The 5: Cardinals NFL Combine 40-yard dash stars drafted by Steve Keim
The NFL Draft Combine was back to normal this March as opposed to last year’s decentralized version due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This made for a spectacle with several standouts, especially when looking at the 40-yard dash times.
The list of potential first-round picks who ran sub-4.40-second dashes includes Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III (4.38), Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam (4.39), Michigan safety Daxton Hill (4.39) and Ohio State wide receivers Garrett Wilson (4.38) and Chris Olave (4.39).
Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis stole the show, though, with the fastest time for someone heavier than 310 pounds since 2003 at 4.78.
Taking a stroll through the history books, the Arizona Cardinals sure like nabbing speedsters, especially under the leadership of general manager Steve Keim.
Here are five notable 40-yard dash stars Arizona has ended up drafting, including the most recent to start.
Moore was a prospect Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray shared videos of with the front office before selecting the Purdue receiver in the second round last year.
Moore only played 20 games in college, but his raw athleticism, speed and ball skills made him enticing.
He did not get a traditional combine experience due to the pandemic, but he showed out at his pro day with the second-fastest 40-yard dash time of the 2021 receiver class at 4.32 seconds. That tied for third-fastest overall.
The 5-foot-7 target had a blazing start to his rookie year with 11 grabs for 182 yards and a touchdown in his first two games, both wins for the Cardinals.
He finished the year with 54 catches and 435 yards receiving along with 18 rushes for 78 yards and 21 punt returns.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters at the combine that Moore’s role will expand in his second season.
“He’s a competitor,” Kingsbury said. “He knows he can make a play anytime he’s on the field, and I expect him to be a much bigger part of our offense. … We got to find more ways of getting him the football.”
Simmons boosted his already solid draft stock with an impressive 2020 NFL Combine, highlighted by a 4.39-second 40-yard dash.
It marked the second-fastest linebacker time since 2006. Simmons was just .01 seconds behind Shaquem Griffin, who ran a 4.38 in 2018.
The 6-foot-4, 238-pounder also turned in a 39-inch vertical and an 11-foot broad jump.
“The best thing about the guy for being such a long, gangly athlete, so to speak, is some of these guys that are that long, they have some stiffness or they have some limitations in space,” Keim told Arizona Sports after drafting Simmons in 2020.
“The thing that I really like about his tape was you saw a guy with tremendous length be able to come to balance in space, be able to bend his knees, change direction and was a very, very good open field tackler.”
After getting his feet wet to start 2020, Simmons carved out a nice role in the defense last year. In 17 starts, the linebacker recorded 105 tackles, four of which were for losses, 1.5 sacks, an interception, seven pass deflections and four QB hits.
Isabella tied for the third-fastest 40-yard dash time at the 2019 combine and tied for the quickest among wideouts with at 4.31.
One of the three pass catchers drafted by Keim in 2019, Isabella was selected at No. 62 overall in the second round, the pick Arizona acquired from the Miami Dolphins in the Josh Rosen trade.
Isabella led all NCAA wideouts with 1,698 receiving yards in 2018 and tied for the fifth-most TDs with 13.
“We’re extremely excited about him,” Keim said of Isabella after the draft. “He brings a different skill set that we don’t currently have, which the footspeed and the explosiveness to take the top off.”
Isabella has struggled to find his footing as a consistent wide receiver for the Cardinals. In three seasons, the wideout has caught 31 of his 49 targets and had one catch in 2021.
He reportedly sought a trade following the season.
Nelson’s 4.28 40-yard dash was the fastest run at the 2015 combine.
The receiver out of Alabama-Birmingham weighed in at just 156 pounds, but his frame proved functional in flashes over his four seasons with the Cardinals. In both 2016 and 2017, Nelson had over 500 yards receiving, including six touchdowns in 2016.
Drops, though, became a concern with Nelson and in 2018 he was phased out of the offense with only seven catches in 14 games.
Nelson went on to play for the then-Oakland Raiders (2019).
Projected (at least by NFL.com’s profile) to go undrafted out of Pittsburg State in 2014, Brown showed out with a 4.34 40-yard dash. That fell short of only Dri Archer and Brandin Cooks in the class.
Perhaps that skyrocketed his draft stock. Arizona picked Brown 91st overall (third round) and saw that speed translate to the NFL.
Brown caught five touchdowns and was targeted 103 times for 696 yards as a rookie, then became a 1,000-yard receiver his second season in 2015. Health problems related to a sickle cell trait hampered Brown in 2016, and that lingered into 2017 as other minor injuries limited the speedy wideout.
Brown signed with the Baltimore Ravens for the 2018 season, where he got back to a solid level of play. He caught 42 passes for 715 yards and five touchdowns for the Ravens.
That output earned Brown a three-year, $27 million deal from the Buffalo Bills in free agency in 2019. Brown had a breakout 2019 in Buffalo as Josh Allen’s most reliable target, posting career highs in catches (72) and yards (1,060).
But with the addition of Stefon Diggs to the lineup, Brown’s production fell off in 2020. In nine games (eight starts), the WR caught 33 balls for 458 yards and three touchdowns.
He played four games for the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars last season.
T.J. Logan (Honorable mention)
Logan’s 4.37 mark was the best at the 2017 combine among running backs and the sixth-best overall.
The time is tied for the ninth-fastest 40-yard dash for a running back in combine history.
The Cardinals selected Logan in the fifth round at No. 179 overall, eyeing him as the team’s potential new return man with upside for more.
Logan, though, never got a chance to fight for playing time his rookie year after he suffered a dislocated wrist and missed the entire season.
He played in 10 games in 2018, factoring in mostly on special teams.
Logan was waived by the Cardinals in 2019 and was one of the many players recycled by Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay, with the Buccaneers claiming him off waivers. Used primarily as the kick and punt returner, Logan had 395 return yards on 26 returns before being placed on the injured reserve later that year.
In 2020, Logan was again placed on the IR after suffering a leg injury in training camp. He also spent time on the reserve/COVID-19 list.