Thursday, March 29, 2012

40 Yards and a Whole Bunch of Nothing

     I love NFL Draft Combine. I really do. It's a time for players you've watch for years in college make a name for themselves and become first round studs. However, the whole process the NFL scouts go through to pick their players is exhausting and could be made dramatically easier. Look, you may sit and read the paper or ESPN about how wonderful a particular player is or how well he'd fit into your team's offensive or defensive scheme, but in reality, no one has any idea what their talking about. They're analysts, not experts. They're the guys who thought JaMarcus Russell would be throwing for 4,000 yards every year rather than dropping codeine and getting accused of a felony, though he was not convicted. The combine, which I may or may not begin to refer to as the Underwear Olympics, has a trademark "activity," the 40 yard dash.
     To many scouts, it is the all-powerful measurement of talent, brains, fitness, and whatever else you can get from twenty somethings running around in their underwear. The late Al Davis (At Left) had a proven track record of always picking the fastest player, based on their official 40 time, in the draft, which is odd, mainly because Al Davis looked like a zombie, and zombies usually want to hang out (can zombies even do that???) with their slow moving brethren. As anyone would predict, this soon became a problem, so much so that Raiders scouts would add on time to the faster but less talented athletes and make the more talented but slower players look faster. The Al Davis scenario, though extreme, is not uncommon in the NFL. I've seen so many talented players get knocked down into the second and third rounds simply because they were a few hundredths of a second behind what was expected.
   For a modern example, Alabama running back Trent Richardson was supposedly thrown from the lofty mountaintop that is the top five picks of the draft to the murky depths of the top ten, just because he ran a forty yard dash at a speed any weekend warrior would kill to have. The problem, obviously, was that he was too slow. Richardson is undoubtedly one of the best running back prospects in years, so much so that I would venture to guess that if this draft was held in 1990, he would have a shot to be the first overall pick. But, because he was a few hundredths of a second off the expected, he has seen his stock drop a tad. There's not even proof he was slower. The forty is about as inexact as a congress economic plan, as the scouts test a runner by hand with a stopwatch, and then they all group together to find an average, which will become the "official" time.
     In reality, the forty is almost useless. Nobody really cares how fast a 400 lb. lineman can run forty yards, yet we still have to watch him try to survive without getting a hernia. It is very rare for a player, regardless of position, to run in a straight line for one hundred twenty feet, yet we still test it. A better measure of true speed is the shuttle run or the agility cone drills, not the forty. If scouts put less stock into how fast a player can run and more into his character, strength, talent and overall how well the player would fit into a give team, then maybe sports writers can start calling themselves experts again and the teams could actually get some picks right. 

Images from:,, and


  1. h0w long wuz Al Davs a zombie? cause that was probs bad for his players. scared them and stuff like sanduskY

  2. This is one reason why the Bengals use the Mel Kiper method (; hahah

  3. Hey Billy, new post coming soon?