Warren Sapp made it to the NFL hall of fame based upon his insanely quick first step. He could generate huge amounts of momentum quickly given his mass and this allowed him to beat most guards and centers in the NFL. In the same fashion, Von Miller has an amazingly quick first step. His first step coupled with his strength and flexibility make him virtually impossible to stop with one blocker in passing situations. So with that in mind lets talk some physics (wait this is a football blog - I don't want to think about physics). If you don't want think about physics, stop reading now.
Ok, so you're still reading, good. Football is game of phsyics. So let's review some terms (keeping it simple)
mass - how much something weighs
velocity - how fast something is going
acceleration - how quickly a velocity changes
momentum - multiplying velocity and mass
Are you still awake? Good, then you've figured out that all four of those things above are critical in the game of football. More specifically, all of those four things are critical in the ability of a defender to rush the passer. Why are we talking about this? - because every team wants more pass rushers and of course the Broncos are looking for someone to replace the skillset and production of Dramaville. So let's look at the DE and DT prospects in this year's draft who are good at accelerating. We'll do this by looking at 10-yd split in the 40 yd dash (again there are a few guys for which no data exists).
DEs (some OLBs)
So this tells us how quickly (from a sprinters stance) these guys can move 9.144 meters (10 yards). For the DEs anything less than 1.63s is better than average. Ansah, Collins, Jordan and Lemonier look like monsters - more of that later. Here are the DTs in the draft:
So for these guys, anything less than 1.76s was better than average. Nick Williams, Spence, Boyd, Floyd and Richardson all showed really well here.
The other thing to consider is the actual momentum that these guys are able to generate. Momentum is velocity times mass. To put it another way, Damontre Moore (255 lbs) and Sheldon Richardson (294 lbs) have almost exactly the same 10-yd split. However, Richardson had much more momentum because he has greater mass. Why should we care? Well the job of a pass blocker to stop the defenders momentum particularly when countering a bull-rush. Moore would be much easier to stop, based solely on momentum, than Richardson. So here are the momentum numbers (M10 or momentum at 10 yards) for the DEs (if you are interested these are in kg*m/s)
Here we see that Moore did himself no favors at the combine, at least with his 10-yd split, while Ansah, Jones, Hunt and Edwards all showed that the get their mass moving very quickly. Now here are the M10 numbers for the DTs
We see that while Barnes had the worst 10-yd split, because he has so much mass, he actually had the greatest momentum after 10 yards of any player discussed. What we also see here is that the momentum favors the DTs. The worst DT on the list has more momentum than the average DE on the list. Conversely, the best DE on the list would be near the bottom were he a DT.
So what does this all mean?
Well everything up to this point has focused on how quick a guy can get moving off the snap. The other side of the coin is how readily he can stop and change direction. Von Miller, has a devastating false step pass rush move where he fakes to the outside of the tackle and then quickly knifes (rips) inside to the QB. You can only do that if you can start-stop-and start again very quickly. Guys like Barnes are never going to be able to do that, because they have way too much mass to stop and redirect. Guys like Ansah, Taylor and Jared Smith have that ability partly because they have less mass, but also because they have stop-start ability or good Change of Direction (CoD). So here are the CoDs (again) for all of the DEs (along with Speed and Quickness scores)
and now the DTs
So since we seem to be focusing on DEs that could provide pass rush, it looks like we want one the guys with the lower 10-yd splits and lower CoD values. Taylor, Bass, Collins, Lemonier and Edwards should all be available when we have our first pick. Only Collins projects right now to be gone when we have our second pick.
The only other thing that I want anyone to take away from this physics lesson, is that Damontre Moore either had a really bad day at the combine, or he just doesn't have a good first step. Either way, I don't like him as much for the Broncos as I did when I started working on this post.