Friday, May 17, 2013

A Player's 2nd Gear

None of what I am about to say should be taken too seriously.  It is just something I like to consider when I try to understand just how fast a particular player might be.  Judging how fast a player actually is can be problematic.  On the one hand, there are the timing  instruments and methods that the combine employs, which seem less than ideal.  On the other hand, there is always the issue that a lot of the players were former track stars, and some might just be better at getting out of there crouch, giving them a quicker start.  You can have several players with virtually identical 40 times, yet one still seems to be faster than the others.

Sometimes people talk about a player's "second gear", to describe a guy who really seems to get an extra boost of speed at a certain point.  As odd as it may seem, I think there is probably some truth to this, and believe that combine numbers can somewhat display its existence.  To examine this, we're going to look at a player's 10 and 20 yard splits from the forty yard dash.  Instead of the actual start of the run, we'll pretend that the race starts at the 10 yard mark.  This should eliminate some of the advantages of a player who just had a good start, versus a guy who maybe stumbled out of his stance.

The value of reaching the ten yard split quicker won't be ignored completely.  A player shouldn't be penalized for being quick.  That is a good trait to have, and worth noting.  What we are trying to do, however, is identify which guys might be faster than their 40 time would seem to indicate.  Who, once the initial launch is accounted for, seems to be gaining the most speed as they cover ground?  Or, on the flip side, who is merely quick, but not really showing acceleration past their initial burst off the line?   To do this, we'll look to see how many tenths of a second a players shaves off  from the 10 to the 40 yard mark.  The math behind this questionable idea will be: 10 yard split -(40 time - 3 seconds).  Later on, I'll get into the 20 yard split, since this relates to another weird issue.

I figure that I should also note what the average 10 yard split times are for different positions, since this will form a sort of  baseline for everything that follows.  Amongst the positions where you would expect speed to be an issue, the results are nearly identical.  These are based on 970 players, so the averages should be pretty reliable.

Position                            Avg. Ten Yard Split
Wide Receiver                         1.552 Seconds
Running Back                          1.548 Seconds
Cornerbacks                           1.532 Seconds

What I'm about to say should all be taken with a huge grain of salt.  I generally lump players, somewhat roughly, like this.  If they are shaving off something in the area of 0.08-0.12 seconds, then I feel they probably are moderately faster than their forty times would indicate.  Or, you could say, they might have better long speed than the 40 would indicate.  If a player is shaving off more than 0.12 seconds, then they probably have an exceptional second gear.  Players who are shaving off less than 0.08 seconds, or perhaps even losing time (reflected by a negative score), might be more reliant on quickness, but might have less deep speed than their 40 times would indicate.  Some sensible judgment should be used when considering all of this, and it might all be nonsense.

Running Backs
Player                                    40 time                    10 yd split                   Time gained/lost
DeMarco Murray 4.37 1.52 0.15
Stevan Ridley 4.65 1.60 -0.05
Ryan Mathews 4.37 1.49 0.12
CJ Spiller 4.27 1.48 0.21
Chris Johnson 4.24 1.40 0.16
Ray Rice 4.42 1.47 0.05
BenJarvus Green-Ellis 4.55 1.55 0.00
Adrian Peterson 4.40 1.53 0.13
Marshawn Lynch 4.46 1.53 0.07
Matt Forte 4.44 1.49 0.05
Ahmad Bradshaw 4.55 1.59 0.04

Player                                    40 time                    10 yd split                   Time gained/lost
Champ Bailey 4.28 1.48 0.20
Johnathan Joseph 4.31 1.53 0.22
Antonio Cromartie 4.47 1.58 0.11
Brandon Flowers 4.55 1.47 -0.08
Patrick Peterson 4.31 1.49 0.18
Terrence Newman 4.37 1.56 0.19
Richard Sherman 4.54 1.56 0.02
Lardarius Webb 4.35 1.49 0.14
Chris McAllister 4.53 1.58 0.05
Antoine Winfield 4.41 1.53 0.12
Carlos Rogers 4.44 1.55 0.11

Wide Receivers
Player                                    40 time                    10 yd split                   Time gained/lost
Torry Holt 4.44 1.57 0.13
Steve Smith 4.41 1.51 0.10
Chad Johnson 4.57 1.56 -0.01
Deion Branch 4.47 1.51 0.04
Lee Evans 4.39 1.56 0.17
Vincent Jackson 4.46 1.57 0.11
Greg Jennings 4.42 1.57 0.15
Marques Colston 4.50 1.60 0.10
Calvin Johnson 4.35 1.52 0.17
Mike Wallace 4.28 1.43 0.15
Darrius Heyward-Bey 4.25 1.44 0.19
Percy Harvin 4.39 1.47 0.08
Brandon LaFell 4.58 1.55 -0.03

