With the NFL Scouting Combine taking on a different format this year, I missed being able to see fast guys run fast on the track in Indianapolis. The good news is we now have pro day 40-yard dashes to fill that void! It's kind of like spreading holiday cheer in the spring with a gift or two every day for the next month instead of opening all of your presents at once on Christmas (on in this case, combine) morning.
We've already seen one guy help himself with an impressive run, as Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II posted an unofficial 4.38-second 40 on Tuesday, but I think all the guys listed below will be even speedier. Here's a look at the fastest prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft (and yes, I'm sure there will be a small-school player who's off the radar right now but will put himself very much on the radar with a blazing-fast time in the weeks ahead).
Date of pro day workout: March 30
Atwell looks like the fastest guy on the field every time you watch him. He's undersized, so teams will be interested to see his weight at the pro day (listed by the school at 165 pounds), but he has rare play speed. When I watch his college tape, I try to imagine what it would have been like trying to tackle him as a high school QB -- he was the Miami-Dade County Player of the Year at the position! He routinely scored touchdowns of 50-plus yards after moving to receiver with the Cardinals, and I don't see him going any later than Round 3 this year.
Date of Georgia pro day workout: March 17
I'm pairing the two Georgia cornerbacks together on this list. We've already seen a video of Stokes running the 40 go viral in recent days. He has a chance to run sub-4.3 at the Bulldogs' pro day. However, everyone I hear from at Georgia says Campbell is just as fast, if not faster. Both players were state track champs in high school (Campbell in Florida; Stokes in Georgia). If you talk to 10 personnel evaluators right now, five of them would have Campbell ranked ahead of Stokes and the other five would have Stokes over Campbell. It's extremely tight between these two former teammates, but both are viewed as second-round picks.
Date of pro day workout: March 25
I know it's surprising to see an edge rusher on this list, but the folks I talk to at Penn State say Oweh is going to run sub-4.4. At 6-foot-5 and about 250 pounds, that will make him the height-weight-speed freak of the spring! If he runs in the 4.3s at 250 pounds, it will be a more impressive feat than any smaller, faster guy running in the 4.2s. There wasn't a ton of buzz about him in the winter after he didn't record a sack during the 2020 season, but we could be hearing his name a lot more coming out of the Nittany Lions' pro day. I currently have him 33rd in my rankings.
Date of pro day workout: March 18
Schwartz committed to Auburn as the youth world-record holder in the 100 meters (10.15 seconds), and he recorded a 10.21 in the event back in 2019 as a member of the Tigers' track and field team. He doesn't necessarily always play to that speed on the football field, but once he gets into open space, you can see he has a different gear he can reach. He's a likely Day 3 (Rounds 4-7) pick who has a lot of development ahead of him as a receiver, but he'll bring unique speed to the team that drafts him. He has a good chance to record a time in the 4.2s.
Date of pro day workout: March 31
Vincent opted out of the 2020 season, but his GPS tracking times from the 2019 season are said to be eye-popping. He has legit play speed to go along with a track background, as Vincent was the lead leg of the fourth-fastest 4x100-meter relay team in LSU history (38.87 seconds in the prelims of the NCAA Championships in '19). When he gets out of position on the field, his recovery speed is outstanding. He's likely to be picked early on Day 3 and projects as a nickel back at the next level.
Date of pro day workout: March 23 (Path to the Draft Pro Day special at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network) and March 30 (Path to the Draft Pro Day special at 6 p.m. ET on NFL Network)
Waddle is one of the favorites to post the fastest 40 time of any prospect in this year's draft. His former teammate, Henry Ruggs III, took home the crown for the best mark of any prospect at last year's combine (4.27 seconds), and I expect Waddle to compete with that clocking. His GPS tracking numbers are the best I've seen from this year's class. If he shows he's fully recovered from the ankle injury that sidelined him for much of last season and aces the tests this spring, he'll be a lock to go in the top 10. If not for the injury, he'd have a really good chance to be the first wide receiver off the board.