NFL Rankings: Tallying the Fastest Players on Every Team in the League
Speed in the NFL is one of the key factors to success. It's why scouts put such an importance on 40-yard dash times in the draft.
Every team has at least one burner, some are lucky enough to have two or three. Look at the elite teams in the NFL and they have at least one guy on each side of the ball who can burn the field up.
This piece will power rank the top 32 burners in the NFL, one per team. The decisions on some of these were close (Percy Harvin vs. Adrian Peterson), but that's why we make the list and start the debates.
Beginning with the bottom...
32. Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers
The rookie out of LSU, LaFell is slotted to be a big star in Carolina, assuming they can regain their professional status after this debacle of a season.
LaFell is averaging 13.2 yards per catch so far this season, and his speed can make him an elite wide receiver, assuming the Panthers ever find a quarterback to stay behind center for more than a few quarters.
31. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Marshawn Lynch is the fastest guy on the Seahawks by default. He hasn't played up to his potential lately, but he's still fast.
Lynch came out of college with great speed, but got lost in Buffalo. Now in Seattle, he's one of the few offensive weapons the Seahawks have at the moment.
30. Brandon Jackson, Green Bay Packers
Brandon Jackson already has busted loose for a 71-yard run this season, and the speedy running back also gets yards after catch when getting the pass, averaging 15.3 yards per catch a few weeks ago against Minnesota.
29. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
Michael Crabtree averaged 13 yards per catch in a truncated 2009 season, and he's averaging 12.7 yards per catch so far in 2010.
An argument for Frank Gore could be made, but Crabtree has that breakaway speed, and is a few years younger than Gore, giving Crabtree the edge.
28. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams
Steven Jackson runs well. Despite the Rams woes in recent years, Jackson still has run for more than 1,000 yards, and with Sam Bradford lifting this team up, Jackson stands to have well over 1,000 yards this season.
He already has 757 yards with seven games to go, and he's a real threat coming out of the backfield if he breaks away.
27. Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis Colts
There's Joseph Addai and Reggie Wayne, who are both fast, but Pierre Garcon edges them out. He's a legitimate deep threat, and he chased Ed Reed down after an interception and forced a fumble in the Divisional Playoff game this past January.
So yeah, he wins.
26. Devin McCourty, New England Patriots
Devin McCourty is the fastest guy on a Patriots defense that got old real fast and now is rebuilding.
McCourty ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at the combine and already is the starting cornerback for the Patriots.
25. Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals
Cedric Benson is the speed in the Bengals backfield after making a name for himself in Chicago for both good and bad reasons.
Benson ran for more than 1,200 yards in only 13 games last season, and can regurlarly bust a huge run out of the backfied.
24. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
Dez Bryant had a 4.52 40-yard dash time coming out of college, and he's having one heck of a good rookie season, having a 100-yard game this past Sunday versus the Giants.
He has breakaway speed and can separate himself from defenders. He's improving every game, and the sky's the limit now that things appear to be changing in Dallas.
23. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Although the current crop of Cardinals quarterbacks appear to have a hard time finding Larry Fitzgerald, it isn't because he's slow off the line.
Fitzgerald averages more than 13 yards per catch in his career, and if he gets loose, good luck catching him.
22. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
C.J. Spiller, drafted ninth overall, has been running laps around everyone on special teams, and ran a 4.37 40-yard dash in the combine this past spring.
Spiller is the fastest guy on the Bills, and once this team starts getting more talent in the next year or two, the rest of the league is going to be on the lookout for this guy.
21. Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints
Reggie Bush is injured at the moment, and the Saints offense has suffered for it. He ran a 4.33 40-yard dash when he was drafted, and it doesn't look like he's slowed at all in the last few years.
Injuries have been a problem for Bush, but when he's on the field, he gives defenders something to think about.
20. Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins
In the war for speed, Ronnie Brown gets the edge over Ricky Williams now who, at age 33, doesn't quite have the breakaway speed he had a few years ago.
Brown is 28, and is a threat coming out of the backfield and in the flat.
Brandon Marshall is the only other player on the Dolphins in this conversation, and it's a good argument as to who is the fastest at this point.
19. LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
LeGarrette Blount has exploded on to the scene in the NFL in the last few weeks, and it looks like his speed will keep him here for awhile.
Passed over in the draft because of "The Punch," Blount still ran a 4.7 40-yard dash, which is fast for a guy who is 6'0", 240 lbs.
Other players in this argument definitely are Cadillac Williams and Mike Williams, but Blount has that explosiveness coming out of the backfield that separates him from the pack.
18. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
Ray Rice is the champ here, after a close race with Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth.
Rice is the Ravens' workhorse, running for an average of 5.3 yards per carry last year and currently averaging four yards per carry this year.
Boldin is a great downfield threat, and Stallworth looked real fast in his return Thursday night, but Stallworth hasn't really played since 2008, so it's hard to get a good read on him yet.
17. DeAngelo Hall, Washington Redskins
DeAngelo Hall was a sprinter in college, and his speed makes him one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Good luck getting away from this guy because he will catch you.
