It's about that time of year - with the combine in full swing, it's
time to drool over, argue about, and debate the effectiveness of, 40
yard dash times.
This year even came with the increasingly present opinion from Bill
Polian (who's rapidly reaching a point of saturation), who not unlike
the late Al Davis, thinks it's remarkably important. And, this is that
time of year that becomes popular to dust off last year's complaints
about the 40's hype. They'll show that two other WR and one TE went
before Jerry Rice, they'll show you every Trung Canidate that ran some
blazing 40 time and busted.
There's a delicate balnce there. It's just one part of the puzzle, and
how you view the player's tape is still more important. But it has to
translate from tape (the system the player's in, the players around him)
the same way it has to translate from the 40 to the skills used on the
You also have to decipher what that speed means, based on position, and
playing style. A 170 lb receiver that long-strides his way to top speed
is a lot different than a 220 lb guy that does the same; the same two
sized players that get up to full speed at 10 yards are completely
different players as well. You apply the other characteristics (can a
guy beat the press? can he run the shorter routes to take advantage of a
corner that's scared?) to your existing scouting.
But, in the end, it's just another part of a grade. It can be a
tiebreaker, a way of classifying what a player is ("he's a deep threat,
and we value that hard in Coryell", or "we have him rated highly, but
we're really looking for a slot guy and his routes aren't clean"),
whatever you want. So it really makes sense that it's a debateable
ideal, since everyone seems to use it differently in the NFL, and those
aren't the same people sensationalizing it in the press.
So, is the 40 as a standalone a massive deal? Not really on its own.
That, plus shuttle/cone trials and a few other drills, give an idea for
raw athleticism. You apply that based on its usefulness. Same as you
would a vertical, a high or low bench press. You look for minimum and
maximum values and maybe you weed out guys that don't meet those
It might also let you look at a guy differently - a a 6'1, 220 lb guy
looks like a terrible TE at this level. If he's played TE, he might not
have shown his speed; if he comes and runs hard, can he be a receiver?
Has he had the tape to show you what he could do? Maybe not.
So, the only other thing I figure might be useful - if it's not done
already - is to have a pre-workout scouting grade for a player, and a
Which creates its own issues. Then it becomes, how do you weigh each?
Do you keep a separate draft board for pre- and post- grades? That
feels unnecessarily complicated (unless you have a low level scouting
assistant maintaining the separate draft board), so then you have your
final grade, with the pre-draft grade added as an after-thought.
Don't know. That's for the pros to decide. But, I doubt the average
scout is really worrying as hard about 40 times as talking heads this
time of year, the same ones reporting them as feverishly as they come.