There are lots of ways to measure team speed, but 40-yard dash times still are the simplest and arguably offer the best comparison from team to team.
The Buffalo Bills ranked 18th in the NFL in 2020 in terms of “average top speed” of all their ball-carriers in every game, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The Bills had the No. 2-ranked offense in the league in terms of points scored and yards gained. So what is the relevance of the speed figure?
Every NFL player wears a GPS monitor that allows teams to measure top-end play speed. Teams pay attention to it and track it, even in practice. However, the top-end speed often is a function of scheme.
San Francisco and Minnesota ranked first and second in 2020 in top average speed of their players carrying the ball, at 13.54 and 13.46 mph, respectively, according to the GPS data from Next Gen Stats.
Both the 49ers and Vikings run a lot of bootleg plays and hit receivers running across the width of the field. A receiver catching a crossing route usually is running faster than Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs when he catches a slant or a deep out.
The Bills’ average ball-carrier speed in 2020 was 12.93 mph. That was an increase from 2019, when the Bills ranked 29th in average top speed by all ball carriers.
The fastest Buffalo ball carrier in the regular season last year was receiver Isaiah McKenzie, who reached a top speed of 21.44 mph on a 3-yard touchdown reception against Tennessee in Week 5. That was a perfect example of how players hit top speeds. It was a jet-sweep motion behind the line of scrimmage, and Josh Allen simply “touch-passed” the ball forward after taking the shotgun snap. McKenzie raced to the far right corner of the end zone. McKenzie’s speed was the 18th fastest on a play from scrimmage in the 2020 regular season.
The top speed of any NFL player last year was by San Francisco running back Raheem Mostert, at 23.09 mph, on an 80-yard TD run against the Jets.
Bills cornerback Taron Johnson reached 20.39 mph on his 101-yard interception return against Baltimore in the divisional round of the playoffs. That was the eighth fastest speed of the postseason on a play from scrimmage. The fastest speed of the playoffs was by Kansas City receiver Mecole Hardman on a 50-yard end around against Buffalo in the AFC championship game. Hardman hit 21.52 mph. Tyreek Hill hit 20.76 mph on his 71-yard TD catch and run vs. the Bills.