NFL All-Speed Team: Highlighting the Fastest Players at Each Position

Kristopher KnoxFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2013

NFL All-Speed Team: Highlighting the Fastest Players at Each Position

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    You can't coach speed.

    While the above statement is debatable (speed coaches wouldn't exist if it were entirely true), it is one that every football fan has undoubtedly heard at one time or another.

    What is far less debatable is the fact that speed is an asset on the football field.

    It is also a trait worth recognizing, hence the following list.

    This is our 2013 NFL All-Speed team. Not every player is destined for All-Pro consideration. Heck, some of these guys are not even full-time starters. However, everyone on our list has one thing in common.

    Speed. 

Quarterback

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    Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

    NFL quarterbacks are traditionally known more for their ability to quickly process information than their ability to quickly find running lanes.

    However, the new breed of duel-threat quarterback, led by Griffin, has changed that perception.

    The former Baylor star showed off his straight-line speed back at the 2012 scouting combine, where he posted an impressive 4.41-second 40-yard dash time.

    Of course, Griffin's combine results are not nearly as impressive as his ability to out-run virtually everyone on the football field.

    Griffin has not been quite as quick to scramble this season, after suffering an ACL tear during the 2012 playoffs.

    However, he has still averaged 5.2 yards per carry this season, which is an average many elite running backs would be proud to own.

     

Running Back

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    Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

    It has been a few years since Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards and earned himself the nickname "CJ2K."

    However, Johnson's name is still synonymous with speed in the realm of running backs.

    Johnson burst onto the scene as a rookie with 1,228 yards rushing in 2008, proving that he was capable of doing a lot more than just picking up speed in a foot race.

    However, it was Johnson's 4.24-second performance in the 40-yard dash at the 2008 combine that helped convince the Titans to spend a first-round selection on the East Carolina product.

    While Johnson has not been quite as productive in recent years, his struggles (by his standards) appear to be a result of a pedestrian offensive line. Johnson still has the jets to outrun the entire defense once he gets into the open field.

Fullback

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    Chris Ogbonnaya, Cleveland Browns

    At 6'0" and 225 pounds, Ogbonnaya does not have the look or build of a traditional fullback.

    In fact, he only transitioned to the position at the beginning of this season and has spent time at tailback as well.

    However, his quickness and straight-line speed are on display virtually every time he touches the football.

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Ogbonnaya has rushed 11 times for 81 yards from the fullback position, giving him an NFL-best 7.4 yards-per-carry average as a fullback.

    In all, the Browns utility man has racked up 170 yards on 27 carries (6.3 yards-per-carry average) with 237 yards on 34 receptions and two touchdowns.

Offensive Tackle

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    Zach Strief, New Orleans Saints, and Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns

    In the NFL, the best pass-blockers have to be able to think, move, run and hit at a rapid pace.

    This is why Strief and Thomas bookend our All-Speed offensive line.

    According to Pro Football Focus's (subscription required) offensive tackle ratings, no one pass-blocks better than Thomas and Strief on an NFL roster this season.

    Thomas, a first-round pick of the Browns in 2007, has been good enough that he has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his six NFL seasons.

    Strief, a less-heralded former seventh-round pick, has twice earned a Madden Most Valuable Protectors award (2009, 2011).

Offensive Guard

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    Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans, Philadelphia Eagles

    Just as pass-blocking tackles must move quickly on their feet, the top run-blocking guards must possess the ability to run quickly downfield and pave the way for the fastest of ball-carriers.

    Therefore, it is no surprise that Mathis and Herremans make the cut for our All-Speed team.

    Not only does this duo open holes for Chip Kelly's uptempo Eagles offense, but it opens holes better than anyone playing the game today.

    Mathis and Herremans rank first and second, respectively, among run-blocking guards, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Center

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    Chris Myers, Houston Texans

    For the center position, we are going with the Texans' Myers, who has spent the past couple of seasons blocking for the speedy running-back tandem of Arian Foster and Ben Tate.

    Originally a sixth-round draft selection of the Denver Broncos in 2005, Myers has developed into one of the best, and fastest, centers in the game.

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Myers stands alone as the top-rated center overall. He also holds the top spot in run blocking and is rated third in screen blocking.

    His talents have also been good enough to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2011 and in 2012.

Tight End

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    Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

    Just how fast is Davis?

    He is fast enough that you aren't going to catch him.

    In fact, Davis may be one of the fastest players at any position in today's game, as evidenced by his remarkable 4.38-second 40-yard dash performance at the 2006 NFL Scouting Combine.

    Not only has Davis been one of the top deep-threat tight ends in recent memory (4,904 career receiving yards), but he doesn't appear to be slowing down one bit.

    Davis' 2013 yards-per-reception average of 16.3 is tied for the best of his career and is tops in the league for tight ends with more than 12 receptions on the season.

     

Wide Receiver

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    Darrius Heyward-Bey, Indianapolis Colts, and Marquise Goodwin, Buffalo Bills

    While the NFL certainly has its share of productive receivers, you would be hard-pressed to find a pair of wideouts that possesses more straight-line speed than Heyward-Bey and Goodwin.

