With the Super Bowl behind us and the NFL combine right around the corner, it’s officially draft season. At the heart of most debates around this time are the metrics. Hand size, 40-yard times, production – you name it, we’re over-analyzing it. Although it’s only a small piece of the puzzle, athleticism plays a vital role in our devy leagues. Here, I’ll take a look at some of the most athletic players in college football.
Richardson could be found backflipping and dunking around Florida since his early days at Gainesville Eastside High, making him a legend in “The Swamp” before he ever stepped on a collegiate field.
As a prospect, Richardson attended the Elite 11 camp, where he showed off his powerful arm by winning the farthest throw competition with an impressive 68.5-yard throw. At the Opening Finals, he ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash, a 4.37-second 20-yard shuttle, and leaped a 35-inch vertical. His 122.61 SPARQ score was the fourth highest QB rating in the competition’s history. He’s been tracked multiple times reaching speeds of 20+ MPH, including two appearances on Recruiting Analytics “CFB’s Top 5 Max Speeds of the Week.”
Despite only playing 113 snaps over 13 games in 2021, the 6’4″, 238-pound QB still managed to account for over 900 yards with 414 of them coming on the ground. His 4.85 YCO/A (yards after contact per attempt) and his 8.3 YPC ranked eleventh and fifth in the nation (min. 40 att). If Richardson can refine his ability as a passer, his size and mobility would make him one of the more intriguing NFL prospects since former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.
With QB Emory Jones’ future status with the team unclear, (and judging from Richardson’s skyrocketing Heisman odds) we should get to see more of Richardson’s jaw-dropping highlights as he enters 2022 as the presumed starter.
- Elite Trait: Overall Athleticism
- My Rank: 2023 QB5
- NFL Upside Comparison: Cam Newton
Caleb Williams, USC, 2024 Eligible:
The newest QB for the USC Trojans is a dynamic dual-threat. On top of having one of the strongest arms of the class, Williams has been clocked multiple times running above 19 MPH. The 6’1″, 210-pound QB also has a verified 4.57-second 40-yard dash, a 4.12-second 20-yard shuttle, and a 36″ vertical.
Nate Johnson, Utah, 2025 Eligible
On top of being a state long jump champion, Johnson ran a 10.52-second 100-meter dash, which was the fourth-fastest time by a high school QB according to Tracking Football. He was recently clocked in the low 4.4-second range in the 40-yard dash.
Longhorns freshman wide receiver Worthy has the one trait the NFL continues to covet the most: speed. The former track star recorded an elite 10.55 second 100-meter dash as a sophomore, the only sophomore to place in the top 10 of the finals. His 21.41-second 200-meter dash rivals some of the fastest names in the NFL today:
If track numbers aren’t enough for you, how about his play on the field? His 15.8 YPC was 5th in the Big 12, including five games where he averaged over 25 YPC. He led Texas with 15 plays over 20 yards and finished with over 1000 scrimmage yards, including four games of 100+ yards. He received PFF’s highest grade for a freshman and led the Big 12 in yards per game. Worthy was one of CFB’s most explosive big-play threats as a true freshman.
Worthy shouldn’t have a problem building on those numbers, especially with the addition of 5-star quarterback Quinn Ewers, who is known for his tendency to push the ball down the field and received a perfect 1.000 grade from 247sports. The future is bright for Worthy, who’s trending as a lock for an early selection in 2024.
- Elite Trait: Speed
- My Rank: 2024 WR1
- NFL Upside Comparison: Will Fuller
Anyone that has followed me for a while knows one thing – I love UNC WR Downs. The Georgia native became an explosive threat for the Tar Heels in 2021 and became the go-to guy for QB Sam Howell in 2021.
As a high four-star prospect, the 5’10”, 180-pound receiver posted a blazing 4.47-second 40-yard dash at The Opening Regionals. Even more impressive was Downs’s eye-popping 41.9-inch vertical jump, a number that would have placed in the top three for wide receivers over the past five years at the NFL combine.
Downs not only hit the athletic benchmarks we like to see from a wideout, but he also posted elite numbers in key metrics that have been proven to translate to the NFL. His 38.3% WDR (weighted dominator rating) and his elite 3.49 RYPTPA (Reception yards per team pass attempt) were near the top of the class in 2021. Take a look at how his numbers stack up against some of the top names in the 2023 class.
It remains to be seen how Downs will deal with the NFL departure of Sam Howell and an offense with plenty of turnover. The QB-friendly target should remain a key part of the Tar Heels offense in 2022 and continue to build on his potential early-round draft profile.
- Elite Trait: Explosion
- My Rank: 2023 WR3
- NFL Upside Comparison: Elijah Moore
Kayshon Boutte, LSU, 2023 Eligible:
As if being the consensus number one wide receiver across many devy platforms wasn’t enough, Boutte has freakish speed. He was recently timed at 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash and ran the 200 meter in 21.29 seconds.
