World-Class Speed: The Fastest Players in The NFL at Each Position

Kyle Vassalo@VassaloBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2011

World-Class Speed: The Fastest Players in The NFL at Each Position

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    Speed is an attribute that is difficult to improve and impossible to teach. A player who dominates with his legs is exciting and terrifying for the opposition.

    Speed keeps scouts on the edge of their seats at the 40-yard dash, lusting after the speed of the next wave of NFL talent.

    Being fast isn't only important for defensive backs or skill position offensive players. We are seeing teams covet linebackers and even defensive linemen who have the ability to move.

    Offensive linemen may not run 40 yards on any given play in their career, but posting the best time speaks to their athleticism.

    Let's take a look at the fastest guys for every position, starting with the offense.

Quarterback: Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

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    No surprise here. Michael Vick could be the fastest quarterback ever to play the game. Critics wondered how Vick would respond to his time behind bars as far as his athleticism was concerned, but he has come away as fast as ever.

    Vick is the most dangerous quarterback in the NFL. He is also a pioneer, in the sense that he has blazed a trail for dual-threat quarterbacks to be taken seriously by the NFL.

    Some may give this designation to Fran Tarkenton, but Vick was the guy who started the infatuation with mobility in today's NFL.

Running Back: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

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    When you watch Chris Johnson on the football field, it is almost as though everyone else is in slow motion. Johnson has sub-4.3 speed and makes defenders look foolish in open space.

    Johnson has the ability to outrun an entire defense, the way Reggie Bush was supposed to when he came out of college.

    Not only is Johnson the fastest running back, he could be the fastest player in the league.

    Jamaal Charles might be able to be competitive in a foot race, but at this point nobody moves like CJ2K.

Fullback: Jacob Hester, San Diego Chargers

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    Jacob Hester was one of those running back/fullback hybrid types coming out of college. The strength of his game is in short yardage running situations, either as a lead blocker or as a running back. He is undersized, but makes up for it for having elite speed for a fullback.

    Hester could eventually serve as a running back in the NFL. Many times, we see a fullback with his ability to run the football transition to a true running back role.

    Time will tell, but for the time being, he locks up the No. 1 spot at fullback.

Wide Receiver: DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles

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    This was one of the hardest calls to make. Devin Hester gets edged out simply because DeSean Jackson showcases his speed on a more consistent basis.

    Jackson is not only a dominant threat in the return game, he can also outrun nearly every defensive back in the NFL.

    Jackson has solid hands and great football instincts, but he continues to put up big numbers because of what he can do with his legs.

    Jackson was the first player ever to be named to the Pro Bowl at multiple positions. His speed is the main reason why.

Tight End: Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

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    Vernon Davis is one of those guys who soared up draft boards after scouts saw him at the Combine. A physical freak, Davis ran a sub 4.4 40 yard dash at 6'3, 250 pounds.

    He was the highest tight end ever drafted, a feat he owes to his speed and hard work at the gym.

    Davis is an elite blocking tight end, but the 49ers drafted him because of the mismatches he presents the defense.

    Too big for a safety, too fast for a linebacker, Davis is a daunting task for defensive coordinators.

    Athletic tight ends are highly sought after in the NFL. No tight end is more athletic than Vernon Davis.

Tackle: Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns

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    Joe Thomas is regarded as one of the top tackles in the NFL. He has the size, at 6'6, 312. What made him more attractive to scouts was his athleticism. Thomas has great feet and terrific speed for an offensive lineman.

    Running a sub 5.00-second 40 is impressive, but what is even more impressive is Thomas' speed in getting to the second level.

    Thomas has sound blocking technique, but his speed puts on the short list of dominant left tackles.

Guard: Bruce Campbell, Oakland Raiders

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    It's never a surprise when I see a workout warrior fall into Oakland's lap. Al Davis loves speed.

    When Campbell ran a 4.78 40-yard dash, rumors immediately began circulating around Campbell and Oakland, even prompting both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay to have the Raiders drafting him in the early first round in their mock drafts.

    The verdict is still out on how Campbell's football career will go, but Bruce "The Juice" raises no concerns in the speed department.

    Some may call his incredible 40 time meaningless, for the most part. I can't say I completely disagree.

Center: Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns

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    Is there some sort of movement in Cleveland in favor of collecting fast linemen? Alex Mack ran a sub-5.00 flat 40 at his combine workout and joined Joe Thomas in creating what is shaping up to be one of the better lines in all of football.

    At center, speed may not be the most coveted attribute in a players skill-set. Even so, it certainly didn't hurt Mack. Scouts raved about his athleticism and versatility before the 40 was run and the amazing time only justified their assumptions.

