Introducing This Year's Fastest Pro Prospect: Marquise Goodwin

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Introducing This Year's Fastest Pro Prospect: Marquise Goodwin

As expected, no participant at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine ran the 40-yard dash faster than former U.S. track star and Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin

With a blazing finish of 4.27 seconds, Goodwin was seven-hundredths of a second faster than the next best player in Indianapolis (three tied at 4.34 seconds) and just three-hundreths of a second slower than Chris Johnson's record pace set in 2008. 

Top 40-yard dashes at the NFL combine since 2002, via NFL Twitter feed.

Officially, Goodwin became the second-fastest player in the history of the NFL combine. 

Draftniks and scouts expected the speed. Considering Goodwin's track history—after all, he was a member of the American track team for the London Olympics last summer—most predicted a fast time. 

However, a 4.27-second 40 time by anyone will turn heads, and that's exactly what Goodwin's performance did. 

Now, it's time to get to know the fastest man in the 2013 NFL draft class. 

We'd be remiss to begin profiling Goodwin without mention of his dominance of track and field, particularly early on in his athletic career.

According to his USA Track and Field bio, Goodwin was twice named the Texas Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year while competing for Rowlett High School. He won back-to-back USA junior championships in the long jump and won the world junior championships in 2008 after posting a long jump of 25'4". 

The accolades only intensified once he arrived on campus in Austin. 

At the University of Texas, Goodwin was a five-time indoor and outdoor Big 12 champion of the long jump, and seven-time All-Big 12 selection. He was named an NCAA All-American all four years and has won multiple long-jump national championships.

Stu Forster/Getty Images

Last summer, Goodwin successfully qualified for the 2012 London Games. He finished 10th in the long jump finals after winning the qualifier with a jump of 27'4".

All the while he was dominating on the track, Goodwin continued contributing for the Longhorns football team every fall. 

He totaled 120 catches for 1,364 yards and seven touchdowns. He also ran 45 times for 416 yards and three scores, and returned 44 kicks for another 985 yards and a touchdown. 

Now, NFL teams must find a way to value Goodwin's speed and figure out what kind of role he'll play at the next level. 

While an electric athlete, Goodwin touched the ball just 165 times from scrimmage over four years with Texas (just over 40 times a year). To solve this problem, NFL teams—unlike Mack Brown in Austin—will need to establish clear ways of getting him the football. 

A Big 12 scout said exactly that to NFL.com's Albert Breer at the combine:

You need a plan, and you have to know going in. Some guys, you can say, "This one's an X" or "This one's a Y" or "This one's a slot and we're gonna use him in the return game." You can categorize most guys as possession or speed receivers, because they have the dimensions, the height, weight and speed in a range. With these guys, you don't meet those guidelines, so you have to do extra. Otherwise, you're potentially gonna waste a pick.

Where to select a player like Goodwin in April's draft is another concern. 

At just 5'8" and 180 pounds, Goodwin is ranked No. 19 among receivers on the draft board at Scouts, Inc. His 61 overall grade would likely project him as a late-round pick.

NFL.com's grade of 68.55 is slightly higher, but Goodwin is still rated as a Day 2 pick in need of route-running refinement. 

Here is part of the scouting report:

Goodwin’s lack of bulk might be an issue when taking hits from NFL-sized defenders, but scouts can’t ignore the athleticism that allowed him to win multiple long jump titles in the world junior championships during his high school days and NCAA outdoors once he reached UT...If he can prove himself as a more consistent route runner, the vertical threat that his pure speed makes him will potentially attract some Day 2 looks.

That said, if a team falls in love with the speed (and sees a Mike Wallace-like impact potential at the NFL level), Goodwin could be off the board in Round 2 or 3.

Remember, vertical speed is becoming more and more of an asset in the wide-open modern game, and no receiver in the 2013 class has as much of it as Goodwin. That reality alone can erase some of the other concerns, such as raw route-running and limited size. 

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A solid comparison from last year's draft could be T.Y. Hilton, who went No. 92 overall to the Indianapolis Colts. Undersized at 5'10" and 183 pounds, Hilton attracted the Colts with vertical speed and return capabilities. 

In his first year, Hilton went on to catch a rookie-high seven touchdown passes for the Colts. An NFL team might look at the Colts' successful experiment with Hilton and decide to gamble on their own with Goodwin. 

As long as an NFL team has a clear vision for Goodwin—something Texas clearly lacked—this speedster can play a similar role at the next level.

If we've learned anything over the last handful of years, it's that the modern game will adapt itself to elite physical attributes. There's no questioning that Goodwin's world-class speed is worth evolving for. 

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