None of this is meant to be a judgment on a player's overall ability.  It is just a way to look at their acceleration.  These brief lists were just somewhat randomly put together to show different types of players.  A good example of this second gear might be Torry Holt.  While his 40 time is good, but not shocking, at 4.44 seconds, his 10 yard split was slightly below average at 1.57 seconds.  After ten yards though, he really seemed to take off, shaving 0.13 seconds.  Perhaps he just had a bad start to his forty, I don't know.  That 0.13 seconds of shaved time tells me that he may have even better deep speed than his 40 time indicates.  Based on how Torry looked during his career, I would say that fits with the speed he displayed.

Or, we can take Deion Branch, for example.  He has a respectable 40 time of 4.47, but is only shaving off 0.04 seconds after the 10 yard split.  When we look at his 10 yard split time, however, we see that it is somewhat above average (1.51 versus the 1.55 second average).  That would seem to fit with what we see from him.  He is more quick than fast.  C.J. Spiller has a very good 10 yard split of 1.48 (versus the 1.54 average), yet is still shaving an additional 0.21 seconds from that point on.  He would appear to be exceptionally quick, and have and remarkable acceleration even past the 10 yard split. 

Some players might not show exceptional deep speed.  That doesn't mean they can't be useful.  Brandon Flowers for example is quite quick and agile (which I don't show here), a useful trait for a cornerback.  At the running back position Ahmad Bradshaw is, similar to Flowers, quite capable of being elusive.  Benjarvus Green-Ellis or Richard Sherman might not appear to be exceptionally quick or fast, but that doesn't mean they can't play a game based on raw power.  I'm just trying to examine one aspect of a player's combine data here, not the whole package.  Overall, I think this tends to fit what I end up seeing on the field.

One other weird issue arises when we dig deeper, and additionally look at a player's 20 yard splits.  Normally, there is a correlation between a player's vertical jump and their speed, but not always.  The idea that one sort of explosiveness, common to athletes with quick twitch muscles, would carry over into other areas, probably isn't surprising, but there are exceptions.  First let me show you a typical breakdown of a "Big" wide receiver (players over 200 pounds).

Player                                10 yard split                20 yard split                     40 time
Calvin Johnson 1.52 2.53 4.35
Vincent Jackson 1.57 2.63 4.46

In this case, Calvin and Vincent are both shaving off a good amount of time relative to their 10 yard split (0.17 and 0.11 seconds respectively).  However, from their 10 yard split to their 20 yard split they are actually adding rather than shaving time (0.01 and 0.06 seconds respectively).  This is extremely common among large receivers, and I suspect it has something to do with overcoming the inertia of their massive bodies, to get them up to speed.  On the flip side of this, we have something odd that occurs almost exclusively with very small receivers (though it could obviously occur at other positions too). 

Player                             10 yd split          20 yd split          40 time         10yd to 40 yd diff.
Tavon Austin 1.50 2.49 4.28 0.22
DeSean Jackson 1.53 2.52 4.35 0.18
Jeremy Ebert 1.54 2.53 4.38 0.16
Aldrick Robinson 1.55 2.46 4.35 0.20
Emmanuel Sanders 1.49 2.46 4.40 0.09
Titus Young 1.58 2.54 4.43 0.15
Jacoby Ford 1.46 2.44 4.22 0.24

All of these players show an excellent second gear, ranging from 0.09-0.24 seconds shaved off their 10 yard split.  Oddly, they also seem to be shaving off time by their 20 yard split, ranging from 0.01-0.09 seconds.  This might not seem like much, but it seems to mean that they are constantly accelerating all the way through the 40 yard dash, which is bizarre.  You are probably only going to see this with smaller players, in the 190# or lighter class.  This would also fit with my view of the role of mass and inertia, in relationship to acceleration, though that is all just a wild hunch.  These players also to tend to have rather weak vertical jumps (though there are occasional exceptions).  There is an article here, that kind of gets into some of the kinesiology that might explain this odd group, and the muscle development issues behind them.  Just to be clear, I feel kinesiology is just a step away from wearing crystals and magnetic healing bracelets, so I'm not sure how much stock I would put into this.

So, yup, that's something I have been giving some thought to.  Maybe I'm nuts, and I will change my views on this later. 

No comments:

Post a Comment