    Aside from the 40, Mack is quick and agile. He doesn't get out into space very often, but when he does, he moves surprisingly well for being 6'4, 311.

Defensive End: Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears

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    This was another tough position. Mario Williams, Osi Umenyiora, and Dwight Freeney were all highly considered. Julius Peppers is 6'7 and weighs 283 pounds. His basketball background was instrumental in making him the ultimate defensive end.

    One play in particular that serves as justification to Peppers' No. 1 standing was his tackle from behind on Michael Vick.

    Peppers is not faster than Vick, clearly, but his relentless pursuit and elite speed in close quarters made it impossible for Vick to escape his clutches.

    The gravitation towards fast defensive ends is one of the main reasons we are seeing an infatuation with the left tackle position.

Defensive Tackle: Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions

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    Ndamukong Suh does not have the fastest straight line speed of any defensive tackle, but he warrants the No. 1 spot because of his speed in getting up the field.

    Suh is "football fast" if you will. Some were even disappointed with his 40 time, but when you watch Suh, it is clear that he is much faster than skill position players when the play isn't in open space.

    Suh is able to corral the ball carrier with his combination of awesome power and burst of speed he unleashes every snap. He is quickly becoming the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the league.

Outside Linebacker: Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

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    This one might draw some controversy, but Terrell Suggs is the fastest linebacker up the field in football.

    He make a serious push for the number one spot in a 40-yard dash amongst the outside linebackers in the league, but what pushes him above DeMarcus Ware and Thomas Davis is his acceleration.

    Nobody is faster than Suggs off the edge. He has closing speed that is unrivaled at the outside linebacker position. Suggs has a solid frame and speed that makes life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.

Middle Linebacker: Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers

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    Patrick Willis is one of the best linebackers in football. A true student of the game, Willis has combined his raw athletic ability with a great work ethic, making him one of the most dangerous players in the game.

    In Willis' rookie year, people around the league began noticing his speed when he chased down a Cardinal wideout, despite trailing him by 15 yards at one point.

    Willis can run sideline to sideline and has great acceleration. He is not only one of the most talented players in the league, he is also the fastest middle linebacker, and perhaps linebacker, in the NFL.

Cornerback: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

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    Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the 16th player selected in the 2008 NFL draft. Coincidentally, he happened to run the 40 in under 4.3 seconds.

    Teams search for cornerbacks who are going to be able to keep up with the Mike Wallaces and DeSean Jacksons of the world.

    Rodgers-Cromartie is not yet regarded as one of the best, but he is certainly one of the fastest. His jaw dropping speed helps make up for some of the shortcomings he has in coverage. Cromartie is the fastest player at one of the most athletic positions.

Free Safety: Michael Huff, Oakland Raiders

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    Michael Huff is another guy with blazing speed who Al Davis fell head over heels with.

    He was a standout safety at Texas as well, but his physical abilities played a huge role in launching him into the No. 7 overall slot.

    Many people believed the Raiders would go after Matt Leinart, but Davis could not resist the safety's speed, which his 4.36 40 time confirmed.

Strong Safety: Taylor Mays, San Francisco 49ers

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    Taylor Mays fell to the second round last season. He could be the best athlete in football, but his cover skills leave something to be desired.

    Luckily for Mays, this list has nothing to do with cover skills. Mays originally clocked an unofficial 40 time that was sub-4.3. For a guy who is 6'3", 230, such speed is unheard of.

    The official time created a huge time discrepancy and in turn became a debate over the accuracy of the timing at the combine.

    Regardless, it was clear that Mays was flying. He covers a lot of ground and is a ferocious enforcer. If he is ever able to put his cover skills together, he could be one of the best safeties in the league.

Kicker: David Buehler, Dallas Cowboys

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    David Buehler is the world's fastest kicker. I'm not sure what type of accomplishment that is, but he may have run away with the position title more than anyone on this list.

    He also has a huge leg, which when coupled with his speed, makes him the perfect kickoff specialist.

    Buehler once beat defensive back and teammate DeAngelo Smith in a 50-yard race. His speed may be nothing more than a gimmick at practice, but even kickers get a spot on this list.

Punter: Brian Moorman, Buffalo Bills

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    Brian Moorman has ridiculous speed. Not like, "Wow, he sure does get out there fast on that rugby punt" kind of speed. He can run faster than a large portion of NFL receivers. Moorman was a three -time state champion in the hurdles in High School.

    He is an incredible athlete as well, earning All-State honors in high school football and basketball. He competed in the Pro Bowl Skills Challenge in the 2006 Pro Bowl.

    Some might not think special teams earns their keep on this list, but both Buehler and Moorman are deserving of a spot.