I missed out on War Story Wednesday, so I owe you a decent story. Here’s one from former Saints scout Barrett Wiley, who was with the team in the late 2000s when head coach Sean Payton was new and the team was acquiring parts for its offensive engine under Drew Brees.
Barrett has some interesting things to say about the selection of the Saints’ all-time leader in receptions, Marques Colston, but even more to say about perceptions of playing speed. If you’d like to check out the entire 100 minutes with Barrett, it’s housed on our server at ITL here.
“With Colston, I remember his process (when we were) watching the tape on him and during preparation for the draft, he was a big-bodied guy, an athletic guy who was kind of underdeveloped and raw, and we saw him at . .. the East-West (Shrine) game . . . in San Antonio that year, and he did some things, but it wasn’t what he’s doing now. But you saw that he was a big guy, good hands, but it was just, he’s OK, but just a big guy. We had him as a fourth- or fifth-round talent on our draft board, and we had him in mind for that slot, but other guys jumped him because of a need. It might have been a linebacker or an offensive line man or a defensive lineman.”
For what it’s worth, the Saints took Pro Bowl OG Jahri Evans in the fourth round that year, Patriots 2014 sacks leader DE Rob Ninkovich in the fifth round, wide receiver Mike Hass out of Oregon State in the sixth round, starting Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief later in the sixth, and then Colston four picks before the draft was over. Not a bad draft.
Back to Barrett.
“We didn’t need a wide receiver at that time, but we got down to the seventh round, and he was pretty much the shining star on the board, you have a guy with all the measureables, the physical attributes that you want in a receiver, a project wide receiver, and we couldn’t risk trying to take him as an undrafted free agent, so that’s why he was drafted in the seventh round (252 overall).
“I wanna say he like ran a 4.53-4.55. He wasn’t a blazer, but let’s clear up a misconception. To the average person, to anyone who’s not a professional athlete, if you naturally run a 4.55, or if you naturally run under a 4.6, you’re fast. If I can pull you out of bed, let you warm up, and you can run a 4.55, 4.57, 4.51, you’re a fast human being. If you’re a guy say that can run a 4.31, 4.22, whatever the outlandish times are, those are the guys who are rare. That’s Olympic. They can trade a football for an Olympic baton, and if, someone who’s 6-4 ½, 6-5, and 204-205, that’s moving pretty fast. Randy Moss, he may run a 4.3 or 4.4, but that’s a freak of nature. Whenever you hear guys who are running the 4.4s, those are the guys that are freaks of nature.
“As a combine scout, in the spring, I would time 300 guys. Out of that 300, I would get maybe 25 guys who would run under a 4.6. That tells you right there the percentage of the natural population because, in the springtime, I was evaluating those guys before they went to the speed camps, the personal trainers, all they had was the trainers at their schools. Now, at the bigger schools, the guys would be more advanced physically, but at the smaller schools like Marques Colston’s (Hofstra), or Jackson State, or Arkansas State, a school that had . . . the program might not be year-round or maybe not as in-depth as a bigger program, if a guy runs a 4.51, I know in the spring when I come back after his senior season, he’ll be a 4.45, maybe a little bit faster once his technique becomes better and he has specific training for this particular drill.
“And then going back to the part about the overall natural speed, you see a guy who runs a 4.5 or lower, might have been five out of 100 in the grand scheme of things. That’s why the misconception about getting caught up in speed, the number on his card at the combine or his pro day doesn’t necessarily mean what he plays to. You can have a guy who runs a 4.6, and if I’m not mistaken, (49ers great) Jerry Rice might have run a 4.65, something like that, but he was never caught from behind and outran cornerbacks. You know, his game speed and his time speed sometimes is two different things. A guy like Colston, he’s a big guy, and you might think he’s slow and lumbering but he has the ability to get up on cornerbacks quickly and get open and catch the ball.”