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].