At the NFL Combine, draft prospects are put through a rigorous regimen that would make any normal man like myself vomit before the first hour is up. How much can a prospect bench press? How high can this prospect jump? Does this one have a long wingspan and does that one have the agility to run through a series of cone drills? And don’t forget those interviews. You have a history of off-field problems? The NFL not only knows about it, but every team who wants to take a chance on you will poke and prod you until you crack. Some players pass the interview process with flying colors, while others wish they could go back and rewrite their own history. I’m glad I’m not Manti Te’o right now.
Aside from the rigors of the drills and the interviews, the biggest number that separates the value of many draft picks is the “official” time in the 40-yard dash, which is the number used by Combine officials. While players such as defensive tackles and offensive linemen aren’t expected to put in high marks in the 40, it’s what sets the tone for running backs and wide receivers. A running back’s 40 time can make or break his career even before he puts on an NFL uniform. That one number seems to take precedence over all Combine exercises. There were rumors that former Raiders owner Al Davis drafted on 40 times alone. Darrius Heyward-Bey ring a bell?
So just how fast are some of the running back prospects in 2013? Lets check out the five fastest times that happened over the weekend. Keep in mind that 40 times doesn’t assure these players will be drafted. These players could find themselves either drafted in the last round or not drafted at all, the second scenario being the most likely one for these guys. Speed doesn’t make up for size and overall ability. BTW, Chris Johnson’s 40-yard record of 4.24 still stands, but oh how close one player was from breaking it.
1. Onterio McCalebb – Auburn
McCalebb’s “unofficial” forty times were said to be 4.21 and 4.27. Unfortunately, his “official” time turned out to be 4.34, so CJ2K’s record is safe for another year. At 5’10/168, McCalebb will do most of his damage as a return specialist if he’s drafted.
2. Knile Davis – Arkansas
Davis wasn’t that far behind McCalebb, clocking in at 4.37, which is fast considering Davis weighed in at 227 pounds. Davis opted out of his Senior year, which may have been a poor choice after averaging just 3.4 yards on 112 carries with two touchdowns in 2012. However, this 40 time is sure to push him up the board on some team’s rankings. His speed and size could get him a seventh-round grade at least.
3. Matt Brown – Temple
One of the smallest backs at the Combine at a mere 5’5/165, Brown’s 4.40 40 likely won’t be enough to get him attention even late in the draft. He could wind up somewhere as an undrafted free agent, but even that is a stretch considering how small he is.
4. Chris Thompson – Florida State
Thompson clocked in at 4.42, but I would be surprised if he was drafted at all. Coming off a broken vertebrae in his back from 2011, Thompson suffered a season-ending knee injury in the October 20 win over Miami.
5. Curtis McNeal – USC
McNeal rounds out the top 5 with an “official” time of 4.43, but I don’t see him as anything more than a “chance” in the seventh round or signed by a team after the draft. He’s also coming off a concussion suffered back in September, which could put his draft status in jeopardy.
I couldn’t end a 40-yard dash article without a video of NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, who closes out every Combine with a run of his own. You’ll crack a 4.3 someday Rich…….someday.