The NFL Combine: WRs Light it Up

While most observers are focusing on how Alabama's Henry Ruggs III "failed" to eclipse the record of 4.22 in the 40-yard dash (since the era of electronic timing began in 1999) established by John Ross in 2017 when he ran a "disappointing" 4.27 at the combine in Indianapolis on Thursday, what this year's crop of wide receivers "lacks" in a single "superstar," it makes up in depth.

A total of six receivers broke 4.4 — the silver medal going to Quez Watkins of Southern Miss, who ran the same 40 time (4.35) as DeSean Jackson reeled off a dozen years ago. And where Jackson is listed at a highly questionable 5-10, 175, Watkins goes 6-2, 190 — the same weight as, and two inches taller than, Ruggs.

Sharing the bronze were Denzel Mims — no relation to Holley Mims, but eight inches taller than that boxing legend at 6-3 — and an anything-but-svelte 216 pounds, who stopped the timer at 4.38, as did Darnell Mooney of Tulane, who is more like Jackson, listed at 5-11, 175.

There was also a dead heat for fifth, at (obviously) 4.39, between Tulane's Antonio Gibson, who closely resembles Mims in size at 6-2, 220; and the 5-11, 210-pound Texas Longhorn product Devin Duvernay.

The unintended consequence of this cornucopia is that it will substantially depress the value of the top wide receivers on the free agent market — a list that is undisputedly topped by Amari Cooper, with Robby Anderson a clear second option. And with Taylor Gabriel (ESPN ranked him #9 on its "NFL's Fastest Players" list in 2017 with a quoted 40 time of 4.27), who was released — inexplicably, according to some at least, on February 21 — also in the picture, any team who needs a deep-threat receiver this offseason should have no trouble whatsoever landing one. And only Cooper would break the bank, salary-cap-wise.

Receivers who didn't make the cut at the combine include Notre Dame's 6-4, 238-pound Chase Claypool, touted as the next Calvin Johnson, but could only manage a 4.42 clocking when Johnson, at 6-5, 236, blazed a 4.35 in 2007, and Jerry Jeudy, a Crimson Tide teammate of Ruggs, who neglected to muster anything better than a pedestrian 4.45, after putting a "hex" on himself by wearing a Star of David around his neck at his run, the Star of David of course being a six-pointed star, but a symbol of sorcery in Pennsylvania Dutch tradition — a felony Jeudy compounded by revealing that his nickname on the team was "Jew" because of his last name.

But going Lawrence O'Donnell and naming "The Worst Person In The World: Wide Receiver Division," it is Clemson's 6-4, 210-pound Tee Higgins (the vast majority of wideouts that size earning the leprous "possession receiver" label), who chickened out of running in the 40 at the combine altogether. Just you wait, Tee 'Iggins, when you discover what your decision to take a powder has done to your draft prospects!

There was a gold rush in San Francisco in 1849, which is how the 49ers received their name, and a land rush in Oklahoma in 1889, in part to punish Native Americans for siding with the Confederates during the Civil War; some of the land prospectors arrived in the territory before the official opening date of the land rush, leading to these line-cutters being dubbed "Sooners."

Well there will be a "wide receiver rush" in the NFL this spring, starting with the opening of free agency on March 18, followed by the draft commencing on April 23 in the new hometown of the Raiders.

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