Former Auburn running back, Onterio McCalebb, wow’ed scouts at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine by posting an unofficial 4.21 40-yard dash time.
The time, if it stood, would have set the record for the fastest sprint at the event. Chris Johnson, who ran a 4.24 sprint during the 2008 combine, will retain the record after McCalebb’s official results came back.
ESPN’s SportsCenter cleared up the confusion (via Twitter), announcing his official time for his run as significantly slower than Johnson’s record:
Auburn RB Onterio McCalebb runs OFFICIAL 4.34 40-yd dash at #NFLCombine. His unofficial time of 4.21 would have set combine record.2013-2-24 20:45:13
But that disappointing run wasn’t a dagger for him. His first, which clocked in under 4.3 seconds, looks to have held, leaving him near the top of this year’s combine speed standings.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen broke down McCalebb’s runs and his potential at the next level (via Twitter):
Chris Mortensen @mortreport
Auburn RB Onterio McCalebb has run 4.27 and 4.21 in 40. Sprinter's frame. Return skills.2013-2-24 19:29:25
Despite missing out on the record books by the narrowest of margins, McCalebb still turned some heads with his blazing speed.
Prior to Indianapolis, NFL Draft Scout had the speedy back listed on the fringe of being drafted during April’s draft. He’s currently No. 21 in this year’s running back crop, according to their rankings.
As a return specialist (as Mortensen suggested), it would be hard to justify taking him any higher than those projections, despite his elite speed.
But is there more to his game than that superficial assumption?
McCalebb’s small frame of 5’10”, 168 pounds doesn’t give teams too many other options. There is little chance he would survive the beating of an NFL season if given the amount of touches necessary for a team to justify using a high or mid-round pick on him.
The speedy back compiled 1,225 all-purpose yards as a senior at Auburn in 2012. That included 523 kick-return yards and one 100-yard kickoff touchdown return. He finished his four-year career at Auburn by compiling 4,566 all-purpose yards, putting him fourth on the all-time list for the school.
Although he is undersized, he could still find a place in an NFL offense as more than a special teamer. He had his best season in 2010 when the Tigers won the National Championship with Cam Newton at quarterback.
That year, he was less involved in the kick-return game and more involved in the read-option offense orchestrated by Newton.
While he was effective once getting the ball in space from designed plays, he didn’t make many defenders miss.
As a slot receiver, where he may end up at the next level, there is little to go off when evaluating his value. Teams can expect to use his explosiveness when trying to find ways to create big plays for their offense.
That explosiveness may help him leap up a round or two in April but not much further.
Some key questions remain, though. Can he add some more bulk to his frame to make himself more durable for the punishment NFL defenses will unleash on him?
The most important question of all is whether or not he can succeed as a slot receiver.
Travis Benjamin, a speedy wide receiver from Miami (FL), ran a 4.26 40-yard dash time and was selected in the fourth round by the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 NFL draft.
I’d say that’s McCalebb’s draft-day ceiling, but his floor is going undrafted.