to this as i love when he drafts all of these busts..

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