Demps' speed will intrigue NFL teams

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida running back Jeff Demps said earlier this week that he’d pursue an NFL career instead of attempt to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London.

And offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who coached in the NFL for 16 years and has four Super Bowl rings, said Demps' speed will certainly get him drafted, despite his size (5-foot-8, 188 pounds).

“I think anyone who runs that fast, you know, you can’t ignore it,” Weis said. “You can’t coach speed. When you can run that fast, that immediately puts you in the discussion in everyone’s draft room. There isn’t a draft room that he won’t get discussed in. And he’ll probably get taken higher than his stats would be because of those physical attributes. That speed is rare.”

Demps has elite speed. He has a personal-best 10.01 seconds in the 100 meters, which he ran in high school, and he has won NCAA indoor and outdoor titles in the event.

Football players, though, are measured in 40-yard dash times. Depending on where you look, Demps’ 40 time is listed as either 4.26 or 4.24 seconds. If he were to post either of those times at the NFL Combine, they would rank among the fastest times ever recorded electronically in NFL history.

The NFL has only been electronically recording 40 times since 2000, and the only player to have posted a time that would beat Demps’ 4.26 is Tennessee running back Chris Johnson. He ran a 4.24 at the combine in 2008, a number which helped get him taken with the 24th pick of the first round by the Titans. That’s the fastest timed 40 in NFL history.

The 40 was hand-timed before 2000, and there are 11 players who posted better times than Johnson’s 4.24, including Bo Jackson (4.12), Michael Bennett (4.13), Alexander Wright (4.14) and Darrell Green (4.15).

Weis’ statement that Demps probably will be taken higher than his stats would warrant -- 3,547 all-purpose yards (2,448 rushing) -- poses an interesting question: In which round would a team select Demps? Research seems to indicate he’d be gone by the fourth round.

Nine of the 14 players with the 10 fastest 40 times since 2000 were taken in the fourth round or higher, including six in the first round. Kansas State receiver Aaron Lockett was taken in the seventh round by Tampa Bay in 2002.

Here’s something that shouldn’t be a surprise: The Oakland Raiders have drafted five of those players, including two in the first round.

Here’s a look at the 10 fastest 40 times since 2000 and where each player was selected:

• East Carolina RB Chris Johnson (4.24 seconds) -- first round by Tennessee (24th overall pick) in 2002.

• Hampton WR Jerome Mathis (4.28) -- fourth round by Houston in 2005.

• Clemson WR Jacoby Ford (4.28) -- fourth round by Oakland in 2010.

• Tennessee State CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (4.29) -- first round by Arizona (16th overall) in 2008.

• Houston CB Stanford Routt (4.29) -- second round by Oakland in 2005.

• Nebraska CB Fabian Washington (4.29) -- first round by Oakland (23rd overall) in 2005.

• Maryland WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (4.30) -- first round by Oakland (seventh overall) in 2009.

• Kansas State WR Yamon Figurs (4.30) -- third round by Baltimore in 2007.

• Oklahoma State CB Darrent Williams (4.30) -- second round by Denver in 2005.

• Connecticut CB Tyvon Branch (4.31) -- fourth round by Oakland in 2008.

• Penn State CB Justin King (4.31) -- fourth round by St. Louis in 2008.

• South Carolina CB Jonathan Joseph (4.31) -- first round by Cincinnati (24th overall) in 2006.

• Kansas State WR Aaron Lockett (4.31) -- seventh round by Tampa Bay in 2002.

• Miami WR Santana Moss (4.31) -- first round by the New York Jets (16th overall) in 2001.

Of those 14 players, nine are still in the NFL. Three of the five who aren’t active played at least three years (Mathis, Washington, Figurs), one played two years (Williams) and one didn’t make a roster (Lockett).