TAMPA -- If anyone still thinks the 40-yard dash is a crucial measurement of how a player will fare in the NFL, just watch the Cardinals receivers play on Sunday. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are among the top 10 wideouts in the league even though they couldn't run a 4.5 coming out of college.
Like anything else that can be measured in numbers at the combine, the 40 is meaningless. Receivers have to do so much more than run a straight line. They have to be able to read the defenses on the fly, adjust their patterns, check out the quarterback and focus on the ball. Running on a track is 1,000 times easier than doing those things.
Fitzgerald does all the intangibles at a higher level than most other receivers. Just like other Hall of Fame-caliber wideouts, Fitzgerald makes up for lack of burner speed with balance, strength and incredible hands.
"Jerry Rice never ran a 4.5. Neither did Cris Carter," NBC analyst and former Bengals receiver Cris Collinsworth said. "I don't think that's a problem for Fitzgerald."
Still, the NFL seems to rely on the 40 as a key indicator come draft time. There are already rumors Texas Tech star Michael Crabtree could fall a bit in April because he won't break 4.5. But like Fitzgerald and so many other great receivers of the past, Crabtree makes up for that kind of speed with football speed.
After this year's postseason, every team is going to be looking for the next Fitzgerald. If teams are smart, they will be willing to look past 40 times in their effort to unearth the next great receiver.
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