You can’t bring up Teez Tabor’s name these days without immediately getting into a debate about whether his speed measurements will hinder his ability to transition into a long career with the Detroit Lions. Tabor himself seems tired of the conversations and is ready to just move on. “I play football, I don’t run track,” Tabor told reporters late last week. “I’m trying out for the NFL, not the Olympics. So I’m in a pretty good spot.”
Some have tried to excuse Tabor’s slow times as a result of a lingering hamstring issue. Tabor has claimed in the past that his hamstring was bothering him as early as before the NFL Combine. While that’s certainly possible, there are some questions about the validity of his timeline of events. If he had truly pulled up lame during his Florida Pro Day, as Tabor told Ian Rapoport, why did none of the scouts or media in attendance report it?
Regardless of why or how Tabor measured so poorly in terms of straight-line speed, this Sport Science video, courtesy of ESPN, suggests it may not matter.
The video doesn’t talk about Tabor’s speed, but rather his superhuman reaction time. “In our Island Test, Teez showed off his incredible ball-hawking skills,” the show’s host said. “He was able to begin reacting to an out route, deep ball or handoff on average in just .280 seconds. That’s almost 40 percent faster than the average time for defensive backs we tested in our lab for the last five years.”
That’s exactly what Tabor supporters have been screaming in the face of criticism about his speed. “This guy has instincts all day long,” Todd McShay said during ESPN’s live broadcast of the draft. “Tremendous read-and-react skills when his hips are open.”
So how exactly would this closing speed compensate for Tabor’s slow straight-line speed? The Sports Science clip provides a theory:
These fluid hips and quick reflexes mean if a receiver running at 10 miles per hour makes a cut, Teez could theoretically stay about a yard closer to his man than the average NFL cornerback.
The key word there is “theoretically.” Because Tabor has yet to play a single snap in the NFL, these Sports Science measurements are just as useful as his 40 times, which is to say they’re only a small piece of the puzzle.
Still, that last measurement was against NFL peers, not NFL prospects. Combine that with the fact that Tabor played against “SEC speed” his entire college career, and there is reason to believe he can overcome the heavy burden of those poor combine scores.