Keandre Lambert-Smith, PSU, 2023 Eligible
Keandre may not be a household name outside of Pennsylvania, but his athleticism speaks for itself. At the Opening Finals, Keandre posted a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, a 39.9-inch vert, and a 3.83 second 20-yard shuttle time – a number that would be the second-fastest shuttle time by a WR over the past decade.
Robinson is one of the most physically developed high schoolers in the nation. His 5’10″, 220-pound frame is reflective of a kid who lives in the weight room, drawing early comparisons to former Georgia Bulldog RB Nick Chubb.
You won’t have to just take my word for it. One look at the workout videos posted routinely during Branson’s recruitment highlight a 410-pound bench, a 630-pound squat, and an elite 720-pound deadlift.
The UGA-commit doesn’t skip leg day, either. He reportedly runs a 4.49-second 40-yard dash, a 4.18 shuttle, and can jump a 40-inch vertical, a set of truly freakish numbers for his size and age. One can only imagine what the soon-to-be Bulldog will be able to do once he gets integrated into a college strength & conditioning program. He is setting himself up as a potential early-round NFL draft pick at a program rightfully coined as “RBU.”
- Elite Trait: Strength
- My Rank: 2025 RB2
- NFL Upside Comparison: Nick Chubb
In 2021, Arkansas brought in an exciting group of freshman running backs to restock their backfield, including a blazing 4-star athlete from Oklahoma by the name of AJ Green.
The 5’11”, 200 pound running back has a 37-inch vertical and has reportedly been clocked at 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He has multiple verified times under 10.5 seconds in the 100-meter run, including a personal best of 10.38 seconds. He was a part of a state-record-breaking relay team in the 400-meter run and sports a 21.46 second 200-meter run, bringing elite finishing speed and burst to the Razorbacks.
As a raw athlete who played both sides on the ball in high school, Green was limited to just 50 snaps in 2021. With Arkansas’ leading rusher from last year moving on, Green should have more opportunities to show off his athleticism for a team that ran the ball at the second-highest rate in the SEC over the past two years, while also spreading the rock between their ball carriers. No Arkansas rusher had over 700 yards, but four of them topped over 550 yards, resulting in the SEC’s most potent rushing attack in 2021.
- Elite Trait: Speed
- My Rank: 2024 RB13
- NFL Upside Comparison: Tony Pollard
Zach Evans, Ole Miss, 2023 Eligible
The Rebels’ newest running back ran a 3.84-second 20-yard shuttle, which would be the second-fastest number by a running back in the history of the NFL combine. He also has a verified 4.51 40-yard and a 37-inch vertical.
Jase McClellan, Alabama, 2023 Eligible
Although McClellan may not blow anyone away in any single trait, his 122.04 SPARQ score was the highest of the class and was highlighted by a 4.09-second 20-yard shuttle, a 37-inch vert, and a 40-foot power toss.
As I began my search for a TE for this list, it quickly became apparent that I would not be able to ignore the new TE1 for many devy analysts out there.
Bowers, a 6’4″, 230-pound true-freshman, put up some truly surreal testing numbers as a recruit. At The Opening Regionals, Brock was timed at 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a 4.4-second shuttle, and an explosive 40.2-inch vertical – a number that would rank sixth all time for TEs at the combine. If he can add a few pounds through the next couple of years, his numbers would stack up well against some of the most athletic TEs in recent memory.
Bowers took home UGA’s triple crown in 2021, leading the national-championship team in yards, catches, and touchdowns. A feat that has never been done by a Georgia TE. His 15.7 yards per catch was eighth in SEC and the only TE in the top 20. His 406 YAC (yards after contact) and 11 YAC/R (per reception) were both second in the country for all TEs in 2021. Without any leading candidates to take the reigns, Brock should continue to see plenty of usage in the Bulldog’s offense and cement his case as a future first round selection in 2024.
- Elite Trait: Vertical
- My Rank: 2024 TE1
- NFL Upside Comparison: Noah Fant
Jaleel Skinner, Miami, 2025 Eligible
Jaleel was a highly sought-after recruit with major offers from programs like Bama, UGA, PSU, and UF. The 6’5″, 216-pound specimen reportedly runs a 4.53-second 40-yard dash, has a vertical of 36 inches, and carries a wingspan well over 80 inches.
Nyckoles Harbor, Uncommited, 2026 Eligible
I usually wouldn’t bother with someone who won’t be seeing a collegiate field for over a year, but Harbor is worth keeping tabs on. Often referred to as “The Freak,” the 6’5″, 225-pound athlete posted a 10.3 second 100-meter dash, and a 20.73-second 200-meter dash – the fourth fastest number all-time in high school (according to @FloTrack). There is still a chance Harbor will play defense, but we’ll hope for our sake that he continues his career as a TE.