In The National Football League, Speed Kills!

Over the years as a professional football scouts I have seen highly skilled coaches do some remarkable things in transforming what I believed marginal college players into productive professional, but in virtually every case the one natural gift that each of these individuals possessed was speed.

When evaluating a football player, the most important critical factor that a professional scout or coach looks for is speed. It is the one physical characteristic that can make up for a blown coverage, can get a defender to the passer and otherwise turn a seemingly ordinary play into a dynamic game-changing event.

Although speed is not the most important critical factor when evaluating an offensive linemen, nose tackle, or quarterback, I've found over the years that the very top players at these critical positions over the years all ran particularly well.

Late in the draft, when the board has been picked cleaner than a three day old Thanksgiving turkey, most teams will err on the side of speed.

I can still remember Jim Mora gathering the scouting staff together at the conclusion of the sixth round in 1993 and telling us to forget about the board. Instead, the Rams coach told us to "go back into your books and find someone that is unusual in some way".

The Rams ultimately drafted a 360 pound nose tackle (highly unusual), who later was converted to an offensive guard.

My particular choice was already at the top of our draft board and was unusual by the fact that he was, at the time, one of the eight fastest men on the planet.

Not long after that, Jim passed me on the way out to the practice field one day and stated, "Tom, we should have listened to you and drafted James Jett with our final selection."

A would-be scout needs to consider one very important point in mind when evaluating speed; always consider the type of surface, the footwear worn by an athlete, his physical stature and the weather conditions. Running outdoors in 40 degree weather in tall grass with wind gusts is decidedly different than running indoors on a fast tartan track in track nubs.

One final thing to keep in mind is that two of the very fastest players in this years draft, Michael Crabtree and North Carolina's Brandon Tate were injured and will not run prior to this year's draft.

This Year's "Nifty Sixty-One"

NO. Name Pos School 40
1 Heyward-Bey, Darrius WR Maryland 4.29v
2 McCain, Brice DC Utah 4.31v
3 Denmark, Clarence WR Ark (Monticello) 4.31v
4 Butler, Deon WR Penn St 4.32v
5 Knox, Johnny WR Abilene Christian 4.33v
6 Thomas, Mike WR Arizona 4.33v
7 Smith, Antone RB Florida St 4.34v
8 Wallace, Mike WR Mississippi 4.34v
9 Moore, Devin RB Wyoming 4.35v
10 Riley, Eron WR Duke 4.35v
11 Biggers, E.J. DC W Michigan 4.36v
12 Murphy, Louis WR Florida 4.37v
13 Byrd, Demetrius WR Louisiana St 4.37v
14 Clemons, Chris FS Clemson 4.38v
15 Harris, Jaron WR So Dakota St 4.38v
16 Lambert, Terrail DC Notre Dame 4.39v
17 Williams, Bryan SS Akron 4.39v
18 Butler, Vincent DC New Mexico St 4.41v
19 Underwood, Tiquan WR Rutgers 4.41v
20 Guice, Dudley WR Northwestern St 4.41v
21 Davis, Vontae DC Illinois 4.42v
22 Webb, Lardarius DC Nicholls St 4.42v
23 Sheets, Kory RB Purdue 4.42v
24 Harvin, Percy WR Florida 4.42v
25 McKinley, Kenny WR So Carolina 4.42v
26 Means, Andrew WR Indiana 4.42v
27 Byers, Jarrett WR NE Oklahoma St 4.42v
28 Hackendorf, Kole WR No Dakota St 4.42v
29 Lawrence, Quinten WR McNeese St 4.42v
30 Eloi, Keith WR Nebraska-Omaha 4.42v
31 Hughes, Brandon DC Oregon St 4.43v
32 Jones, Reggie DC Portland St 4.43v
33 Cox, Derek DC William & Mary 4.43v
34 Ogletree, Kevin WR Virginia 4.43v
35 Bayes, Shawn WR Kent St 4.43v
36 Pruitt, Julius WR Ouachita Baptist 4.43v
37 Butler, Terrance WR Presbyterian 4.43v
38 Bruton, David FS Notre Dame 4.44v
39 Johnson, Ian RB Boise St 4.44v
40 Smith, Derrick WR LA-Lafayette 4.44v
41 Davis, Tristan RB Auburn 4.45v
42 Mitchell, Marko WR Nevada-Reno 4.45v
43 Nunn, Terrence WR Nebraska 4.45v
44 Dupree, Maurice WR Jacksonville (AL) 4.45v
45 Brown, Andre RB No Carolina St 4.46v
46 Thigpen, Marcus RB Indiana 4.46v
47 Afalava, Al SS Oregon St 4.46v
48 Maclin, Jeremy WR Missouri 4.46v
49 Gant, Ed WR No Alabama 4.46v
50 Reeder, Chetyuane WR Presbyterian 4.46v
51 Collins, Dobson WR Gardner-Webb 4.46v
52 Underwood, Brandon DC Cincinnati 4.47v
53 Carter, Tony DC Florida St 4.47v
54 Lacey, Jacob DC Oklahoma St 4.47v
55 Moore, William FS Missouri 4.47v
56 Adkins, Spencer IB Miami 4.47v
57 Scott, Bernard RB Abilene Christian 4.47v
58 Goodson, Mike RB Texas A&M 4.47v
59 Herring, Keegan RB Arizona St 4.47v
60 Vaughn, Chip SS Wake Forest 4.47v
61 Edison, Dominique WR S F Austin 4.47v

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