Titans, Texans fortunate to land speedy RBs in '08

February, 23, 2009
2/23/09
6:39
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

After 2007 the Titans said they needed to get faster, particularly with playmakers on offense. The Texans added veteran offensive line coach Alex Gibbs to their staff and hoped to add a player who could help him renovate their running game.

 Johnson
 Slaton

The transformational player the Titans found at No. 24 in last year's draft was Chris Johnson. The Texans' huge third-round find was Steve Slaton.

The AFC South rivals landed speed at running back, speed that helped alter their offenses.

Of course combine 40 times need to be kept in context, and we need to remember plenty of players who post great 40s can't translate that success onto the field. Some players play much faster than they run.

That said, we've since seen that Johnson's and Slaton's 40 times were meaningful.

Johnson's time of 4.24 seconds in the 40-yard dash at least year's combine was the best by a running back between 2000 and 2009. And now we know that Slaton's 4.45 would have matched Virginia's Cedric Peerman for the best running back mark at this year's combine based on NFL.com's lists of the top 10 40 times by position.

I'm not one to get super excited about these numbers. But it's hard not to say if you wanted to add major speed to your backfield, you had a better chance last year than you will this year.

The Texans should now be aiming their high picks at defense. But the Titans may doubly benefit from landing a backfield blazer last year. (Side note: They tried to add a blazer in the second round in 2006, too. Chris Henry's 4.40 time in 40, 10th best for a back since 2000, has not translated to on-the-field performance. He's played in eight games, earning all of 32 carries.)

Now the always receiver-needy Titans find a group of prospects at the position with great speed -- the top 10 receivers ran 4.44 or better. Four receivers broke 4.4: Darrius Heyward-Bey (4.30), Mike Wallace (4.33), Johnny Knox (4.34) and Deon Butler (4.38).

Of course that in no way ensures the Titans will get a game-breaker in this draft, and we have to see how those times translate.

But Tennessee was fortunate, as was Houston, to land an especially fast back in 2007 and not be searching for one now.

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