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Speed Scores 2009

In 2008, Football Outsiders unveiled their "Speed Score" metric.  The Speed Score is determined thusly:

The formula for the adjusted 40 score is (Weight * 200)/(40 Time^4). The multipliers are as such in the formula to ensure both accuracy as well as simplicity -- the scores that result revolve around a 100-point scale. The average adjusted 40 score of all running backs is 98.5; for all drafted running backs, it's 102.4; for all running backs selected in the first round, it's 112.1. Consider adjusted 40 score to be a sort of speed score -- a higher number is better.

Last year, FO.com wasn't so forthcoming with all of their speed score numbers so using the formula above I calculated them myself.  I'm a modern day John Nash, yet I have the practical sense not to leave a baby to fend for itself in a bathtub full of water.  If you remember, the 2008 running back class was armed to the teeth with talent.  Peep the speed scores from 2008 (some of these scores vary slightly from the FO.com scores posted in their article - most likely due to the official/unofficial nature of the times as they are reported):

Speed Scores 08.png   

Chris Johnson led the pack and then lit up the NFL in 2008.  The other big guns (McFadden, Mendenhall, and Stewart) rounded out the top 4.  Six players graded out as first round material via the speed score (112.1 and higher) while an additional 10 players were deemed worthy of a draft pick.  And aside from the Steve Slaton anomaly, any running back that was worth his salt in the NFL last year clocked a speed score of at least 102.  

This year?  Not so much.

Speed Scores 09.png

I tend to focus not on the guys with the "acceptable" scores but the highly graded guys that don't necessarily meet the mark.  This year, there are a frightening number of highly graded players that don't even meet the grade of drafted running backs (102.4).  Donald Brown (101.5), Shonn Green (97.1), and Knowshon Moreno (96.1) all grade out as potential first and second rounders, yet their performance indicates they shouldn't be drafted at all.  Now, straight line speed isn't the be all and end all here, other skill sets such as quickness (stop and start), agility, and power factor into the success of a running back.  A low speed score might motivate the scouts to fire up the old game tape to search for other defining skills.  Just to scare everyone who loves any of the above players, Tony Hunt registered a 98.8 based on his combine numbers (eek). 

The top guy this year, Andre Brown is a name he Birds might be interested in kicking around.  Brown was one of the most impressive running backs at this year's Senior Bowl, can catch the football, and has a lot of tread left on his tires.  Kory Sheets is another guy who had an impressive Senior Bowl, and definitely passed the eye test in Indianapolis.  A guy I think a lot of us like, LeSean McCoy didn't run due to the flu.  

Just remember. FO.com only uses combine times in calculating their speed score numbers. Brian Westbrook ran a 4.57 at the combine and followed it up with a 4.37 at his pro day.  Additionally, congratulations to Reno Mahe as his record low speed score of 82.5 remains intact for another year!  
________________


Historical speed scores for Birds' running backs:

Westbrook (Proday):  109.68

Buckhalter:  107.34

Moats:  106.15

Hunt:  98.82

Booker:  96.50

Eckel:  95.50

Westbrook (Combine):  91.71

Mahe:  82.55




2 Comments

Hi Dave,

Very interesting metric. I wouldn't rely solely on that or the combine stats but use it in addition to game tape of the person you are evaluating. I like the combine and seeing who is the fastest but it should be used to see if there is someone worth re-evaluating or giving another look / see. Right now, it seems there are some teams that if someone posts a really fast time their stock soars even though they weren't productive when they had the chance. Conversely, there are very productive players whose stock drops like a rock even if they are only a little slower than they were said to be. So, some teams are overweighting the pure stats. That is fine by me as long as it isn't the Eagles.

Two guys who would have been incredible by that metric would be Chris Henry (the RB from AZ - not the convict WR from Cincy) and Tyrone Calico (WR from Tennessee State). Neither was very productive in college (Calico was OK but against smaller school competition). But they were both huge and fast. Probably both would have been up with Chris Johnson, in Henry's case probably before Johnson. But both were (are) sorry pros. The Eagles went for a guy like this too before (crappy college stats / great size/speed). Remember Michael Haddix? I'm guessing the one in this draft who might be like this is Heyward-Bey. From what I've heard his hands are suspect and he can't do anything other than a fly pattern. But someone is probably going to take him in the middle of the 1st round due to his speed and size. Another guy I'm interested in seeing in the pros is Percy Harvin. Yes, he has blazing speed and great moves but his hands are OK and he isn't much of a route runner as he's coming out of a spread offense. Speaking of which, you should do a post on skill position players coming out of the spread. A lot of the RBs, QBs and WRs post some monster stats but wind up being busts in the pros even if they are athletic.

There are a ton of examples of guys who aren't athletic freaks but wind up being good WRs or RBs, where good hands, great routes or good vision for the holes means a lot. I can't speak to someone like Moreno or Green as I've only seen them once each, but I can tell you that if Wells drops to the end of the 1st round or into the 2nd and he can stay uninjured he'll make some team very happy. Robiskie (who I think will be a very good pro also) was projected to be late 2nd-3rd round pick. So, he ran a 4.5 average at the combine rather than the 4.55 they were anticipating. That would be about a 13 inch difference at the end of 40 yards but now they are talking about him being a late 1st or early 2nd rounder. Should it matter that much?

I'm very interested in seeing McCoy run as he has a ton of production AND he is supposed to be bat out of hell fast. Plus, he's that runner/receiver style that the Birds are likely to go for. If he's on the board I'd like them to pick him. Also, Oher and Smith are plummeting on draft boards for now. Assuming they aren't that bad character-wise they might be good picks too.

A lot of the RBs, QBs and WRs post some monster stats but wind up being busts in the pros even if they are athletic.


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