The Xavier Worthy conundrum: Is being too fast, bad? | Inside Coverage

Yahoo Sports’ Jason Fitz is joined by senior NFL writer Jori Epstein and senior NFL reporter Charles Robinson to discuss why Xavier Worthy's record-breaking 40-yard dash is viewed by some as detrimental to his draft stock and if the future of evaluating wide receivers is changing. Hear the full conversation on “Inside Coverage” - part of the “Zero Blitz” podcast - and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Video Transcript

JASON FITZ: Jori, you've been taking a look on Xavier Worthy a lot, just because of his speed and the way they analyze it. What are you finding when you look at teams and the way they're looking at the wide receiver position?

JORI EPSTEIN: Yeah. I find this so interesting, because for so long, for decades now, we've been like, how do you determine how fast a guy is and how you can use his speed? The 40-yard dash. And now, you increasingly have this chorus of people who say, well, is the 40-yard dash the best way to judge speed?

And is it even relevant to an NFL game where you rarely have 40 yards of open field in front of you? And I looked at Xavier Worthy, who's the Texas Longhorns receiver, and he reset the record this year with his 4.21-second 40-yard dash. And some people are saying, well, then he's going to be super fast. Like, look at what the Dolphins do. He's going to be so effective in an offense like that.

And then I almost feel like there are a group of people who hold it against him in a weird way and be like, well, if he plays that fast, it's hard for him to stop, and get in and out of his breaks, and react in the way that he needs to. And if he plays that fast, well, Puka Nacua was really slow last year at his 40, and look what he was able to do with the rookie record.

And so there's this weird chorus of people, and Xavier is so aware of this, that, literally, at 7:18 the morning after he set the record, he tweeted out to people, like, don't let the 40 fool you. Like, the routes are there. Watch the tape. There is a group of people, particularly in the analytics community, who want to believe the 40 is dead. We should only go by GPS numbers. No one's running 40-yard dashes.

There's something to be said for the historical precedent of the 40. In 10 years, we can go fully off GPS because then you can compare the numbers from the guys in today's college world in a couple years to the guys in 10, 12, 14 years. Right now, you just don't have that.

With the colleges that are using chips, and most of them are, especially the bigger schools, they're not standardizing the chips. And there's not-- like, the NCAA is not governing this. This is you believing what the school says. I actually talked to our colleague Matt Harmon for this story, and what I loved that he said is he was talking about how the reason he loves studying receivers is because receiver's not really one position.

It's sort of, like, bucket of positions that we call one position. But the guys who want an AD Mitchell or a Puka Nacua are not competing and comparing them against an Xavier Worthy. They have different roles in the offense-- both the X receiver, the Y receiver, the guy who's taking the top off your defense versus the guy who's going to get open on the crossing route.

And so I think that, basically, what my research is leading is to ask, like, how fast is a guy? Well, what does it even mean to be fast in the NFL? To ask, what do you want from speed at your receiver? Well, what kind of receiver are you looking at?

And all of this leads to a conclusion that most of the criticism that an Xavier Worthy, or, really, any of these guys are getting is just based off of these false comparisons of who these guys are being compared against.

JASON FITZ: There's going to have to be standardization of this technology, which I think will happen. It's just-- this is where you got to press pause and be a little patient. Like, it's going to take a few years.