I was perusing Twitter this afternoon when I noticed that Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope (who is in a heated competition with Denard Robinson for the NCAA 14 video game cover) ran a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. That’s tied for the second-best time this year, and it’s ahead of Robinson, who is widely regarded as freakishly fast.
We all know that the 40 isn’t the tell-all number when it comes to speed, and that it means little in forecasting NFL success. But we do know that if a guy runs a 4.34, he is fast. So, Ryan Swope is fast. End of story, right?
After Ryan Swope ran his 4.34 I looked to see what experts were saying. They all said”straight-line speed/acceleration are only average”.
— Jacob Hester (@JacobHester22) February 26, 2013
Jacob Hester is sort of an authority on this topic, as a white college running back who was forced to transition to fullback for most of his NFL career.
Here’s what NFL.com’s scouting profile has to say about Swope.
So, white guy receiver has to be slow, has to play in the slot. Is he Wes Welker? Nah, I haven’t heard of him, so that’ll probably make me look stupid. He’s Jordan Shipley! And let’s be sure to add in that he “does all the little things right.” Cuz white guys are so unathletic, but at the same time, they’re the best!
OK, Swope’s 40-time could have been a surprise to whoever wrote that profile. One heavily-stereotyped profile isn’t an epidemic. Then I started looking around on NFL.com. Here’s a list of their profiled (pun intended) white skill-position players.
Brandon Kaufman, WR Eastern Washington
OK, he’s a 6’5″ (actually) slow, white receiver being compared to a 6’5″ white receiver. The Brian Finneran comparison seems fairly accurate. Moving on…
Conner Vernon, WR Duke
OK, he has a 4.68 40-time listed. The “lacks speed or great quickness” jab seems fair. But I don’t know who Ryan Whalen is … could he be black?
Check out the “NFL Comparisons” for these guys:
The An Ohio State University FB:
Korey Hall (white fullback)
Zach Line, SMU RB:
Brian Leonard, (white halfback/fullback)
The profiling seems to be limited to just running back and receiver, despite a shaky Geno Smith/Aaron Brooks comparison. E.J. Manuel had the honor of being compared to the almighty Blaine Gabbert!
But at running back and receiver, even though some of the non-Swope comparisons and descriptions were reasonable, is it really a coincidence that every single white prospect was compared to another one, and all had their speed knocked? There are way more black running backs and receivers that white ones to serve as comparisons. And they couldn’t come up with some better-known comparisons? Isn’t that the point? Ryan Whalen? Korey Hall?
Just check out Rex Burkhead’s write-up.
High-character halfback that projects as fullback and locker-room leader at the next level. Great awareness and elite, Belichickian Football IQ. Always fights for extra yards, never misses blocking assignments. Sound technical player in all aspects of the game of football. Production has exceeded talent at all walks of life. Willing to play special teams. Gives 110%, 120% of the time. Coachable. Team player. Catches the football out of the backfield. Tough. Winner. Could develop into a solid goal-line runner.
The type of running back you’d draft for your mother’s college football fantasy team.
Undersized, Burkhead doesn’t have the lateral quickness of an NFL running back. Has deceptive straight-line speed, but isn’t fast enough to play tailback at the next level. Too bulky for halfback, undersized for fullback. Doesn’t fit mold of halfback in today’s NFL. Not a great athlete.
NFL COMPARISON: Peyton Hillis
BOTTOM LINE: Burkhead will work as hard as anyone, and he’ll need to if he wants to be a starting fullback in the NFL. We are rooting for him and have faith that he can be a touchdown-vulture and willing lead blocker. The type of guy Bill Belichick would love to try and develop.
OK, I lied. I wrote that. Unbelievably, Burkhead was actually compared to Mewelde Moore. Congratulations, Rex Burkhead! You were compared to a black running back that had a solid career! The one player of six skill position prospects to defy the odds and be profiled fairly. You are the 16.7%!
Fine, this isn’t a huge deal, but it shows that whoever wrote all of these was probably being lazy and invoking lazy stereotypes, which is unfortunate.
Rex Burkhead is a very good man (not just according to stereotypes, according to actual facts), and he is a trailblazer in the fight against NFL.com’s running back and wide receiver draft profilers.
Good for you, Rex. And keep fighting the stereotype that all people named Rex are tools.