    In fact, Heyward-Bey and Goodwin both find themselves in the NFL's top 10 of fastest 40-yard dash times, according to statisticbrain.com

    Heyward-Bey, who entered the league with the Raiders in 2009, has a recorded 40-time of 4.30 seconds, while rookie Goodwin clocks in at 4.27 seconds.

    Unlike some players in league history, their speed has also translated into on-field production.

    Heyward-Bey's has averaged a steady 14.2 yards-per-reception average for his career, while Goodwin is averaging 16.3 yards per catch in his first NFL season.

Defensive Tackle

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    Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions, and Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Interestingly, our two defensive tackles both entered the league as first-round draft picks in 2010.

    Suh and McCoy also happen to be the top-two rated pass-rushing defensive tackles in football, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    What makes this duo special is its combination of size, strength and, of course, speed.

    Opposing quarterbacks have a difficult time trying to escape the pressure brought by Suh and McCoy, who have combined for 41.5 sacks in less than four seasons.

Defensive End

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    Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams, and Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills

    When trying to determine speed, defensive ends are primarily judged on their ability to get to the quarterback by rushing from the edge.

    Which is why Quinn and Williams make our list.

    Quinn, a third-year player out of North Carolina currently leads all defensive ends with 12 sacks through 10 games in 2013.

    Williams comes in at No. 2 with 11 sacks in 11 games.

    For their careers, the two have combined for a startling 102 sacks.

     

Outside Linebacker

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    Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts, and Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs

    The outside linebacker position is a position based on speed. These are players who must be able to track the ball-carrier, drop into coverage and rush the passer on a regular basis.

    This is why Mathis and Houston, the two top-rated outside linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), find themselves on our All-Speed defense.

    Unsurprisingly, Mathis and Houston also rank first and second, respectively, among outside linebackers in sacks for the season.

    Mathis, an 11th-year man out of Alabama A&M, has 13.5 sacks and 39 tackles on the year. Meanwhile, Houston, a third-year player out of Georgia, has produced 11 sacks and 43 tackles in 2013.

     

Inside Linebacker

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    Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys

    There is a big difference between straight-line speed and reactionary speed.

    Fortunately, Lee possesses a little bit of both.

    Through 10 games, Lee has seemed to be everywhere on the field defensively for the Cowboys in 2013. Not only has he provided a leadership presence for the Dallas defense, but he has used his football intelligence and, yes, his speed to make play after play on a consistent basis.

    Unfortunately, Lee is expected to miss close to a month with a hamstring injury, according to Matt Mosley of ESPN. However, his production to date is more than most linebackers see in an entire season.

    In 10 games, Lee has amassed 93 tackles, six pass deflections, four interceptions and has scored one defensive touchdown.

    Naturally, he appears to be on the fast track (pun intended) for Hawaii this season.

Cornerback

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    Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Denver Broncos

    If you covet speed in your defensive backfield (and we do), look no further than the duo of Rodgers-Cromartie and Peterson.

    Rodgers-Cromartie, who started out with the Cardinals in 2008, made his first NFL impression with a blazing 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the 2008 scouting combine.

    Not to be outdone (well, maybe slightly), Peterson produced a 4.34-second 40-yard dash at his own combine workout in 2011.

    Had the Cardinals not moved Rodgers-Cromartie to the Philadelphia Eagles in the ill-fated Kevin Kolb trade, we might have gotten an opportunity to watch these two play side by side on Sundays.

Safety

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    Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks, and Devin McCourty, New England Patriots

    Forget Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu, they're just too old and slow. 

    Our All-Speed safety tandem is the youthful duo of Thomas and McCourty.

    Not only are Thomas and McCourty young (each is in his fourth season), but they are among the fastest and best safeties in the game.

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), no safeties rank higher than McCourty (first) and Thomas (second) in pass coverage. 

Return Specialist

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    Travis Benjamin, Cleveland Browns

    Return specialists come in all shapes and sizes, but few possess the pure speed of the Browns' Benjamin.

    Somehow, Benjamin appears even faster on the football field than he did at the 2012 scouting combine where he posted a 4.36-second 40-yard dash time.

    While Benjamin was lost for the season with a torn ACL against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8, he has been extremely impressive overall in his young career.

    In a season and a half, Benjamin has averaged 37 yards per return on kickoffs and 16.2 yards on punts.

     

Punter

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    Pat McAfee, Indianapolis Colts

    Why would an NFL team ever need a fast punter?

    Well, when your coverage unit breaks down, it doesn't hurt to have a punter with enough speed and awareness to chase down the return man.

    This is exactly what we see McAfee do in the above video, where he finds Denver Broncos return man Trindon Holliday and delivers a punishing hit to force him out of bounds.

    We don't often see punters make the highlight reel for positive reasons as McAfee did in Week 7, so we're putting him on our list.

Kicker

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    David Buehler, Free Agent

    If you are hoping that your favorite NFL team can have the league's fastest kicker, you are in luck.

    Buehler, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys, is available.

    Though he is known primarily as a kickoff specialist, Buehler might consider making the transition to linebacker.

    The 6'2", 230-pound USC product turned heads at the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine by posting a 4.62 second 40-yard dash time (he also produced 25 reps on the bench press).

    After three seasons with the Cowboys, Buehler spent time with the New York Giants during the 2013 offseason but was released prior to training camp.