Move Over, Michael Crabtree: Usain Bolt Is the Best Offensive NFL Prospect
Imagine if this man showed up at a workout for NFL scouts.
At 6'5", 190 pounds, he would be tall but somewhat skinny for a receiver. He would never have played football before, and the scouts would be wondering why he'd even shown up. Then he would proceed to run 100 meters in under 9.7 seconds, despite slowing his pace at the end and having one shoe untied.
What would the scouts tell their GM about Usain Bolt?
Anyone who has been watching the Olympics can recognize that Bolt has one of the best combinations of size and speed of any athlete in the last 100 years. If he wanted to play football, he'd have very few weaknesses.
What made Bolt so unique as a track star, even before he began setting world records, was his height and running style. In fact, although he weighs 30 pounds less, his effortless style is somewhat reminiscent of Adrian Peterson—and at 6'5", he would be a huge threat to smaller corners.
None of this would guarantee Bolt a place in the pantheon of all-time great wideouts. Jerry Rice ran a horrible 40-meter time in the combine, and we all know how that worked out.
In his prime, Rice easily caught passes against faster CBs with superior route-running. In addition, he actually ran much faster on the field than his timed splits would seem to indicate.
Bolt's inexperience with the game of football would be a detriment at first, but even a dump-off in the flat would be potentially deadly.
Of course, the big question is: Would Bolt be able to jump high and catch a football? I think this wouldn't matter that much. Just the thought of having him on the field as a threat to take a reverse and run 100 yards in under 10 seconds would have opposing corners up at night.
Michael Crabtree is also tall (6'3") and undoubtedly has an advantage in having actually played organized football. He has good hands and great leaping ability. But Crabtree is only about 10 pounds heavier than Bolt is, and while very fast, is not an Olympic-level sprinter.
As the two cliches go, "you can't teach size" and "speed kills." Not even Deion Sanders could have chased Bolt.
If nothing else, Bolt could be a punt returner in the mold of Devin Hester, except much faster. The biggest question would be if Bolt could consistently take NFL-sized hits and stay healthy and fast, and avoid fumbling.
Bolt would not be the first track star to play football. In 1964, Bob Hayes was drafted by Dallas after winning two golds in the Tokyo Olympics (100 m and 4x100 relay). He was All-Pro four times (along with three Pro Bowls), and won a Super Bowl ring, the Cowboys' first. He was also a threat as a punt returner.
Later in his career, Hayes was shut down frequently with bump-and-run and zone coverage, which were developed (in part) to contain him. Nevertheless, Hayes set a precedent for track athletes to break into the pro football ranks. Not bad for a seventh-rounder.
On the defensive side of the ball, Darrell Green only played varsity football for one year in high school and did not play D-I football. However, the All-American in track and future four-time Fastest Man in the NFL winner made the 1990s All-Decade Team as a cornerback.
Green also only missed 25 games his entire career and ran punts back successfully. His best times in the 100 and 200 were 10.08 and 20.50, much slower than Bolt. Yet Green once famously caught Tony Dorsett from behind during a Monday Night Football game. Green was only a rookie.
Green was a great talent at corner, but could even he match up with the huge and blindingly fast Bolt? He certainly wouldn't have been able to catch Usain from behind.
Of the current NFL wideouts, Randy Moss is a former state champion in the 100 and 200, and Santana Moss and Andre Johnson, among many others, successfully ran varsity track in college. Bolt might not have the receiving skills of those players, but wouldn't he be worth a look from a GM if he entered the draft?
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