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"
|3||Denmark, Clarence||WR||Ark (Monticello)||4.31v|
|4||Butler, Deon||WR||Penn St||4.32v|
|5||Knox, Johnny||WR||Abilene Christian||4.33v|
|7||Smith, Antone||RB||Florida St||4.34v|
|11||Biggers, E.J.||DC||W Michigan||4.36v|
|13||Byrd, Demetrius||WR||Louisiana St||4.37v|
|15||Harris, Jaron||WR||So Dakota St||4.38v|
|16||Lambert, Terrail||DC||Notre Dame||4.39v|
|18||Butler, Vincent||DC||New Mexico St||4.41v|
|20||Guice, Dudley||WR||Northwestern St||4.41v|
|22||Webb, Lardarius||DC||Nicholls St||4.42v|
|25||McKinley, Kenny||WR||So Carolina||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|
|31||Hughes, Brandon||DC||Oregon St||4.43v|
|32||Jones, Reggie||DC||Portland St||4.43v|
|33||Cox, Derek||DC||William & Mary||4.43v|
|35||Bayes, Shawn||WR||Kent St||4.43v|
|36||Pruitt, Julius||WR||Ouachita Baptist||4.43v|
|38||Bruton, David||FS||Notre Dame||4.44v|
|39||Johnson, Ian||RB||Boise St||4.44v|
|44||Dupree, Maurice||WR||Jacksonville (AL)||4.45v|
|45||Brown, Andre||RB||No Carolina St||4.46v|
|47||Afalava, Al||SS||Oregon St||4.46v|
|49||Gant, Ed||WR||No Alabama||4.46v|
|53||Carter, Tony||DC||Florida St||4.47v|
|54||Lacey, Jacob||DC||Oklahoma St||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|