Famously, Jerry Rice had 4.6/40 speed. Somehow he was able to eke out a modest little career for himself. In a style of thinking that leaves the baby bloodied on the sidewalk drenched in bathwater, many people use this as an argument that all combine stats are meaningless. Hell, I'm a gamer, with a nose for the ball, who cares that I run a 6.4 40 or that I can only bench 200 lbs. I'm the next undiscovered superstar, goddamnit!
Rice may not have been a burner, but he was able to attain his top speed almost instantaneously. How often is a player ever going to be able to run 40 yards unmolested in a straight line? Almost never, of course. So who cares if Greg Olson lights up the stopwatches with 4.51 forty if he's never going to use it in the NFL. The true abilities to look for in measuring a tight ends receiving ability are initial burst (his ten yard speed), secondary burst (20 yard time - ten yard time ) and agility (his cone drill speed and 20 yard shuttle).
Without further ado, I present my combine all-stars. We start today with the much fretted about need at TE. Stats are listed: 10 yard speed, Secondary Speed (Again that's 20 yard speed minus ten yard speed), 3 Cone Drill and then 20-yard shuttle. Official measurement were taken from NFL Draft Scout; Secondary Speed is my own invention.
Greg Olson: 1.59, 1, 7.04, 4.48
Olson is the undoubted first tight end off the board. His initial burst is strong, but his second gear and agility are what really impresses. Tight ends run a ton of plays roughly 20 yards down the field and Newton shows his best speed just when he'll need to get separation. Something to watch though is that his Shuttle was decidedly MOR. Unless something unforeseen happens, Seattle has little to no chance of landing this guy.
Michael Allan: 1.61, 1.07, 7.31, 4.52
Fans and reporters got hooked on Olson's 4.51/40, but in speed that matters Allan is nearly his match. Good initial burst from the big guy and good Secondary Speed to get separation. His agility makes him a poor fit in any offense that employs lots of TE double moves and his 20-40 speed is less than ideal for a team that sends the TE deep, but in a standard offense that employs mostly curls and posts, he could be every bit Olson's equal.
Ben Patrick: 1.65, 1.06, 7.21, 4.31
His numbers are very comparable to Allan's. Better overall agility, his performance in the Cone Drill is only so-so, but he tore up the 20-Yard Shuttle. I put him a notch below Allan because he's shorter (6'3" v 6'5") and combined with his vert (34 1/2") and broad jump (9'3") his ability to consistently win jump ball situations is doubtful and his overall leg strength is worrisome.
Kevin Boss: 1.68, 1.12, 6.96, 4.41
His Secondary Speed is a good bit slower than the top three, but Boss showed excellent agility. I wish the combine had a measure for single cut speed; that is twenty yards vertical followed by twenty yards at a right angle. Agility allows a player not only to maintain a high speed while cutting, but to wade through traffic without losing a step. His 20-yard shuttle speed was also very good: 4.41, better than Olson's, 4.48, or Allan's, 4.52. His Secondary Speed is not phenomenal, but his overall package of strength and athleticism makes him someone to watch.
Scott Chandler: 1.67, 1.14, 7.26, 4.32
Chandler's tall (6'7") and pretty agile (his 20-yard shuttle was a very strong, 4.32), but his vert (30") and broad jump (9'3") are worrisome. It's not his ability to jump that concerns me, but what his poor numbers might indicate: Thin, inexplosive legs and a possibly top heavy build. A thick, well muscled core and a low center of gravity (think Antonio Gates) is essential for a player to win body position in the open field, and I think despite Chandler's overall bulk (he's listed at 270) he'll be tossed around in the NFL.
Tomorrow, I tackle the linemen and debut a stat that combines bench, weight and vert into a measure of total body strength. Yeah, that's right--I'll be unloading a little physics on `yo ass, so be prepared.