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Who are the fastest players in the 2022 NFL Draft?

The Rams are known to like speed

NFL Combine Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Last year, LA Rams general manager Les Snead drafted three of the 30 fastest players at the 2021 NFL Scouting combine: WR/TE Jacob Harris (4.39), CB Robert Rochell (4.41), and WR Tutu Atwell (4.42).

At 6’5, 219 with a 4.39, Harris is one of the most athletic players in combine history. On the other end of the spectrum, Atwell is actually more of an “average” athlete due to his 155 lbs frame.

Rochell scored in the top-100 for cornerbacks’ Relative Athletic Score, going back to 1987.

Another elite athlete in the 2021 NFL Draft was defensive tackle Bobby Brown III, who had a top-25 ranking going back to 1987.

So it is about more than just speed. It’s all about the entire package built around that speed. We saw some of the fastest 40-yard dash times in combine history this year and plenty of those prospects will fall out of the top-100 picks. Will Snead tap into the most athletic players once again?

Overall Fastest: CB Kalon Barnes, 4.23 40-yard dash

Despite posting one of the five-fastest times in combine history, Barnes is actually 73rd out of 1,923 corners going back to 1987. That’s because at 5’11, 183 lbs, Barnes is perhaps more like a “Tutu Atwell” than he is a “Jacob Harris” but to be fair, he’s still about 30 lbs heavier than Atwell and ranks in the top-100 for corners. Atwell didn’t rank in the top-1000 for receivers.

Barnes may have raised his stock from a priority free agent into being a fifth or sixth round pick. Perfect for Snead maybe.

UTSA cornerback Tariq Woolen was just behind him, pulling in a 4.26 40-yard dash and a 42” vertical at 6’4, 205 lbs. Woolen is being projected as a third or fourth round pick.

Fastest receiver: WR Tyquan Thornton, Baylor, 4.28 40-yard dash

How relevant is it to be the fastest receiver, really? It hasn’t come in that handy in identifying sleeper receivers—wouldn’t you rather know who the underrated receivers are in running routes or gaining separation?—but nobody’s ignoring Thornton’s 40-yard dash time at 6’2, or his elite 20 and 10-yard splits.

But unsurprisingly, Thornton is wire frame thin at 181 lbs. That’s even lankier than Jacob Harris. Thornton probably shouldn’t go earlier than round five.

The next four fastest times at receiver: Velus Jones, Calvin Austin, Danny Gray, and Bo Melton. Austin has elite athleticism, but is 5’8, 170 lbs. Gray and Melton’s overall profile is a little underwhelming but this next player only ranks behind Calvin Johnson all-time in Relative Athletic Score at receiver.

Christian Watson, North Dakota State

Watson was not one of the top-500 receiver recruits in the nation when he was coming out of high school. He went to North Dakota State and became a big play threat (over 20 yards per catch) but he has major issues with drops, is unrefined as a route runner, and probably needs several years of development before he can step on the field. Arguably the closest comp to Jacob Harris in this draft but he won’t be converted to tight end at 6’4, 208 lbs.

Watson could go in the second round even if he might be a better fit for day three. Some teams won’t be able to get past a 6’4 receiver running a 4.28.

If you’re looking for Discount Christian Watson, then look no further than UNI’s Isaiah Weston. He is only ranked behind Calvin Johnson and Watson all-time in RAS:

Fastest safety: Nick Cross, Maryland

Some Rams fans are hoping for Cross to have raised his stock with a fast 40-yard dash time (4.34 with a 37” vertical) but not so high that he goes in the top-100. L.A. probably wants more depth at safety after losing Jordan Fuller for half of last season and relying on Nick Scott, Taylor Rapp, Eric Weddle to share duties down the stretch.

Cross has the ninth-best safety RAS since 1987.

Slightly bigger and also in the top-30 for RAS is Toledo’s Tycen Anderson. Cross and Anderson are both falling into the round three-round six range, but of course some think Cross could go in round two.

Fastest EDGE: OLB Amare Barno, Virginia Tech

Barno is 6’5, 246 lbs, and he ran a 4.36 with a 37” vertical and a 131” broad jump. He’s got fantastic athleticism but Barno’s weight is a red flag and being a “tweener” has helped him post unfathomably fast times.

A bigger (but still undersized) prospect with some off-field issues is Ole Miss’s Sam Williams. He checks in at 261 lbs.

Fastest BIG: DT Jordan Davis, Georgia

Fastest BIG in Rams’ draft range: OL Chris Paul, Tulsa

The three-fastest players over 270 lbs all played on Georgia’s defense: Travon Walker (4.51 at 272 lbs), Devonte Wyatt (4.77 at 304 lbs), and Davis (4.78 at 341 lbs), with Jordan Davis being the freak of freaks.

Aaron Donald was a game-wrecker at Pitt, easily one of the best players in college football history, and then he ran a 4.68 at 285 lbs at the combine. Donald was top-25 in RAS all-time but still considered undersized. Walker is the closest thing to Donald in terms of size and speed (Walker is all-around “more athletic”) but it’s unrealistic to expect any player in this draft to be Aaron Donald. Walker was also not a game-wrecker at Georgia... in fact, he may have been one of the worst players on his own defense.

Tulsa guard Chris Paul is 6’4, 323 lbs, and he ran a 4.89 with a 27” vertical. Arizona State tackle Kellen Diesch ran a 4.89 at 301 lbs, a 32.5” vertical, and he is 6’7. And UConn defensive tackle Travis Jones ran a 4.92 at 6’4, 325 lbs.

Do any of these prospects suit your fancy for speed’s sake?