The 40-yard dash has become one of the most used forms in evaluating a player’s speed. It can help determine if a player is taken early in the NFL draft or if they have to wait a little longer to hear their named called.
But speed can be very dangerous when evaluating players. Everyone loves to see the fast receiver and will always expect them to be able to make big plays, but that is not always the case. Note the Vikings’ first-round pick in 2005, Troy Williamson. He had tremendous speed but struggled catching the ball downfield so he was never really able to make it as a wide receiver in the NFL.
Fast forward to 2015. The Vikings drafted another receiver, Stefon Diggs, and like Williamson he has great straight-line speed and ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. But unlike Williamson, Diggs appears to be able to do everything needed to be a wide receiver in the NFL.
“He’s a playmaker,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said when asked about Diggs. “You go out there and watch, he’s made a number of big plays. He has a lot of work to do, I was glad to see him say that in one of the interviews I saw. Just alignments, assignments, details on routes, but those things you can coach and you can help him with those things. Sometimes you can coach all that stuff and the guy still doesn’t make plays. Right now he’s making plays and most of our receivers, when they’ve been given the opportunity, are coming up with big plays.”
Another player new to the Vikings organization who has the ability to make big, splashy plays on offense is Mike Wallace. For most of his career many people have type-casted him as a downfield threat because of his speed. But it seems as though he is going to be used in more than one way this season.
“We move him around a lot and he’s very, very smart,” Turner said. “Obviously very experienced and there are some routes he runs really, really well that he runs underneath routes. I’ve been very impressed with him. Obviously he can stretch the field and go deep, but I think he’s a guy that we can use in a lot of different ways.”
Turner has been in the NFL for a long time and has coached many players. He often does not want to compare players to one another but he did hint that the Vikings’ group of receivers on this year’s roster could be one of the fastest he has ever worked with.
“I have a hard time comparing players and comparing groups but one thing, this group, I think we could put together a pretty good relay team with this group,” he said. “They all run awfully well.”
Having players such as Diggs, Wallace, Jarius Wright, Charles Johnson, Cordarrelle Patterson and Adam Thielen on the same roster has to excite Turner because of the speed and athleticism they offer him. But a lot of them are still young and inexperienced players so expectations do need to be managed.
But this appears to be the deepest wide receiver group that the Vikings have had in some time. It will be interesting to see how the coaches utilize all the talent available to them as they continue to progress through training camp.