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Running Backs Can 40 Yard Dash to the Bank

I would like to start this blog off by saying I do think the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine, starting this week, is a little overrated. I do not think that 40 yards of Lucas Oil Stadium soil can determine whether or not an offensive lineman is going to block Julius Peppers better than someone else. But I do think it holds some credibility when speaking of the skill position players. Looking over numbers today, a particular position jumped out at me as important in regards to the 40 yard dash. That position would be running back, so hear me out on it.

I started back in 2004 going forward and took a look at who ran the fastest 40 yard dash times from each draft class.

1. Tatum Bell
2. Kevin Jones
3. Willie Parker
4. Steven Jackson
5. DeJuan Green

Notables from the 2004 NFL draft that failed to crack the top 5 include Michael Turner, Julius Jones, and (because I am feeling generous) Mewelde Moore. You could make the argument that Turner is the best running back from this draft class but after that it easily goes Steven Jackson and Willie Parker. Julius Jones is next on the list followed by Tatum Bell and Kevin Jones. So, 4 of the fastest runners at the combine are in the top 6 running backs currently.

1. J.J. Arrington
2. Ronnie Brown
3. Ryan Grant
4. Cadillac Williams
5. Ryan Moats
6. Darren Sproles

Notables from the 2005 Draft include Cedric Benson (4th overall pick), Frank Gore, Marion Barber III, and Brandon Jacobs. OK, not the best showing of talent here as the list probably goes Gore, Barber, Jacobs, Ronnie Brown, Ryan Grant, Darren Sproles. Still, in 2005 3 of the top 6 fastest times were able to finish in the top 6 and Cadillac Williams is still showing promise if he can stay healthy.

1. Reggie Bush
2. Maurice Jones-Drew
3. Jerious Norwood
4. Joseph Addai
5. Andre Hall
6. Leon Washington

Notables from the 2006 Draft include Laurence Maroney, Deangelo Williams (who did not run at the Combine) and LenDale White (also did not run). Now we’re talking. In what was a top-heavy running back class, the speedsters did not disappoint. My current list today would go Jones-Drew, Deangelo Williams, Bush, Addai, Lendale White and Laurence Maroney. However, a good note here is that Jerious Norwood and Leon Washington are two of the biggest “home run hitters” in the league. Might need speed to do that, no? In all, 3 of the top 6 fastest combines show up in the top 4 current running backs from this draft class.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket with the 40-yard-dash, but make sure your basket isn't empty.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket with the 40-yard-dash, but make sure your basket isn't empty.

1. Adrian Peterson
2. Antonio Pittman
3. Chris Henry
4. Kenny Irons
5. Lorenzo Booker
6. Marshawn Lynch

Other notables from this draft include Brandon Jackson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Bush and Selvin Young. There should be an asterisk around this draft and the 2008 draft because some would argue it is too soon to determine who the top running backs of this class are. The obvious top 2 are Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, so that would be 2 for 2 right away. Selvin Young has recieved the most playing time and is in a system that makes running backs look great but would still be next on the list. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jackson come next. The verdict is out on Chris Henry and Lorenzo Booker, but with the success of Peterson and Lynch, I like this class.

1. Chris Johnson
2. Darren McFadden
3. Jamaal Charles
4. Chad Simpson
5. Kevin Smith
6. Ray Rice
7. Rashard Mendenhall
8. Matt Forte
9. Felix Jones
10. Jonathon Stewart
11. Steve Slaton

I put so many in this draft because the difference in time from Kevin Smith to Steve Slaton was 4.43 to 4.49. This was such a great running back class and they showed it off by all running very fast times, as 11 ran under 4.50.

The point I am trying to make here is not that this is foolproof and whoever runs faster will have the better career. If that were the case, teams would be assigned players because there would be no other factor involved. However, there are tens of different factors that go into a selection on draft day. My point is simply that at the running back position, being able to burst out of a stance and having vertical speed turns out to be somewhat important, so don’t throw out the 40 yard dash by saying “when, in a game does a player ever run 40 yards in a straight line?” Not much, but if they do in a game, I’ll take the faster one.


February 16, 2009 - Posted by | Football, NFL, NFL Draft | , ,


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