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New Orleans Saints News



LSU's top NFL draft prospects will gather at the school's indoor practice field Monday for the most important workout of their lives.

One by one, they'll crouch behind a line, coil into a three-point stance and prepare to run for glory.

Forty yards away, an army of scouts will wait eagerly at the finish line, stopwatches poised.

Months of exhaustive training and preparation will come down to an event that takes less time to complete than it does to read this sentence.

Tenths of a second can mean thousands -- and in some cases millions -- of dollars.

And after Monday, the players likely will never run the 40-yard dash again.

That's what has become of the most overrated, overhyped, overemphasized instrument in the NFL talent evaluators' tool box. The 40 is fool's gold. It's the NFL's version of the driver's test. Pass it once and you're in. After that, you're off the hook.

Jabari Greer was a standout track athlete and Football player at Tennessee. Back in 2004, he ran a time of 4.37 seconds in the 40 on his pro day but clocked a sub-par time of 4.5 at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Two months later he failed to hear his name called on draft weekend and settled for a free-agent rookie contract with the Buffalo Bills.

How many times has Greer run the 40 since then?

"None," he said.

Not once in five years as an NFL player with the Buffalo Bills.

Never in training camp.

Never in minicamp.

Never in practice.

And he didn't run a 40 during his free-agent visit to New Orleans this month, where he signed a four-year, $22 million contract as an unrestricted free agent.

In fact, Greer said, NFL players would consider it an insult if coaches or trainers asked them to run the 40.

"That's disrespectful in the league," Greer said. "Players would be like, 'I ran that at the Combine. I'm a pro now. Football is Football."

Yet year after year, NFL people continue to be hypnotized by the magical numbers, despite evidence against its importance.

Future Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith slipped to the bottom of the first round after running slow times before their drafts.

And despite those historical oversights, the trend has continued into the new millennium.

In 2003, the Arizona Cardinals selected Penn State wide receiver Bryant Johnston with the 17th pick of the first round after watching him run a 4.37 40 at his pro day. Thirty-six picks later, with the No. 54 pick of the second round, they took Anquan Boldin, a wide receiver from Florida State who clocked a pedestrian time of 4.71.

Johnson signed a five-year contract that averaged $1.26 million per season. Boldin's four-year deal averaged about half of that annually.

Yet Johnson never nailed down a full-time starting job in Arizona and is now on his third team in three years. Boldin, meanwhile, went on to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors after catching 101 passes for 1,377 yards and is a three-time Pro Bowler.

That same year, Terrell Suggs was considered a consensus top-five pick after setting an NCAA record with 44 career sacks at Arizona State. He slipped to No. 10, though, when he ran a 40 time of 4.81 at the combine.

Suggs went on to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award and is also a three-time Pro Bowler.

This year college standouts Michael Crabtree, Malcolm Jenkins, Beanie Wells and Knowshon Moreno are facing similar fates. Widely regarded as the top cornerback in the nation as a senior at Ohio State and a consensus top-10 pick, Jenkins' stock suddenly plummeted when he ran times of 4.55 at the combine last month.

"It's funny to me, because you play, and they have four years of film on you, and you're playing corner, and you think you're doing well," Jenkins said, who is now being evaluated as a safety. "And none of that means anything."

NFL folks insist the 40 is but one measuring device in a series of criteria used to evaluate prospects. As much as the hard number, they'll tell you that they use it to judge a player's ability to perform under pressure, to determine his work habits and conditioning.

The 40, Greer said, "is basically a performance."

Whatever it is, it's overrated.

Exhibit A: The Saints' receiving corps.

Marques Colston and Lance Moore ran times of 4.55 and 4.52 in the 40 coming out of college. Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem, meanwhile, blazed times of 4.37 and 4.39. Henderson was drafted in the second round of the 2004 draft. Meachem was a first-rounder in 2007.

Colston went in the seventh round and Moore was undrafted, although an injury as a senior contributed to his draft demise.

Colston and Moore combined to catch 126 passes for 1,688 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Henderson and Meachem had 44 for 1,082 and six scores. The numbers would have been even more impressive had Colston not missed six games with an injured thumb.

"I definitely think it's overrated, and I'm not just saying it because I'm not the fastest guy around," Moore said. "So much more goes into playing Football than just running the 40. It's crazy there's so much emphasis put on something that you're basically going to do just one time."

Indeed, the 40 seems like a waste of time to me.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 15, 2009

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Joey Thomas Name: Joey Thomas
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Age: 27
Experience: 3 years
College: Montana State
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