For decades, the Raiders were known as the team which valued speed above all else. Al Davis consistently viewed those players with fast 40-yard-dash times as more valuable than most other NFL teams would. By the end, it became what he was known for most.
There are still some who cling to mocking the Raiders as drafting the fastest players even some three years since the new regime took over the team, of which has shown no signs placing an inordinate amount of value (or much of any at all) on speed.
A new study shows that not only are the Raiders not among the fastest teams in the league, they are among the slowest.
Bill Barnwell from Grantland compiled each starter's 40-yard-dash time at the speed and skill positions to find a speed quotient for each team. He explained it like this:
I decided to focus on skill-position players and the guys who stop them. I took each NFL team and grabbed 10 players from each: their likely starters at quarterback (1), running back (2), wide receiver (2), tight end (1), cornerback (2), and safety (2). I used a player's 40 time from the combine when available, and when one wasn't, I used that player's pro day. To adjust for the ravages of time, I added two-hundredths of a second for each year since a player's arrival into the league.
The result had the Raiders as the seventh slowest team in the NFL, or 25th overall with a total of 46.60 in compiled 40 times. See the entire rankings here.
This looks to actually be good news. The six teams below the Raiders are Dallas, Denver, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Chicago, and New England - all recent playoff teams. This fact in turn shows the glaring flaw in this study - the inclusion of the quarterback position.
One of the reasons the best teams are at the bottom is because - with a few notable exceptions -- the best quarterbacks are not speedster's, they're pocket passers. Speed is something almost never a factor in the play at the quarterback position. The quarterbacks on the bottom ten teams on this list are Nick Foles, Carson Palmer, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Tony Romo, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethisberger, Drew Brees, Jay Cutler, and Tom Brady. Some pretty good company.
If the Raiders still had Terrelle Pryor and his 4.38 speed as the starting quarterback as opposed to Matt Schaub's statuesque 5.04 speed, they would have jumped to near the top of this list (8th overall to be exact). There is a reason why the top five on this list have losing records - Tennessee, Washington, New York Jets, Buffalo, and Cleveland.
Pryor was among the many speedy players the new regime dumped over the past three off-seasons. Other such players included the likes of Stanford Routt (4.27), Jacoby Ford (4.28), Darrius Heyward-Bey (4.30), and Michael Huff (4.34).
The speedy players still on the team include Tyvon Branch (4.31) and Darren McFadden (4.33), though after adding two one hundredths of a second each season, their 40 times look almost pedestrian right about now. They come in at 4.43 and 4.45 respectively.
Speaking of veterans, think how slow they are figuring Charles Woodson is entering his 17th season? He ran a 4.37 at the combine in 1998. Per Grantland's formula, he now runs a 4.69. That would have put the defensive back outside the top ten linebackers at the 2014 combine.
Aside from the veteran speed depreciation and cutting of speedy players, the new regime has shown very little emphasis on speed in their three drafts. The fastest player may have been DJ Hayden who was clocked at his Pro day between 4.33 and 4.42. The low number was from his school so it is not to be entirely believed, but if you figure that as his low number and 4.42 as his high, he still ran something like a 4.37.
Other draft picks at the speed positions by the new regime were Juron Criner, Nick Kasa, Latavius Murray, Mychal Rivera, and Brice Butler. Of those, none had top five speed at their position with only the two tight ends, Nick Kasa (4.71) and Mychal Rivera (4.81) even landed in the top ten at their position at the combine. Additionally, the only one of those players who was taken ahead of the sixth round was Juron Criner who turned in a sluggish 4.66 40-yard dash at the combine.
So, if you were wondering whether the Raiders were still a track team, the answer is no. And how.