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Weekend Linkage: 40 Times and the NFL Combine
14 February.

Itís that time of the year again. With the NFL combine just a week away, the buzz over who will run the fastest 40-yard dash or have the most bench press reps will likely pick up over the next few days. Yet even as fans and media members debate the relevancy of it all, SI.comís Ross Tucker writes that when it comes to NFL Scouts, the trend is starting to move away from the purely physical tests and instead focus on a playerís intelligence and maturity. Tucker, who uses the example set by the New England Patriots front office as his prime example, calls the method of evaluating talent the ďPatriot Way.Ē

The trend in the NFL these days is to focus on a prospectís production in college and marry that with his football intelligence and passion for the sport. Call it the Patriot Way, given that New England was clearly one of the teams on the front end of devaluing the data generated by putting football players through an assortment of drills that have nothing to do with football. The next time an offensive lineman does a vertical jump during an actual game will be the first. The same goes for a defensive player doing the broad jump. I realize those tests are designed to test natural explosion, but canít a good scout watch the game film and figure out what a playerís functional explosion really is? Isnít that all that matters anyway?

Obviously not, but for some reason the fan in all of us finds the prospect of a really fast 40-yard dash time just a whole lot more interesting than the prospect of a really good film diagnosis test. It is, after all, the reason you can sign up for contests predicting the combineís fastest times and not say, oh, the Top 10 wonderlic scores.

So who will run the fastest 40-yard dash at this yearís combine? Most people say Percy Harvin, but always on the lookout for sleepers and under-the-radar prospects as we are, we canít help but wonder if Texas Stateís Stan Zwinggiwouldnít steal the honor if he had been invited to the combine. If the name sounds unfamiliar donít be ashamed, as relatively few outside Fredericksburg, Texas have even heard of the 5'11 running back. Even so, his alleged 4.26 40-yard dash at a 2003 Texas A&M camp is the stuff of local legend. While he had a relatively modest career production wise for the Bobcats, his physical attributes were never much in doubt, a point which will likely get him noticed going into a spring pro day workout. If nothing else, he remains one of those intriguing prospects that could be a valuable edition to an NFL team trying to pick up good value in free agency.

by Adam Nettina