The Flying-20 On Trial: An Indicator Of Success For Wide Receivers?

At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in 2012, an executive for the 49ers, Parag Marathe,  brought up a metric called the Flying-20.  This is the last 20 yards of a 40 yard dash.  He exclaimed that it is a metric that can be used to predict success, citing Jerry Rice as the example.  Whether Jerry Rice had a fantastic Flying-20 or not is irrelevant in this study.  What is on trial is the validity of the Flying-20 by looking at some of the best Flying-20 scores over the last few years.


Flying-20: 1.71

WR A.J. Love and WR Rondel Menendez

Undrafted out of South Florida, Love was waived twice by the Vikings this offseason and failed to catch a pass in preseason.

Menendez (Eastern Kentucky) had a leg up on Love in that he was drafted at #247 in the 1999 draft by the Atlanta Falcons.  Even so, Menendez never had a reception.

Flying-20: 1.72

Tyrone Calico and Eron Riley

Calico ran a tremendous 4.34 out of Middle Tennessee State and was drafted by the Titans in the 2nd round of the 2003 draft.  He played in 27 games, starting 8 and netting 42 catches for 501 yards and 4 TDs.  I would say that it was mighty fine production from a 2nd round pick with such a good Flying-20 score, but I don’t have a sarcasm font available to me.

Eron Riley was undrafted out of Duke and signed with the Ravens after the 2009 draft.  He never played a game for them, lasted 5 days with his next team the Panthers, spent a little time on the Broncos practice squad, and was released in December of 2011 by the Jets.  Just like the WRs with 1.71 Flying-20 scores, Riley does not have an NFL reception.

Flying-20: 1.73

Jeris McIntyre

McIntyre was selected in the 6th round in the 2004 draft by the Kansas City Chiefs after playing college ball at Auburn.  His Flying-20 score and SEC roots were not enough to net him any catches at the NFL level.

We have just looked at the five fastest Flying-20 scores in my database and among the 5 WRs, the average NFL stats are 8.4 receptions, 100.2 yards, and .8 TDs.  That is not a per game stat… that is a per career stat.

Flying-20: 1.74

Trindon Holliday, Ben Obamanu, and Isaiah Jackson

Another SEC player, Trindon Holliday was taken in the 6th round of the 2010 draft by the Houston Texans.  He has shown some dynamic return ability, but he has 6 fumbles to 2 receptions in his career.

Ben Obomanu was a 7th round pick in the 2006 draft by the Seahawks after playing his college ball at Auburn.  In five seasons, he has 87 career receptions for 1,209 yards and 7 TDs.

Isaiah Jackson was undrafted in 2012 out of Central Arkansas.  Although he did put up great workout numbers in his Pro Day, Jackson has not garnered much attention.

Flying-20: 1.75

Darrius Heyward Bey, Troy Williamson, and D’Andre Goodwin

Heyward-Bey was taken 7th overall in the 2009 draft by the Oakland Raiders after playing his college ball at Maryland.  Taken this high, and with one of the best Flying-20 scores, he has to be a shoe-in for success, right?  In 4 seasons, he has caught 140 passes for 2071 yards, and 11 TDs.  That turns out to be 2.5 catches and 37 yards per game.  I am starting to wonder if Marathe was just trying to bait teams into taking the high Flying-20 WRs if they didn’t do their homework.

Troy Williamson was also taken 7th overall in the 2005 draft by the Minnesota Vikings.  He lasted 3 seasons with the Vikings before being traded for a 6th round pick and played 10 games for the Jaguars, netting 8 receptions.  In all, Williamson had 87 catches for 1,131 yards and 4 TDs.

Goodwin went undrafted after the 2011 draft and has yet to catch a pass.  Do you think he is the one likely to break this trend?

In Conclusion:

Now that we have looked at the top 11 Flying-20 scores in recent years, and have very little to show for it, one must be highly skeptical that the Flying-20 is a legitimate metric to evaluate WRs.  In fact, you would have to go 13 deep before you found a WR that made a Pro Bowl roster.  That was Devin Hester, and he made it as a return man.  There is an answer on how to find quality WRs at a fraction of the cost, but it does not appear to be the Flying-20.