If there is one thing we know about the NFL Scouting Combine, it is that everyone overreacts to the 40-yard dash numbers.
PFF’s Kevin Cole recently looked at how performance in different drills affected both draft stock and wins above replacement for prospects, and the one common theme was that the 40-yard dash had a much more significant impact on draft position than it did on player performance once they got to the NFL.
The chart above shows that agility numbers in a drill like the three-cone are more indicative of valuable running back performance than the results drawn from the 40-yard dash. And yet, the 40 times have a significantly larger effect on draft position. That’s why a player like Jonathan Taylor generated so much buzz after running 40 yards in 4.39 seconds at 226 pounds. It’s also why any sort of Zack Moss hype has died down after he managed a mark of just 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
His stock shouldn’t be falling to that degree. The percentage of plays where a running back gets out in the open field and must turn on the jets to break away from defenders is relatively low. It’s the other things that matter more at the position — how well can you cut on a dime to get through a crease in the line without losing speed? Can you take advantage of linebacker mismatches on routes out of the backfield? Can you make defenders miss to pick up extra yardage?
Moss does those things — the things that matter at the running back position — better than most of the backs in this draft class.