The amount of athleticism on display at the recent NFL Scouting Combine was staggering, with 11 participants – including five wide receivers – recording sub-4.40 times in the 40-yard dash.
So when Clemson product DeAndre Hopkins ran a 4.57 at the combine, good for just 36th among wide receivers, some observers raised a red flag.
They shouldn't have.
For one thing, Hopkins responded by running a 4.41 at Clemson's pro day. And even if he had been a step slower, it would be unwise to get too caught up in the 40 times of receivers that have produced the kind of game film that Hopkins has.
"I hope to run a good 40," Hopkins said on the eve of his combine workout, "but if I don't, that's not what makes a good football player.
"There are a lot of guys near 4.3, but it's all about what you do between those numbers. Jerry Rice ran a 4.6."
Hopkins readily admits that he's not the most eye-popping athlete in the draft class, even selling himself short in the process.
Check out the YouTube video shot during training for the draft at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Hopkins snagged 33 consecutive passes fired from close range by a Jugs football machine – some right-handed, some left-handed.
Even better, check out last year's Chick-fil-A Bowl, when Hopkins burned Louisiana State's renowned defense for 191 yards on 13 catches with two touchdowns.
"That was my personal best game," Hopkins said. "My confidence level was already high, but it was great to go out in my last game with that type of win against the No. 1 defense in America.
"It did kind of show the whole world that this guy from Clemson is kind of good."
Hopkins, who grew up near Clemson and just a couple of hours south of Charlotte in Central, S.C., patterns his game after recent Hall of Fame inductee Cris Carter. The former Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles star didn't run nearly as fast a 40 as Hopkins. All Carter did was catch touchdowns, something to which Hopkins can relate. Hopkins caught 18 for the Tigers in 2012, second in the nation even with Clemson shutting down its passing game early in multiple blowout victories.
"He was just smooth, just made it look effortless," Hopkins said of Carter. "He mastered his craft."
That is exactly what Hopkins strives to do. The 6-1, 214-pounder is a physical player known for attacking the ball in the air, and even if his recorded speed isn't at the very top of the heap, he said he's never been caught from behind.
That's in part because he never stops moving forward.
"I'm not the most athletic guy in this class, but I'm a student of the game," Hopkins said. "I know the Xs and Os and know how to break down a defense. I feel like I'm very knowledgeable of my position, and I try to get better every day and listen to coaches.
"I feel like I'm complete. I'm not the tallest but not the shortest. I'm not the fastest but not the slowest. But I feel like I know how to play football."