Fast 25: The 25 Speediest Guys in the NFL
With just under three minutes remaining in Super Bowl XLIII and his team down by four points, Larry Fitzgerald caught a routine slant at his own 44-yard line. What ensued was a 64-yard touchdown reception that gave the Arizona Cardinals the lead and made every other player on the field look like a tortoise on muscle relaxants.
That's what speed can do. It has the ability to turn a normal play into one of the most epic events in NFL history.
Whenever one of the following 25 players touch the ball, moving to the edge of your seat is a necessity because something exciting is bound to happen. These are the 25 speediest guys in the NFL.
25. Josh Cribbs, WR, Cleveland Browns
Despite being the 25th-fastest player in the NFL, Josh Cribbs is still an absolute burner.
Cribbs went undrafted in 2005 coming out of Kent State, but once the Cleveland Browns signed him as a undrafted free agent, they knew they had something special. During his rookie season, Cribbs averaged 24.5 yards per kickoff return and set a franchise record for most kick-return yards in a season.
That record would only stand for a year, as Cribbs used his incredible speed to become an even more dangerous return man the following season. In fact, Cribbs is the NFL's all-time kickoff-return touchdown leader with eight touchdowns.
While Cribbs' elite speed hasn't turned him into a receiving threat like the Browns had hoped, he is still one of the most dangerous players with the ball in his hands.
24. Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Dexter McCluster might not time as one of the fastest players in the NFL, but watching him on the actual football field is a completely different story.
McCluster possesses sudden quickness and has extremely deceptive speed. His ability to use his speed at multiple positions on the field is what makes him such a dangerous player.
Look for McCluster to continue to become a bigger part of the Kansas City Chiefs offense as he enters his third year in the league.
23. DeAngelo Hall, CB, Washington Redskins
Had we ranked these players a few years ago, DeAngelo Hall might have ranked a little bit higher on the list. However, as Hall continues to climb in age, it seems his overall speed is beginning to decline.
With that said, Hall is still absolutely one of the fastest players in the league. He was a track star in high school and used that quickness to become a starting cornerback for the Virginia Tech Hokies. His play in college made him a top-10 selection in the 2004 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons, where he used his quickness to make an instant impact.
While being one of the fastest players in the NFL hasn't necessarily made Hall one of the best cornerbacks in the game, although he would tell you differently, he has been selected to three Pro Bowls in the last seven years.
22. C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
While C.J. Spiller hasn't quite become the player the Buffalo Bills hoped he would become, he has definitely shown flashes of brilliance in his two years in the league. One thing you can't deny when watching Spiller is the amount of speed he brings to the field.
Once the ball hits Spiller's hands, you can tell that he is faster than anyone else on the field. With even a minuscule opening, Spiller can make nothing into something big.
Look for Spiller to build on a strong finish to the 2011 season and finally become the player the Bills thought he was when they drafted him with the ninth overall pick.
21. Johnny Knox, WR, Chicago Bears
The reason that Johnny Knox got drafted out of a small school like Abilene Christian was because of his blazing speed. He posted a ridiculous time of 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the 2009 NFL combine.
Knox's speed has been evident since his first NFL reception, which just happened to be for a 68-yard gain. Like many other players on this list, Knox is also a talented kick and punt returner because of his speed. In fact, Knox made the Pro Bowl back in 2009 as a return specialist.
Over the past two seasons Knox has been able to use his speed to develop into quite the threat as a receiver. Before going down with a season-ending back injury last year, he had a 19.6 yards-per-reception average.
Hopefully he'll be able to return to full health in 2012 so we can see more of his speed.
20. Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans Saints
Not only is Darren Sproles one of the most electrifying and exciting players in the NFL, he also happens to be one of the speediest players in the league.
He spent years as a second-string running back for the San Diego Chargers before being fully unleashed with the New Orleans Saints. His 2011 season was rather impressive with over 1,313 total yards on just 173 total touches.
In fact, Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller thinks so highly of Sproles that he named him the No. 1 running back in the B/R NFL 1000 series that was released earlier in the year. While you may disagree with that ranking, you absolutely can't disagree with the fact that Sproles is one of the fastest players in the NFL.
19. Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins
Throughout his college career at USC, Reggie Bush was known for making defenders look ridiculous while attempting to tackle him. Not only did he use his great speed to make opponents miss, but he has the incredible ability to combine that speed with agility and change of direction.
Those abilities have made Bush one of the more exciting players to watch in the NFL with the ball in his hands. His only problem has been staying on the field, as he has struggled with a string of injuries throughout his career.
However, in his first season with the Miami Dolphins, Bush finally showed everyone the type of player he can be when healthy. He rushed for over 1,000 yards at an average of five yards per carry.
