Does speed actually kill?

More specifically, as Chase Stuart asks in this post, are 40-yard dash times correlated with success for wide receivers?

To figure that out, he evaluated the 853 wide receivers who ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine from 2000 to 2017, comparing their speeds and their receiving yardage totals.  (Yes, he acknowledges that receiving yards may not be the perfect metric, but feels that’s as good a place as any to start.)

Anyway, you can go through the analysis on display in his post, or you can skip to the conclusion he draws:

… there does appear to be a pretty strong correlation between 40-yard dash times and wide receiving production, particularly once you focus on the 94% of receivers in the 4.32 to 4.68 range.

While there is lots of noise in the data, the correlation here is probably stronger than you would expect. Does the 40-yard dash time matter much for an individual player? Probably not. But if you had 20 wide receivers who ran the 40 in 4.40 seconds, if you knew nothing else, you’d probably expect them to fare better than 20 wide receivers who ran the 40 in 4.50 seconds.

Kind of reminds you of how to analyze recruiting/stars data, doesn’t it?

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Does speed actually kill?

  1. Down Island Way

    It might kill your plans if you don’t exploit the advantage…

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  2. CB

    Darrius Heyward-Bey comes to mind as a bucker of this trend.

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  3. W Cobb Dawg

    IDK, how does one account for all the success TE’s have had in the nfl? Some are far more successful than WRs, yet rarely drafted in the 1st round.

    But I’ll agree that speed is a good tool to have in the toolbox – at any position.

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    • Dylan Dreyer's Booty

      “…speed is a good tool to have in the toolbox – at any position.”
      Exactly. If you have 2 300 lb OL, and one is faster, I want the faster guy. Even kickers…

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