Thursday, March 05, 2009

SEC Speed!!! Or not?

I have a default presumption that SEC running backs are faster and make better pros than Big Ten running backs. I was all ready to bang this drum for the month leading up to the Draft in comparing Knowshon Moreno and Beanie Wells. This piece from Football Outsiders is giving me second thoughts. It turns out that Knowshon isn't very fast:

Knowshon Moreno, regarded as the draft's top back, ran a disastrous 4.6 40-yard dash that yielded a speed score of only 96.9. Even if you go with the time of 4.55 that has also been unofficially reported for Moreno, his speed score would be only 101.3, putting him just below Chris Perry (102.7).

Going back to 1999, that would be the lowest speed score posted by a first-round pick; the only two backs selected in the first round to post a speed score under 100 are William Green (98.7) and Trung Canidate (99.3). Only one back in the 11 seasons we've got speed score data for made it to the Pro Bowl after posting a speed score below 98.0: Brian Westbrook.

In his defense, Moreno's regarded as having elite agility, which goes unmeasured in the 40. Agility is measured in other drills, though, so if Moreno's agility was really at an elite level, we'd expect to see as such in the three-cone drill and the two shuttle runs.

In the three-cone drill, Moreno's 6.84 seconds were second to Abilene Christian back Bernard Scott. Scott also topped the leaderboard in the 20-yard shuttle with a time of 4.08 seconds, while Moreno was eighth at 4.27 seconds. (In the 60-yard shuttle, which we don't track data for, Moreno finished fourth out of the six who attempted it.) Over the past ten years, the average back who's been drafted has been 5'10" and weighed 216 pounds -- almost a mirror image of Moreno's 5'11", 217-pound frame. Those same backs have averaged a 20-yard shuttle time of 4.20 seconds and a three-cone drill time of 7.07 seconds. While Moreno's three-cone drill score was better than average (and would rate as the fourth-best time for drafted backs), success in the three-cone drill actually bears a slightly inverse correlation to NFL success, while the shuttle, which Moreno was below-average in, has a much more positive relationship.

While Beanie Wells' 4.59 40-yard dash almost perfectly mirrored Moreno's, the fact that he did so with 18 extra pounds on his frame produces a speed score of 105.9 (below-average for a first-rounder, but passable for a day-one pick). He actually profiles as rather similar to another Big Ten back: Larry Johnson, who was 228 pounds and ran a 4.55 40 at the 2003 combine, yielding a speed score of 106.4. Unfortunately, Wells doesn't come with the 2006 Chiefs offensive line.


I'm not a fan of Wells because he is a classic Big Ten runner. He's great in a straight line, but he's not especially good when he has to make a cut in the backfield. He's used to running through big holes at slow linebackers. He's a slightly better version of Anthony Thomas, who was good in front of a Steve Hutchinson-Jeff Backus-Maurice Williams-Jonathan Goodwin (NFL starters, all of them) offensive line, but not so good in the NFL (after a good rookie year, it must be said). The problem is that I said the same things about Johnson and he's had an excellent NFL career.

It might be hard to argue in favor of Knowshon if he's neither fast in a straight line, nor quick in the shuttle. The Knowshon-Beanie debate might play out like the JaMarcus Russell-Brady Quinn debate from two years ago, with neither guy being a terrific selection high in the Draft. Knowshon was very productive in college despite playing behind average offensive lines (by Georgia's standards) against excellent defenses. Then again, if Stacy Searles is as good as we think, then I'm underrating Georgia's offensive lines and possibly explaining why Knowshon was so productive despite non-elite speed and quickness. If Searles is indeed the explanation, then that's good for Georgia's future, but bad for Moreno's.

One other thought on the speed scores: if Andre Brown and Cedric Peerman are indeed two underrated Draft prospects, then this would be further evidence that the ACC is the worst-coached conference in the country, at least on the offensive side of the ball. The ACC has been roughly on par with the SEC at the Draft for the past several years, but its teams haven't come close to the SEC's teams in terms of on-field success. If it turns out that Brown and Peerman were good running backs in hiding (not unlike Willie Parker and Leon Washington), then we have further evidence that ACC coaches just aren't maximizing the resources available to them. And then that minimizes Frank Beamer's accomplishment in winning the league repeatedly, which is pretty much how half of my posts end [/still bitter about Vick, DeAngelo, and Jimmy Williams].

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Knowshon is an SEC RB outlier, plus he's from New Jersey so that puts him in a different category than most SEC backs.

Honestly, I'm surprised he was that fast. He's probably the slowest (top-end speed) successful college RB I've ever seen at that size. I remember when he was easily run down by a big DE once this year (Auburn maybe?).

Anonymous said...

If you wanna buy some other things which are not listed in our website:
runescape gold
runescape accounts
runescape money
runescape power leveling
runescape gold
runescape accounts
runescape items
runescape gold
runescape accounts
runescape accounts
runescape money
runescape accounts
runescape items
wow cd key
please contact with our customer service with on-line chat or add our Email,we will stock it for you in a short time after you told us what you needed.

jrsuicide said...

i echo the comment that he's from New Jersey and therby not really much of a litmus test for SEC Speed (screams yeehaw and downs a PBR). Knowshon was always shifty but he never looked very fast at Georgia and i honestly cant believe anyone thinks he's not gonna be a bust in the pros. Just cuz he dances the soulja boy and jumps over smallish MAC linebackers does not equal Barry Sanders to me....sorry I've just spent the last 2 years arguing with my UGA loving friends that Knowshon isn't the 2nd coming of Walker or even Hearst for that matter and all this stuff coming out about him being too slow to be considered elite has me crowing a little too much.

Hobnail_Boot said...

...and right on cue, the predictable backlash.

No idea how Knowshon will do in the NFL, but his game tape (the best indicator) suggests he'll be pretty good if he goes somewhere where he doesn't have to carry it 25+ times a game.

You want to know who projects really well? Charles Scott at LSU.

SRQDawgs15 said...

I think Knowshon will be fine in the NFL and have a better career than Wells. He's shifty, runs hard, and has the strength to run straight ahead/between the tackles also. The article fails to mention that, although Wells is bigger than Knowshon, each put up 25 reps on the bench press. Wells is also injury prone and his reputation for having great downhill speed is just a figment perpetuated by slow Big-11 defenses. I know I'd take him if I was a GM/head coach that needed a back.

Al-D said...

I don't remember where I saw the stat, but before this past season's (2008) Florida/Georgia game (or was it Georgia/Florida, don't remember who was officially at home) there was a stat that every one of Knowshon's 100+ yard games in his career were against run defenses ranked 70th or lower except for the 2007 UF/UGA game. AND any Gator fan can tell you the only reason our run D was ranked so high that year was because our pass D was soooo bad no one bothered trying to run except UGA, LSU, and Michigan (see a recurring theme there hmmm)

Clare said...

Our company is always making effort on wholesale and retail of Air Jordan Shoes, NFL Jerseys, MBT Shoes, Nike TN and Puma Shoes Men . I would like to inform everyone likes sports apparels, we will offer discount up to 50% discount for large order, especially in NFL Jerseys, if you like these, please don’t hesitate to tell you friend, welcome group purchase in our online store.