He recently recorded four picks against Jay Cutler in one game, and every wide receiver he faces off against knows they have to run extra hard to beat this guy.
16. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
Roddy White recently had a 200-yard receiving day, and it wasn't because he was lucky.
White has averaged more than 13 yards per catch every year, and more than 15 yards per catch in three different seasons, although two of those years were injury-shortened.
White breaks away from coverage and gets himself open, and that's why he's got Pro Bowl numbers.
15. Champ Bailey, Denver Broncos
At age 32, Bailey defies the odds by still being one of the best and fastest cornerbacks in the league.
Bailey ran a 4.28 40-yard dash coming out of college, and while he may not be that fast anymore, you could lay good money down saying he isn't much slower than that.
Ask any wide receiver he's covering if he's lost a step.
14. Steve Smith, New York Giants
Steve Smith is a machine for New York, and he recorded 107 catches and 1,220 yards in 2009. He is averaging 11 yards per catch through nine games this season, and he is one of Eli Manning's most reliable targets.
13. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
Maurice Jones-Drew is on pace to have a 1,500-yard rushing season, and there's no doubt when he breaks loose from the line that he's going to churn through some yards.
At age 25, Jones-Drew is in the prime of his career, and the guy leaves a cloud of dust in his wake.
12. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Now the real arguments begin, do you go with All Day, or do you go with Percy Harvin, who is just as quick?
The debate here sided with Adrian Peterson and his ability to just get yards through people, over people, and around people.
Peterson already has 908 rushing yards going into Week 11, including an 80-yard touchdown run. Peterson gets the nod.
11. Darren Sproles, San Diego Chargers
Another good argument this year, do you go with Darren Sproles or Ryan Matthews as the fastest?
The answer is Sproles, who still has that extra bit of explosiveness over Matthews despite Matthews' better stats so far in 2010.
10. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions
Jahvid Best, the guy the Lions traded back up into the first round to get this past spring, ran a 4.34 40-yard dash, one one-hundreth of a second faster than Calvin Johnson, the other guy in this debate.
Johnson is fast, and so is Best, so the argument came down to combine times.
9. Devin Hester, Chicago Bears
Devin Hester is fast, in case you haven't seen him run, which you may not of because he ran by you so fast.
Hester returns kicks, and made his name by constantly outrunning special teams coverage and scoring touchdowns, now holding several records.
He's now Jay Cutler's No. 1 receiver.
8. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Jamaal Charles has been keeping pace with his older counterpart, Thomas Jones, averaging six yards per carry and on pace to have a 1,000 yard season as the backup running back.
At age 23, Charles still is developing, but he already is the fastest guy in the Chiefs' backfield.
7. Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
Revis Island. The guy who completely shut down Calvin Johnson a few weeks ago, and who makes any pass sent in his direction a coin toss as to whether it will be a completion or not.
This guy was fast even with a pulled hamstring.
6. Arian Foster, Houston Texans
Arian Foster or Andre Johnson? It's a great question, but we give the edge to Foster because of his 5.3 yards per carry and 920 yards through nine games on the ground.
Johnson makes a compelling case with his average of 15 yards per catch, but we have to again give the edge to Foster for his grunt work exploding through the line.
5. Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers
Mike Wallace is averaging 21.4 yards per catch so far this season. He has 30 catches for 643 yards. And he did this with three different quarterbacks.
Coming out of college last year, Wallace ran a 4.33 40-yard dash, and that speed has served him well so far in his pro career.
4. Joshua Cribbs, Cleveland Browns
Joshua Cribbs hasn't had the opportunities this season to show off his speed like he has the last few years, but his 37-yard scamper prior to being injured last Sunday showed he's still one of the fastest guys in the league and definitely the fastest guy in Cleveland.
Cribbs holds the NFL record for eight kickoff returns for touchdowns and returned two 100-yard kickoffs for touchdowns in one game.
Cribbs can fly.
3. Jacoby Ford, Oakland Raiders
It's no secret Al Davis loves guys who are really fast, so it's no surprise to see one of his players in the Top 5.
Jacoby Ford was a sprinter in college, and ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at the combine.
This season, he's already had a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and it looks like this guy's speed will be working him into the playbook more.
2. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
DeSean Jackson had an 88-yard touchdown catch in Monday night's game versus the Washington Redskins. All you have to do is watch that highlight to see how fast he is.
Jackson only has missed one game due to a concussion this year, but he still has 602 receiving yards and is averaging 21.5 yards per catch.
Between Michael Vick and Jackson, there is a lot of speed on that team, and we haven't even talked about LeSean McCoy yet.
1. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
CJ2K knows how to get it done, and while he's been shut down a few times this season, the acquisition of Randy Moss already has helped stretch the defense and keep the line a little more open for Johnson to run through.
Johnson ran a 4.24 40-yard dash coming out of college, and that speed is evident every time you see him run. He had 2,500 total yards last year, 2,006 of them on the ground.
Johnson is as fast as they come, and it rarely matters what you do, Johnson usually will get past you.