If Bush can continue to stay healthy and build on his success from last season, he could become one of the top running backs in the league.
18. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals
It didn't take long for Patrick Peterson to display his amazing speed to the NFL world.
His first preseason play resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown on Philip Rivers. If that wasn't impressive enough, Peterson scored on an 89-yard punt return in his first regular-season NFL game to seal a victory for the Arizona Cardinals.
Peterson would use his speed to score a record four punt-return touchdowns during his rookie season and established himself as one of the premier playmakers in the league.
17. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Not many superb track and field athletes go on to be successful in the NFL, but Jamaal Charles is the exception to the rule.
As a freshman at Texas, Charles earned All-American honors in four different events for track and field. However, after seeing that his production on the football field was taking a hit, Charles decided to stop competing for the track team and instead focus on football.
That decision turned out to be a great one, as Charles used his speed to have a huge junior campaign that turned into a third-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Charles continued to use his incredible speed to finish the 2010 season with a 6.38 yards-per-carry average, the second-best in the history of the NFL.
16. Ted Ginn Jr., WR, San Francisco 49ers
Even though Ted Ginn Jr. has yet to live up to being picked ninth overall in the 2007 NFL draft, he has shown us loads of the speed that made him such a dangerous weapon coming out of college.
Ginn was another track superstar coming out of high school who chose football over track. Considering how Ginn's career has gone so far, he might have been better to choose track instead of football.
However, there is still time for him to turn his career around and use that legendary speed to consistently beat defenders.
15. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the fastest teams in the entire NFL, as one of three teams with three players in this ranking. With that said, how much must it suck for one of the fastest players in the NFL to not even be the fastest player on his own team?
Unfortunately for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, that is what he has to deal with every day in Philadelphia. As a small-school prospect, Rodgers-Cromartie used an incredible combine performance, especially in the 40-yard dash, to prove his worth as an NFL cornerback.
That speed hasn't disappointed either. Rodgers-Cromartie used his speed and overall talents to land a spot in the 2009 Pro Bowl, and his upside recently allowed the Eagles to trade Asante Samuel and give DRC a full-time starting job.
14. Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Percy Harvin was yet another standout high school track star because of his extremely impressive speed. He won five state track titles during his time at Landstown High School, but as good as he was at track, Harvin was even better on the football field.
He was a highly regarded player coming out of college and finally decided to go to the University of Florida, where he won two BCS national championships. He used his talent and speed to get drafted with the 22nd pick of the 2009 NFL draft and went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year that season.
What is most impressive about Harvin is that instead of just relying on his speed, he has actually become a much better all-around football player. He should become one of the better receivers in the league this year.
13. Jahvid Best, RB, Detroit Lions
If Jahvid Best could actually stay on the field, you'd probably be able to enjoy his ridiculous speed more. However, Best struggled with concussions last year after a promising start to the season.
Hopefully those concussion issues are behind him, because when Best is on the field, it is a true joy to watch him play faster than anyone else. Once that ball is in his hands and a sliver of space is revealed, Best is all but uncatchable.
The 2012 season will be key for Best's future, but if he can stay healthy, he has all the speed and talent in the world to be a successful player in the NFL.
12. Josh Robinson, CB, Minnesota Vikings
Despite only being a rookie, Josh Robinson has already made a name for himself as one of the fastest players in the NFL.
Robinson blew away everyone at the NFL combine with a time of 4.29 in the 40-yard dash. Even though he didn't attend a traditional football power, his impressive combine performance made him a third-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings.
Look for Robinson to get a chance to play from day one for Minnesota, and for his great speed to make an immediate impact for the Vikings.
11. Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
It was really difficult to keep Michael Vick out of the top 10, but as he has gotten older these past few seasons, it seems as if he's lost a step. OK, maybe not a full step, but at least an eighth of a step.
One thing that is still certainly true about Vick is that he is the fastest quarterback to ever play the game. That unique speed that he has for his position has made him an absolute thrill to watch, because whenever he gets out into the open field, something incredible can happen.
The only downside to the way Vick plays the game is that it generally keeps him from playing all 16 games of a regular season. Hopefully that can change this year, because few players are as exciting with the ball in their hands as Vick.
10. Chris Rainey, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Chris Rainey is the second, and last, rookie to make the list of the fastest players in the NFL, and he rightfully comes in at the No. 10 spot.
Throughout his college career, Rainey was an extremely successful track star. In fact, he was a member of the fastest 4x100-meter relay team in the entire country during his junior season.
Rainey has blazing speed and quickness, and it will be enjoyable to watch how the Pittsburgh Steelers take advantage of that during his rookie season.
9. Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Oakland Raiders
Darrius Heyward-Bey's 4.3 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine propelled him from a mid-round pick to the seventh overall pick of the 2009 NFL draft. There is just something about speed that the Oakland Raiders absolutely love.
To be completely honest, there isn't much not to love about the incredible speed that Heyward-Bey brings to the field. Sure, the rest of his football abilities could use some improving, but his speed is truly world-class.
If he can ever get his hands and mind to catch up to his feet, he could become quite the NFL player.
8. Devin Hester, WR, Chicago Bears
On paper, Devin Hester may not seem worthy of this high of a ranking for the fastest players in the NFL. I mean, he did run only a pedestrian 4.41 40-yard dash at the combine.
However, Hester is one of those rare players who is much, much faster on the football field than on a track. Once that ball gets in his hands, it takes him little time at all to get to top speed and be off to the races.
His ridiculous speed has made him the most feared return man in the history of the NFL.
7. Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
While Mike Wallace may still be waiting for that big contract from the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least he is still one of the speediest players in the NFL.
Since entering the league, Wallace has been one of its premier deep threats thanks to his speed. He posted a ridiculous average of 21 yards per reception in 2010, using his elite speed to consistently get behind defenders and make plays.
Even though the Steelers will probably be fine offensively if they can't get Wallace on the field, one thing for certain is that it would be much faster with him out there.
6. DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
I give you Exhibit A concerning DeSean Jackson's speed.
There is a point in that famed game-winning punt return against the New York Giants (Exhibit A) when it appears every single member of the Giants is about to cave in and tackle Jackson. However, everyone then appears to move in slow motion, as Jackson moves in 3x fast-forward and distances himself by about 10 yards from any other player.
That is what makes Jackson the sixth-fastest player in the NFL.
5. DeMarcus Van Dyke, CB, Oakland Raiders
While Van Dyke may not be a household name to the common football fan, he should have a bigger role with the Oakland Raiders in his second year in the league.
During the 2011 NFL combine, Van Dyke poster a rather impressive 4.28 40-yard dash time, good enough for the third-best in the history of the event. He used his speed to be a successful return specialist for the University of Miami, but considering the speed throughout the Raiders roster, it is unlikely he'll see much time there during the 2012 season.
With the loss of Stanford Routt to the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason, the Raiders could be forced to depend on Van Dyke's speed more often this year. Only time will tell whether that will be a good thing or bad thing.
4. Stanford Routt, CB, Kansas City Chiefs
Speaking of Stanford Routt, the former Oakland Raider lands on our list of the speediest players in the NFL at No. 4.
His 4.27 time in the 40-yard dash during the 2005 NFL combine was the fastest time ever at the event. Of course, that record has been broken (more on that later), but Routt still absolutely deserves to be considered one of the fastest players in the history of the game.
What makes Routt so special is that he is more than just a speedy player with little other skills. In fact, he happens to be one of the better cornerbacks in the league and should help the Kansas City Chiefs field one of the best defenses in the league.
3. Trindon Holliday, WR, Houston Texans
If Trindon Holliday was a few inches taller, he would likely be one of the most dangerous weapons in the league because of his dominating speed. However, standing at only 5'5", Holliday has struggled to get on the field at all during his time in the NFL.
He's been dropped and picked up by the Houston Texans on more than one occasion with hopes that he can use that speed to make a drastic impact in the return game. Unfortunately, it appears that even world-class speed can't overcame Holliday's height issues.
2. Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Radiers
The Oakland Raiders were once again enamored with speed during the 2010 NFL draft when they took Jacoby Ford in the fourth round due to his 4.28 time in the 40-yard dash.
While the Raiders usually swing and miss when drafting for speed (re-read Darrius Heyward-Bey, please), Ford has been a fantastic return specialist for the team. He already has four career kickoff-return touchdowns, which is a franchise record for Oakland.
However, what the Raiders need Ford to do is to take steps toward becoming a more potent receiver. With his speed and ability with the ball in his hands, Ford is likely to enjoy a breakout season offensively in 2012.
1. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans
This one really shouldn't come as a surprise, and to be honest, Chris Johnson is really quite a bit faster than anyone else on this list. His 4.24 time in the 40-yard dash is tied with the fastest time ever in the NFL combine.
However, what really separates Johnson from the rest of this list is that he has used his elite speed to become a truly elite player in the league. Despite a letdown season last year, this is still the same player who rushed for over 2,000 yards and set an NFL record for total yards from scrimmage in 2009.
Not only does Johnson stand a good chance of going down as one of the fastest players in the history of the NFL, but if he can get back to 2009 form, he could end his career as one of the most productive running backs to ever play the game.