Typically I don’t put much stock in Pro Day 40 times. Schools make sure their running conditions are optimal, often producing faster times than in Indianapolis. But for that reason, when a player runs significantly slower than expected it raises some concerns.
We all knew that Brandon Spikes wasn’t going to impress in the 40-yard dash. But all scouts were looking for was a respectable time. Something around 4.8 would have been acceptable; slow, but acceptable. He was a tremendously productive college player with the instincts to overcome a lack of speed in the NFL. But there is such thing as too slow.
For those that think Spikes’ instincts will make up for a lack of speed, let’s take a little history lesson.
Using the always-helpful archives on NFLDraftScout.com I went back and found the slowest inside linebackers in recent years. Based on their records, I had to go back to 2007 to find even a mediocre prospect who ran below a 4.9, Wake Forest’s Jon Abbate.
Like Spikes, Abbate was a tremendously productive collegiate linebacker. He was a key piece of the Demon Deacon’s memorable 2006 season. Abbate entered the draft a year early in 2007, expecting to be a mid-round pick. After running a 5.00 at the combine his stock plummeted and he went undrafted. The Texans signed him after the draft but he failed to make the team. He’s currently playing fullback for the California Redwoods of the UFL.
Going back a year further, we find Kai Parham of Virginia. He had a breakout junior season in 2005 and entered the draft early in ’06 with higher expectations than Abbate. Virginia was still a relevant program at the time and had recently sent highly-touted prospected Darryl Blackstock and Ahmad Brooks to the NFL. After running a 4.98 at the combine and 4.93 at his Pro Day, Parham went undrafted. He signed with the Cowboys but failed to make the squad.
That same year N.C. State’s Oliver Hoyte found himself in a similar situation after running a 4.93 at the combine. He too was brought aboard by the Cowboys and was eventually switch to fullback. He played briefly with the Cowboys, but was out of the league two years later.
To find the next relevant prospect with a sub 4.9 40 I had to go back to 2002 to LSU’s Trev Faulk. This is the pre-DraftAce days so I have to defer to NFLDraftScout for a scouting report, who had Faulk rated as the 3rd-best inside linebacker in the draft class. However, he ran a 4.90 and went undrafted. He caught on with Rams a few years later in ’04 and ’05, starting a few games, but was out of the league shortly.
We could go on, but I feel the point has been made.
Now I will say this, Spikes was a more productive college player than any of the aforementioned linebackers. But it should also be noted that he was surrounded by elite talent at Florida. The Gators defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, allowing their linebackers to make plays. It raises the question: if Spikes had played at, say, Kentucky would we even be bothering to have this discussion?
Despite his lack of speed I had been a Spikes supporter to this point in time, giving him a solid 2nd-round grade. However, his Pro Day workout does give me reason to doubt my original grade. Its easy to dismiss what players do in shorts and a t-shirt, but there’s a reason the NFL runs them through these drills. There are basic numbers that players at each position should achieve. Comparing players to those benchmarks takes some of the guesswork out of the draft. That’s not to say that there aren’t exceptions to every rule, but like I mentioned earlier, there is such a thing as “too slow”.
Spikes may prove us all wrong, but his 40 time is slow enough that teams should play it safe and drop him down their draft boards.