As we wait for the 2018 NFL Draft’s prime time start next week, let’s look at the most interesting results from all those workouts, including the Scouting Combine to those campus pro days.
And when it comes to most interest, that usually describes the popularity of the 40-yard dash times. And, dismissing the difference in methods and locations, a dozen prospects were timed in 4.34 seconds or faster this year … and 36 were faster than 4.4 seconds.
The fastest was Wyoming cornerback Rico Gafford, who was timed by a hand-held stopwatch in 4.22 seconds at the school’s indoor practice facility on March 23.
His quick time is no surprise. As a high school senior, Gafford won the Iowa state championship in both the 100 meters (10.61, a meet record) and 200 meters (21.49).
However, Gafford’s pro day time does not equate to the Scouting Combine record clocking of 4.22 seconds by Washington’s John Ross last year. That was at the Indianapolis Combine and the method of timing there is called Electronic Timing (ET), which means the clock starts by hand (with the timer seven yards from player, starting on player’s first motion). The time is stopped when he crosses a laser at 40 yards.
As we mentioned, Gafford’s pro day time was by hand-held stopwatch, as were eight of those dozen times lists as 4.34 or faster. Studies by Zybek Sports, which handles timing at the Indianapolis Combine, show that hand-held times average .175 seconds faster than ET times (variance of .10 to .25 seconds).
So, to maintain some semblance of apples to apples comparison, add at least .10 seconds or perhaps .175 seconds to times taken with hand-held watch to match them against those at the NFL Scouting Combine.
At this year’s Indy combine, three cornerbacks broke into the top 25 times of the century — Tulane’s Parry Nickerson, LSU’s Donte Jackson and Ohio State’s Denzel Ward, all at 4.32 seconds. That puts them in a tie with four others for eighth best this century.
But nit-picking comparisons and making player judgments are two different things. End of the day, fast is fast. Gafford has always been fast regardless of how he is measured.
After high school, Gafford spent two seasons at Iowa Western Community College before arriving at Wyoming. He started the last two years and led the team with 10 passes defended as a senior, adding 43 tackles and four interceptions.
At 5-foot-10 and 184 pounds with 29 3/4-inch arms, Gafford lacks elite size, which shows up in coverage and run support. However, his blazing speed is also obvious on film, allowing him to recover after false steps or choppy footwork mid-transition.
Although his technique and awareness aren’t where they need to be to face NFL receivers, Gafford has the raw speed that cannot be coached, which will give him an opportunity to make waves in training camp, either as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent.
Gafford’s other numbers from his pro day: 1.49 10-yard split, 10-feet-2 broad jump, 36.5-inch vertical and 10 reps on the bench. Unfortunately, he injured his leg while running the short shuttle and was unable to perform in the three-cone drill or positional workout.
Below are the 36 prospects who clocked a sub-4.40 40-yard dash.
Times accomplished during the Indianapolis NFL Scouting Combine are marked with an asterisk. All others were by hand-held stopwatch.
4.22 — Rico Gafford, CB, Wyoming
4.30 — Jonah Trinnaman, WR, BYU
4.31 — Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
4.32 — Nigel Bethel, CB, Eastern Kentucky
4.32 — Tarvarius Moore, FS, Southern Miss
4.32 — Parry Nickerson, CB, Tulane**
4.32 — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State**
4.33 — Keion Crossen, CB, Western Carolina
4.33 — Aaron Ernest, WR, LSU (track athlete)
4.34 — Troy Apke, FS, Penn State**
4.34 — Jeff Badet, WR, Oklahoma
4.34 — D.J. Chark, WR, LSU**
4.35 — Deontez Alexander, WR, Franklin
4.35 — Cameron Batson, WR, Texas Tech
4.35 — Tony Brown, CB, Alabama**
4.35 — Gary Holmes, RB, Florida Tech
4.35 — Janardreon Jones, WR, West Georgia
4.36 — Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama**
4.36 — Curtis Mikell, CB, Southern Miss
4.36 — Tremon Smith, CB, Central Arkansas
4.36 — Kenric Young, CB, Utah
4.37 — Saeed Blacknall, WR, Penn State
4.37 — Khalil Dawson, WR, Portland State
4.37 — Ryan Mack, CB, Nevada
4.37 — Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, South Florida**
4.38 — Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville**
4.38 — Jawill Davis, WR, Bethune-Cookman
4.38 — Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF**
4.38 — Nyheim Hines, RB, NC State**
4.38 — Vyncint Smith, WR, Limestone College
4.38 — Tavierre Thomas, CB, Ferris State
4.39 — Sherman Badie, RB, Tulane
4.39 — BJ Clay, CB, Georgia State
4.39 — Phillip Lindsay, RB, Colorado
4.39 — Avonte Maddox, CB, Pittsburgh**
4.39 — Damion Ratley, WR, Texas A&M