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Deceptive Speed: Analyzing the Discrepancy Between Fastest Wide Receivers and NFL Productivity


Tyreek Hill is a rare find in the NFL, it’s not often you find productive ELITE speed. Photo Credit: @cheetah IG
Tyreek Hill is a rare find in the NFL, it’s not often you find productive ELITE speed. Photo Credit: @cheetah IG

The NFL combine always produces major thrills for NFL fans as yearly we are blown away by the speed or other remarkable athletic traits of some of the best athletes in the world. I am a sucker for speed! Every year I am looking for the fastest wide receivers and I am hoping that my team drafts those speedy guys. I took a quick glance at the fastest wide receivers in NFL history according to the combine, understanding that a lot of fast guys didn't test at the combine, like former Saints kick returner Micheal "The Beer Man" Lewis, who was rumored to have run a 4.3 in the rain, or Tyreek Hill, who was not invited to the combine. As I looked down the list I noticed a lot of names that I remember tearing up Indy, but not having crazy production on the field. In the NFL, speed has always been a coveted asset. However, a closer look at the numbers reveals a fascinating trend – being among the fastest wide receivers in NFL history doesn't necessarily translate to being among the most productive.


Brandin Cooks and Mike Wallace make up the only two of 25 players that TORE UP Indy and also reached the top 250 players in receiving yards. Photo Credit @archer IG
Brandin Cooks and Mike Wallace make up the only two of 25 players that TORE UP Indy and also reached the top 250 players in receiving yards. Photo Credit @archer IG

Our study delved into the stats, comparing the top 250 NFL players in terms of receiving yards (according to https://www.pro-football-reference.com/leaders/rec_yds_career.htm )

with the top 25 wide receivers based on their 40-yard dash times, according to NFL Network. To establish a benchmark, we looked at Justin Jefferson, who, after just three seasons, has already secured a spot on the top 250 list. Extending the criteria to players starting their careers in 2019 or earlier, only two out of the 18 fastest wide receivers cracked the top 250 in receiving yards – Brandin Cooks and Mike Wallace.


While speedsters like Will Fuller and DK Metcalf showcase impressive skills, the numbers suggest that raw speed alone doesn't guarantee a spot among the most prolific wide receivers. Will Fuller could have made this list easily, had his career not been riddled with injuries. DK Metcalf, with a career total of 5,332 receiving yards, teeters just outside the top 250. That’s not to say that the other players like Will Fuller and DK Metcalf were not or are not good players. As a matter of fact, the lowest number on the list belongs to Dave Parks and Pete Pihos, both with 5,619 yards, with DK Metcalf’s nearly 1,000 yards per season average he should be on the list next season.


John Ross had elite speed and showed flashes but the production never equaled the potential. Photo Credit: @_jross3 IG
John Ross had elite speed and showed flashes but the production never equaled the potential. Photo Credit: @_jross3 IG

The list of speed demons who failed to make the top 250 is substantial, including notable names like John Ross, Marquise Goodwin, and Super Bowl Champion Mecole Hardman. These players, despite their breathtaking speed, haven't been able to consistently translate it into yardage on the field. Wide receivers Henry Ruggs, Tyquan Thronton, Velvus Jones Jr., Calvin Austin III , Trey Palmer , and Danny Gray , are all in the Top 25 fastest 40 times, but were all ommitted from the study, having started their careers in 2020 or later.




This trend challenges the conventional excitement surrounding blazing 40 times during the NFL Combine. The spectacle of Calvin Johnson's 4.3-second dash or John Ross outpacing Chris Johnson may stir fan enthusiasm, but the hard data suggests that the most productive wideouts often don't top the speed charts.


Tyreek Hill emerges as a unique case, where his exceptional speed harmoniously aligns with impressive production – a rarity in the realm of NFL wide receivers. As fans anticipate the next breakout speedster, the data calls for a tempered enthusiasm, reminding us that speed alone may not guarantee a place among the NFL's receiving elite.


Graphic by MTMV Sports
Graphic by MTMV Sports

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It's an incredible story in the New York Times.

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