OXFORD, Miss. — On Monday morning, it must have been a slow sports day in every corner of America.
Why? Ole Miss’s Laquon Treadwell, the top-ranked receiver in the upcoming NFL draft, posted two 40-yard dash times in the 4.6 range — as expected — and without any post-run injuries or excuses for that result.
It was the breaking-news equivalent of a professional boxer coming in at his expected weight, 24 hours before a bout; and yet, that didn’t stop Treadwell from serving as Twitter’s No. 1 trending topic for the better part of three or four hours.
As a counter to that, for Monday’s well-attended pro day at the Manning Center, Rebel fans/Twitter Nation could have marveled over offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil’s phenomenal display of 34 reps on the 225-pound bench press. They could have also gone loco about the 4.45 or less 40 times from Ole Miss safety Trae Elston (4.43 on some clocks) and defensive back Mike Hilton (4.43).
Instead, NFL fans everywhere were eminently fascinated with Treadwell’s solid, but not spectacular 40 times, knowing the kid’s size, physicality, hands, character and receiving instincts carry greater weight than pure speed.
“If you’re looking for a guy that can just run a straight line fast, that’s not what (Treadwell) is,” said Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, citing Treadwell’s supreme knack for catching 50/50 balls and making plays in tight quarters. “I’d take my chances with a guy like Laquon.”
Treadwell, most likely the greatest pass catcher in Ole Miss history, seemed more relieved than excited about Monday’s pro day results. He essentially bore the look of a man who might never be asked to run a straight-line 40 again.
“I was proud of what I ran,” said Treadwell, while acknowledging his pre-40 dream of perhaps running in the 4.4 or 4.5 range. “But it was a lot of pressure, you know.”
With Treadwell’s 40 time and vertical jump (33 1/2 inches) in the books, the pressure to perform essentially shifts to the various NFL front offices. One club will land a long-term No. 1 wideout at a workable slot in Round 1, while others will have to justify bypassing on him … for players with less physical gifts or results-oriented upside.
“(Running a 4.3 or 4.4 40) just isn’t my game, I guess,” said Treadwell. “(But) I don’t need to run super-fast to beat you.”
Lest we forget, Treadwell (82 catches, 1,153 yards, 11 TDs as a junior) is only 17 months removed from a gruesome leg injury against Auburn (above) — a horrifying experience which also prompted a crushing home defeat in 2014 (fumbling near the goal line).
Most young athletes would face an uphill struggle to recapture their greatness in the first year back from major injury. Treadwell, in fact, was subsequently forced to “retrain” his body during the rehabilitation phase … a frightening concept for anyone playing an elite-level sport.
However, Treadwell started the 2015 campaign fast (combined 13 catches, 215 yards, one TD vs. Alabama and Vanderbilt), took things up a notch midway through (six-game touchdown streak) and then finished with a career-capping flurry, rolling for three TDs in the Rebels’ Sugar Bowl rout of Oklahoma State.
That kind of production, against NFL-caliber competition in the SEC and various conferences, should theoretically be enough to clinch Treadwell’s standing as a top-20 pick this spring.
But how much does the 4.63 40 bring the prospect down, if at all?
A quick history lesson: Jerry Rice ran a 4.59 in 1985, debunking the apparent rumors of a 4.71 40 sometime before that. And yet, it’s hard to cite an example of any player not named Darrell Green catching him from behind in the pros.
Speaking of 4.71, you know who actually posted that time? Anquan Boldin in 2003 … and last we checked, Boldin had the ongoing numbers (1,009 catches, 13,195 yards, 74 TDs) of a potential Hall of Famer.
The larger point: Straight-line speed shouldn’t be the ultimate deterrent in Treadwell’s draft viability, especially if he checks out in the other categories. But since it was a slow news day on the NFL front, the 49ers (No. 7 overall pick), Buccaneers (No. 9), Giants (No. 10), Rams (No. 15), Lions (No. 16), Falcons (No. 17), Redskins (No. 21), Texans (No. 22) and Vikings (No. 23) might inexplicably revise their Big Board assessment of Treadwell.
Off a 40 time that surprised no one.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.