Remember when Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen’s 4.71-second 40-yard dash leading up to the NFL Draft? Neither does Matt Waldman, whose RSP NFL Lens shows how quickness trumps speed.
We all know that Keenan Allen’s lingering knee injury was an excuse for his slow 40-time. Long speed was never his game, which is why Allen was the No. 2 receiver on my board during the 2013 NFL Draft. On-field quickness makes Allen special.
The same was true of Jerry Rice and Eddie Brown, two receiver prospects that Bill Walsh had at the top of his draft board because he valued their speed and quickness within the first 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. Considering that the West Coast Offense still influences the NFL mightily, it’s still surprising when draft analysts understate quickness and overstate speed.
Here’s a 42-yard touchdown reception to Allen where the receiver’s quickness earns the bulk of the success on the play.
Allen makes four defenders miss within a 20-yard span after the catch. Each move is smooth and only requires one step that’s performed at the very last moment before impact with each opponent. Just as the best displays of a quarterback’s pocket mobility or a running back’s cutback ability involves movement at the last possible moment prior to impact, the best moves are often the most economical.
Deer-like quickness is Allen’s game. It’s a trait that isn’t required of every receiver role in the NFL, but I’d take it ahead of speed for most of them.