40-Yard Dash is By Far Most Overrated NFL Draft-Stock Raiser

By Brian Neal
Brandin Cooks 40-Yard dash
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Who is Brandin Cooks? To be completely honest, until just a little bit ago, I had no idea. Apparently he can run in a straight line really fast, though, and he’s probably going to be drafted higher in the 2014 NFL Draft than he’s supposed to.

Yes, that is the biggest issue with the NFL Combine every year. Team scouts and GMs — and the media, in particular — all become so enamored with these measurables that they make stupid decisions come draft day and select a guy who can’t run a route, catch a ball, break a tackle, make a tackle, cover a guy and, you know, other important things that make someone a good football player.

Cooks, a wide receiver out of Oregon State, was clocked at an impressive 4.30 40-time. And in 2013, he actually had an excellent season with an outstanding 128 receptions for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns. So, maybe it’s sad that I don’t know who he is, but nevertheless, when I hear about the top wideout prospects in the upcoming draft, I’ve never heard anyone mention him. But now that he’s run a little bit faster than other really fast people at the Combine, now everybody wants to talk about him and how great he might be at the next level.

That’s the issue I have with the 40-yard dash in particular. So much draft stock is put into how fast these players can run in a straight line with nobody on them and no pads on. It almost means nothing. In fact, these players all train and learn just how to run this little sprint because technique on how you start and finish can shed a tenth of a second or more, but nobody runs like that when they get on the football field.

But sure, I’ll give credit where it’s due. Seeing how athletic these guys are is important. My point here is, though, that if Player A didn’t impress on the football field as much as Player B, but ran a slightly faster 40-time, don’t draft Player A ahead of Player B. The body of work on the gridiron is 1,000 times more important than a straight-line sprint.

Cooks’ accomplishments on the field should be the main reason he’s drafted in the first two rounds, not the fact that he ran a great 40. After all, I don’t know if people remember this, but Jerry Rice didn’t run a 4.3-flat. In fact, the greatest WR to ever play ran a 4.71. So, you tell me how important it is.

In recent years, players like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Taylor Mays have benefited from having unreal 40-times and other elite Combine-esque measurables and turned out to be huge disappointments at the pro level. And it’s not just skill position players. Anybody remember Bruce Campbell from a few years ago? He showed how athletic of a guard he was and everybody raved about him at the time. Fortunately, teams were smart enough to pass on him until the fourth round of the draft, but he was being talked about as a potential first- or second-rounder as the Combine ended back in 2010.

My main point here is that these measurables basically don’t matter. A 40-yard dash is no indication of if someone can play football, so can we please stop praising these players just because they can run a tad bit faster than some other super athletic players? It just doesn’t make sense, and it’s easily the most overrated draft-stock raiser.

Brian Neal is an NFL and NBA contributor for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianneal23, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google+.

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