For some of the NFL's future top offensive weapons, the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine was a great success.
While the big names performed as expected in various drills, others used the most popular drill of all to fully cement their names in the minds of fans and scouts.
The 40-yard-dash is hardly a good indicator of how a prospect will perform at the next level. It is inherently flawed in that some prospects simply accelerate faster, while others take a while to get to top speed but are faster at longer distances.
Regardless, the popularity of the drill has helped to bring certain names into the spotlight. What they do with it from here will determine their overall selection in the upcoming draft.
Note: All 40-yard-dash times can be found at NFL.com.
Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado: 4.40
Any time a wide receiver prospect is compared to DeSean Jackson, big things are naturally expected of the player in the lead-up to the draft.
Paul Richardson out of Colorado is the man who had these enormous expectations placed on him thanks to some pre-combine hype from NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah:
Though he has a very thin build, Richardson is an explosive athlete who bursts off the line of scrimmage in his release and can find another gear once the ball is in the air. He has been compared to Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, who has a similar frame and explosiveness. I don't think Richardson is quite as polished as Jackson as a route-runner, but I do believe he can match Jackson's top speed.
While Richardson did not surpass Jackson's 4.35 mark, his 4.40 time, which landed him in the top five at his position at the combine, has officially allowed him to arrive as a prospect.
Better yet, Richardson actually plays at that speed, as Shane P. Hallam points out:
Paul Richardson at a 4.40 official 40 time is very good. What he plays at. Can go deep, but do much more!— Shane P. Hallam (@ShanePHallam) February 23, 2014
Many prospects can bring it in the drill, but the speed simply does not translate to the field. It does with Richardson, which is why evaluators who go back and watch his film now will see this on display during a senior campaign that saw him record 83 catches, 1,343 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Richardson was viewed as a second- or third-round pick before the combine, and that will not change much. That said, his combine showing is something he can build on now that he has everyone's attention.
Dri Archer, RB, Kent State: 4.26 Seconds
An injury derailed Dri Archer's 2013 season and his draft stock, but his strategy going into the combine was to blow past Chris Johnson's 40-yard-dash record to recapture the attention of NFL, as he told Fox Sports' Zac Jackson in an interview:
"Yes sir -- Chris Johnson ran 4.24 in 2008," Archer said in a telephone interview. "That's what I've been looking at, what I've been training for. It's definitely in my goals, and I think it can be done."
Archer fell just short of the record, but his performance served his ultimate goal anyway, as he took home the fastest time in the drill. He also managed to scare CJ2K in the process:
Can't lie archer had the boi nervous— Chris Johnson (@ChrisJohnson28) February 23, 2014
Like the dash itself, his statistics from 2013, which include just 527 rushing yards, mean little—especially considering while he was healthy in 2012 he ran for 1,429 yards.
So Archer is back on the minds of those in the NFL (if he ever left), and now he has a bigger problem to solve—where does he fit, and can he take a hit at just 5'8" and 173 pounds?
Those questions are far from having agreeable answers, but in the meantime, the NFL fans and media have a new speedy darling on their hands.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: 4.33 Seconds
Folks have known for some time now that Brandin Cooks is a great athlete, as CBS Sports' Dane Brugler recently pointed out before the combine:
WR Brandin Cooks is a special athlete and I don't throw around the word "special" lightly. Measuring above 5-10 at the Combine would be big— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 16, 2014
Cooks measured in at 5'10" and 189 pounds, but he also posted the top 40-yard-dash time of any receiver at the combine.
Interestingly enough, Cooks compares well to last year's No. 8 overall pick, Tavon Austin,but Cooks has yet to generate anywhere near the amount of hype Austin did last year.
Which is strange. Cooks caught a jaw-dropping 128 passes last year for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has obvious NFL talent, and the production, measureables and reviews all check out.
Perhaps finally, thanks to a great time in the most popular drill at the combine, Cooks will start to climb up draft boards and permanently plant himself in the first-round conversation.