PFF’s Kevin Cole has previously analyzed NFL combine data to show that 40-yard dash times for wide receivers are more closely correlated with draft position than any other drill despite being meaningless on the whole for predicting performance in the NFL. While he focused on what the data said, he didn’t parse into the reason why teams lose their mind when it comes to speed at that position. To that I say: Watch the 2022 Miami Dolphins offense. You’ll see why.
There’s simply no recourse for a defender when the receiver on the other side of the line covers 40 yards two-tenths of a second faster than they can. And Mike McDaniel knows this. He’s crafted an offense that perfectly utilizes their two rocket engines on the outside while also scheming around quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s limitations. The result is a fast-break offense that has opposing defenses on their heels. Take a look at Tua’s passing chart from his team's Week 2 win over the Baltimore Ravens and you’ll see what I mean:
Despite the uber-gaudy stat line, Tua’s passing chart was relatively conservative. That’s by design. McDaniels’ offense is built to take advantage of the fact that defenses have to respect sub-4.3 speed on either side of the line of scrimmage and that Tua’s ball placement underneath is excellent. It’s why of his 50 attempts, 28 were targeted within five yards of the line of scrimmage. You see it with how far off cornerbacks play at the snap and how deep underneath zone defenders have to drop: