The NFL has gone high-tech. New for the 2015 season, every player has a tracker embedded in his shoulder pads that collects data like velocity, distance traveled and proximity to opposing players. Zebra Technologies is the company behind the tech, and the insights they provide are letting fans see the game in a whole new light.
*All data courtesy of NFL.com
Another NFL regular season has come to a close. Thanks to the Zebra tracking technology, we can now dive into the sea of data produced in 256 games and see who stood out. The big question everyone wants answered is simple: Who ran the fastest?
Wait no more. Here are the top 10 ball-carrier speeds recorded by NFL players during the 2015 regular season:
- Robert Alford, Cornerback, Atlanta Falcons: 22.60 mph
- John Brown, Receiver, Arizona Cardinals: 22.60 mph
- Ted Ginn, Jr., Receiver, Carolina Panthers: 22.44 mph
- Martavis Bryant, Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers: 22.30 mph
- Jeremy Maclin, Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs: 22.15 mph
- Torrey Smith, Receiver, San Francisco 49ers, 22.13 mph
- Sammy Watkins, Receiver, Buffalo Bills: 22.13 mph
- Allen Robinson, Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars: 22.11 mph
- David Johnson, Running Back, Arizona Cardinals: 22.05 mph
- Darrius Hayward-Bey, Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers: 22.01 mph
You probably recognize a lot of those names. Guys like Ted Ginn, Jr., Jeremy Maclin and Torrey Smith have long been regarded as among the fastest players in the game.
The list also includes many promising second-year players, including Allen Robinson, John Brown, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. Robert Alford, a relatively unknown cornerback for the Falcons, tied for the top speed. He hit 22.60 mph on this 59-yard overtime pick-6 in Week 5:
It's interesting to note how close together the top speeds are. The margin between the fastest and the 10th-fastest player is just .59 mph. No one player is way faster than his peers. In the NFL, everyone is fast, and the difference between making or missing a play often comes down to a razor-thin margin.
It's also worth noting that almost every player who made the list had a pretty successful season.
Brown, Bryant, Watkins and Robinson all achieved new career highs for receiving yards in a season. Ginn was the go-to deep threat for the Panthers' potent offense, and he scored a career-best 10 touchdowns. Maclin had a career-best 87 receptions to go along with 1,088 receiving yards.
David Johnson, the Cardinals' rookie sensation, racked up over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 13 touchdowns. Alford had an up-and-down season with the Falcons; but he received more playing time than ever, and he showed enough promise to warrant major snaps next year.
Darrius Heyward-Bey didn't post eye-popping numbers, and Torrey Smith had a down year. But by and large, the players who recorded the fastest speeds had stellar seasons.
The good news is that six of these players will be appearing in the post-season. Here's hoping we see some dynamite displays of speed by these guys in the playoffs!
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