According to Indianapolis Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson, the 40-yard dash is the most important combine measurable when evaluating potential NFL prospects. Grigson specifically noted the measurement’s importance, as well as the significance of a prospect’s interview in determining their overall character and make-up (via ProFootballTalk):
"“The actual interview with the player we feel is incredibly important,” Grigson said. “It is where you find out how the player fits in so many ways from primarily a mental and character standpoint. Every year there is a guy who walks through the door that just brings tremendous energy and enthusiasm that is tangible and you make note of those types of strong interactions. The other I would say is the 40 time, not that it is or isn’t the reason to draft a guy, but at the end of the day it helps you assign proper market value to the player. Especially at those skill positions.”"
Feb 21, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson speaks at a press conference during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
It looks as though the Colts believe speed kills opposing teams, and it may explain why the Colts have drafted speedy skill position players like T.Y. Hilton (4.34 forty time) and Donte Moncrief (4.40 forty time) at wide receiver in recent seasons, who have achieved immediate NFL success. Former prospects who graded out very well obviously at the NFL combine in their performed 40-times.
However, like most other teams, the Colts also realize that there’s more to prospect evaluation than simply who can run the fastest (insert Oakland Raiders Al Davis punchline) or grade out the best in physical measurables. As we saw from former Colts wideout and free agent flop Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was originally a bust as the 7th overall pick of the aforementioned Oakland Raiders in 2009, there’s more to playing well at a skill position in the NFL than simply being really fast.
The Colts seem to realize this as well, and while they may slightly alter their draft board based on performed physical measurables at the combine, they ultimately let their year-long scouting do the majority of their draft evaluation. There’s been countless examples of “workout warriors” in the NFL, who performed great at the combine only to inexplicably disappoint in the pros:
"“We honestly don’t touch our board much after the combine,” Grigson said. “I feel that is where big mistakes can be made because you are getting farther and farther away from your initial grade which was primarily off the game film, school visit and live look. Now we do add and move some guys here and there due to guys running terrible, or a player testing off the charts, or for medical reasons. For instance, there may be a WR everyone loved that you think runs 4.5 but runs 4.75 at Indy and you’re just not going to draft that guy realistically so you move him down or to your college free agent board. There’s always exceptions to the rule like Anquan Boldin but they are few and far between.”"