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Cardinals, with history of drafting for speed, have options in 2017

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) scores a touchdown as Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cary Williams (26) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Over the past few years, the Arizona Cardinals have drafted several players with a unifying attribute: they can all run very fast.

John Brown (4.34 in the 40-yard dash), J.J. Nelson (4.28) and Brandon Williams (4.37) are among the recent Cardinals picks who displayed their foot speed at the NFL Combine. With the 2017 NFL Draft getting started on Thursday, the Cardinals have a variety of options if they want to add more quickness to the roster.

Wide receiver John Ross sits atop the charts of not only 2017’s 40-yard dash, but the best ever. His time of 4.22 broke Chris Johnson’s record of 4.24, set back in 2008. Ross was one of the most proficient players at finding the endzone with Washington last season, recording 17 touchdowns on 81 receptions.

Ross’ health may be the thing holding him back. He’s on the smaller side at 5-foot-11 and has had multiple knee surgeries. However, NFL.com’s profile  calls him, “a likely first-round pick with the rare ability to become a high-volume slot receiver or a lesser-targeted, high-yield deep-ball threat,” if his health checks out.

The Cardinals, with the 13th pick in the draft, could get Ross if they are willing to spent their first pick on a receiver. Some mock drafts have the Cardinals taking him at that spot. Alternatively, they could take a gamble that other teams will shy away from him due to his injury issues and take a flyer in the second or third round.

If they cannot get him, Arizona still has other options if they want another fleet-of-foot player in the lineup. Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore ran a 4.36. However, he might be off the board by the time the Cardinals choose and will almost certainly be before they get to their second pick.

Jalen Myrick out of Minnesota placed second with a 4.28 40-yard dash time, but does not seem to have a great set of skills for an NFL defensive back. The Cardinals could draft him late if they want a competition for a kick returner, but may not get much out of him on the defensive side.

Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel impressed with a 4.31 time, but due to his lack of a defined position between running back and wideout, may not fit in with every team. If the Cardinals are willing to take on a project, he could be available well into the draft.

The fastest players of this class seem split into two groups: Those for whom speed is part of a more complete product, and those who right now are riding speed alone. The first group, like Ross and Lattimore, will require a major investment from Arizona. The second group, including Samuel and Myrick, are available but may not be what the Cardinals need.

Top 40-yard dash times

John Ross, wide receiver from Washington: 4.22

Jalen Myrick, defensive back from Minnesota: 4.28

Curtis Samuel, wide receiver from Ohio State: 4.31

Fabian Moreau, defensive back from UCLA: 4.35

Marshon Lattimore, defensive back from Ohio State: 4.36

T.J. Logan, running back from North Carolina: 4.37

Shaquill Griffin, defensive back from Central Florida: 4.38

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