We are living in a heightened age of the fear of “FAKE NEWS” and the people who conflate real reports with bad ones are making it so many don’t know what to believe anymore. And nowhere is real news more important, more critical, and under heavier scrutiny than in the NFL Draft.
It’s time to focus on what really matters: 40-yard dash times for NFL prospects.
In looking at the Seattle Seahawks 90-man roster today, I came across wide receiver Rodney Smith. An undrafted free agent out of Florida State in 2013, Smith has played for the Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns, and Dallas Cowboys, before joining the practice squad in Seattle last season. His college stats will not do anything for you: 1,533 yards over three seasons as a starter, career-best of 561 yards in 2011. Smith is wholly unspectacular in his highlight reels, save for a couple nice jukes. But his size will stand out to you as he does kind of resemble Randy Moss in pads. I checked out Smith’s Wikipedia page and immediately realized why the Seahawks would be interested in him and how he’s managed to stick around for four years despite no production and little to hope for from his college tape:
Smith is 6’5 and ran a 4.43 at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2013. That’s incredible. Smith’s 40 was as fast as Denard Robinson, the QB-turned-RB who is only 5’11. It was faster than Oregon State receiver Markus Wheaton, who weighs 36 pounds less than Smith. That’s amazing, so how could Smith not be drafted? He was basically the same height and speed as second round pick Justin Hunter, while weighing 25 pounds more.
Because Smith did not run a 4.43 at the combine, he ran a 4.51. He also did not run a 4.43 at his pro day. In fact, as far as I can tell, Smith has never run a sub-4.5 40-yard dash but the number itself -- 4.43 — has been repeated everywhere, not just Wikipedia, going back to the time he was drafted. It’s the type of myth that can writers and fans salivate over the idea of a 6’5, 225 pound receiver who runs a 4.43 signing with your team, perhaps one good enough to keep him around for almost five years without doing anything of note (not that I think NFL teams are dumb enough to just assume he runs as fast as Denard Robinson — but I mean, the Browns did sign him), so where did this 4.43 even originate from?
His 40-yard dash from the 2013 combine is shown on video at NFL.com and it clearly lists a 4.51 as his best time. This 2013 article from Bleeding Green Nation also states that Smith ran a 4.43 at the combine, perpetuating the idea that he did despite still not knowing when or where he ran a 4.43. Even at Field Gulls, Jared Stanger said that Smith ran a 4.43 while suggesting that the Seahawks should actually draft him in the fourth round. (Good thing Seattle didn’t end up with Armonty Bryant, Brennan Williams, Ryan Otten, Quinn Sharpe, and Jayson Dimanche.)
23. Rodney Smith, Florida State, 6-5, 225. He looks better than he plays. Smith ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at 6-5, but one front-office man said he didn't see that speed on tape. "He can't separate," he said. "He is big and lanky and slow." Smith did not have a great season at Florida State but fared better at the East-West Shrine Game. He is an inconsistent player who has concentration lapses. He can adjust to inaccurate throws. He's a pretty good blocker. His potential will get him drafted.
(Emphasis is mine.)
The always-mysterious NFLDraftScout lists a low of 4.33 (???really?), a high of 4.54, and a set time of 4.43, the number in question. But they accurately show a 4.51 for his combine results and have nothing for his pro day results. So what about his pro day? Isn’t that interesting.
I finally thought I found the source for Smith’s 4.43 at CBS Sports, which listed the 4.43 as his “Workout” result alongside some other numbers. But then in the sidebar, Gil Brandt explicitly states: “They ran outdoors and the field was damp due to prior rain. It was about 70 degrees. Rodney Smith WR (6-5 1/8, 223 pounds) - He kept everything he performed at the combine.”
(Emphasis is mine.)
The Florida State blog Tomahawk Nation confirms this with their live update of the 2013 pro day, in which Smith and several other players declined to run the 40 because their times at the combine were good enough. Which is definitely the case, as running a 4.51 at 6’5 is already intriguing in its own right ... but 4.43 would be so much better.
After signing with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2013, Vikings.com actually wrote that Smith ran a 4.47. We can’t even get our potentially-fake numbers right.
One possible explanation? Teammate cornerback Xavier Rhodes did run a 4.43 at the 2013 NFL Combine. Is it possible that at some point people just confused Rhodes and Smith and both wound up getting credit for a 4.43? Again, not that anything is wrong with a 6’5 receiver running a 4.51, but certainly a 6’5 receiver running a 4.43 is way more eye-popping. Which brings up yet another point of contention:
Smith isn’t 6’5.
Listed at 6’5 on his Wikipedia page — which says “All values from the NFL Combine” — Smith measured at 6’4 at the NFL Combine. Now heights and weights, these things do become murky for a lot of players, but it sure makes a difference when you’re talking about a prospect who is “6’5, runs a 4.43” and one who is “6’4, runs a 4.51.” In fact it makes a huge difference.
I asked Eric Thompson of Daily Norseman about Smith and this is what he told me:
I covered him at two Training Camps and even interviewed him a couple times, but I don't think I ever saw a 4.43. Even his Wikipedia page cites the combine as where that 4.43 came from, but it points to the 4.51 in the link. The 4.51 is always the time I remember seeing/hearing for him. More people made a big deal of his size than his speed anyway.
So what have we learned?
These are things that I know: Rodney Smith ran a 4.51 at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. He did not run at his pro day as he was satisfied with his 4.51 and it was raining that day. He was measured at 6’4, not 6’5, but his other measurables from the 2013 combine, as seen on Wikipedia, are consistent.
These are things that I believe: Smith has not and cannot run a 4.43. That would be quite the feat and if it’s something he can do, he certainly should have done it at his pro day.
These are things that I don’t know: Where the 4.43 originated from. At first I thought maybe someone had juiced his Wiki page so that it looked better to anyone who came across because what kind of a psycho would analyze and research someones 40-time on their Wikipedia page? (Oh yeah, me.) But that’s not the case. The 4.43 goes back at least four years. He supposedly also ran a 4.7 in high school, meaning he didn’t just get faster (most prospects tend to get slower since high school times are even less trustworthy), he got way faster.
I guess the lesson here is the same lesson many of you got in high school, though I was too old to hear it myself: Wikipedia is not a reputable source. Also, articles citing Wikipedia and not giving reference to when and where something happened also need to be questioned. I wonder how many people have passed along the myth of the 6’5, 4.43 receiver that just needs the right coaching to unlock all of that potential.
If you are the sleuth unable to cover the origin of the 4.43, please share in the comments.
This has been another addition of ... REAL NEWS.