The front offices within the thirty-two NFL franchises have spent the better part of the past six months assessing players, especially during busy periods such as free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft. However, speed, even situational, in-game speed, is often left outside most of the discussions, both organizationally and amongst fans. And rightfully so – this factor has been regularly refuted as a component of significance in player evaluation. Yet, fast players are frequently particularly eye-catching, with their speed helping them conduct long runs or receptions which make the headlines more often than not.
As is the case in every sport, and, subsequently, every sports league, there’s a group of players who avidly stand out among the rest in that regard. Here are the five fastest players in the league per top speed across the 2020 NFL season.
NFL’s Fastest: #1 Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers
Top Speed: 23.09 MPH, Week 2 at Jets
Heading into 2020, Raheem Mostert was headed for a top spot on San Francisco’s depth chart. That was the underlying assumption after the solid performance he had turned in the previous year as a backup to Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman for most of the year. For comparison, Mostert had just one year with more than ten carries before his breakthrough 2019 campaign. The rumors had it that his immediate destiny was an even more active role.
However, that wasn’t the case due to a knee injury that allowed him to appear in, and start, just half of the 49ers’ games across 2020. Still, that didn’t prevent him from putting on a quick start to his campaign, literally and figuratively. In the team’s kickoff matchup against Arizona, Mostert scored on a 76-yard catch, reaching a speed of 22.73 miles per hour. The following week, he bested even that accolade with a top speed of 23.09 mph during an 8-yard touchdown run in a 31-13 win over the New York Jets. Those remain the two fastest top-speed marks in the NFL over the course of the 2020 season.
NFL’s Fastest: #2 Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals
Top Speed: 22.11 MPH, Week 6 at Cowboys
Almost a whole mile per hour below the top spot, the list continues with another starting running back, this time for Arizona. The Cardinals‘ rushing leader Kenyan Drake had one of four runs over the 22-mph mark across the league in Week 6. During the team’s game against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football, Kenyan Drake‘s 69-yard rushing TD just after the two-minute warning completed what was the final score of the matchup, a 38-10 win for the visiting Cards.
Despite having that going for him, Drake wasn’t able to replicate the successful production he had put on in 2019. When the whole season was finally in the books, Kenyan Drake had just 4.0 yards per run on 239 rushing attempts – a sample, within which the productive performer’s average numbers much more impressive. However, his solid previous three years, in all of which he was featured as a member of a stable, were enough to earn him a two-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders worth nearly $7 million per season.
NFL’s Fastest: #3 Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
Top Speed: 22.05 MPH, Week 17 vs Jaguars
The former Wisconsin Badgers prospect has gone a long way in the past sixteen months. The 22-year-old went from a second-round draft pick to leading Indianapolis’s ground-game unit, to averaging sensational figures over a heavy workload. Entering the 2021 NFL season, Jonathan Taylor is expected to have an even less challenging role as the Colts’ first-string running back.
However, production and on-field display aren’t the only things Taylor boasts. The Salem, New Jersey native is also notoriously quick on the field, holding two of the twenty plays with the fastest top speed in the NFL last year, the same amount as Mostert.
Firstly, Jonathan Taylor ran past the Houston Texans’ defense at 21.6 mph for a 39-yard touchdown through the air in Week 13. This play wound up as the 12th-fastest at the end of the season. Yet, Taylor didn’t fail to outperform even his standards, posting a top speed of 22.05 mph on a rushing gain of 29 yards when the Colts defeated Jacksonville at home on the final weekend of the regular season. This accomplishment ranks fourth after Mostert’s pair of plays and Kenyan Drake’s rushing TD.
NFL’s Fastest: #4 Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Top Speed: 21.91 MPH, Week 14 vs Dolphins
Hill’s nickname – “The Cheetah” – is certainly deserved given Tyreek Hill‘s avid reputation as not only an uncatchable opponent in pass coverage for defensive players but also as a reliable wide receiver for any quarterback. Therefore, his presence on this list is neither unexpected nor accidental.
His top speed of 21.91 mph was observed during a 44-yard touchdown catch against the Miami Dolphins in Week 14. The Chiefs ended up winning by a score of 33-27 while Hill posted his second-highest top speed over the last three seasons.
The only faster speed reached on a play occurred back in 2018. In a victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, Tyreek Hill recorded a speed of 21.95 mph on what was Patrick Mahomes‘s first NFL touchdown pass and first of fifty TD throws that year. Furthermore, he finished that year with one more top-ten spot, a punt return at 21.78 mph in that same game. At the same time, Hill was unable to turn in similar feats the following year, with Matt Breida holding the top spot in both years. At one time, the current Bills running back even competed to take “The Cheetah” moniker away from Hill.
NFL’s Fastest: #5 Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts
Top Speed: 21.85 MPH, Week 13 at Texans
Rounding out the list is Indy’s second-choice running back Nyheim Hines, who was regularly used within the Colts’ offense not just on the ground but also as a member of the air raid. Moreover, Hines has one of three plays within the top 20 in the top speed department that feature Indianapolis.
At NRG Stadium in Week 13, Nyheim Hines had returned a kickoff for 19 yards at a speed of 21.85 mph, the sixth-best in 2020. Despite that, he posted just 10 yards on 6 rushing attempts in a 26-20 win for the Indianapolis Colts.