How Quintez Cephus looked like Jerry Rice at the combine — and fell to the Detroit Lions

Detroit Free Press

Carlos Monarrez
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Detroit Lions receivers coach Robert Prince did a fantastic job Thursday of recreating the excitement he felt when Quintez Cephus ran a slow 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine.

The Wisconsin receiver posted a time of 4.73 seconds, which was the slowest among receivers who ran the 40 at the combine. For comparison, Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs ran it in 4.27 seconds — the fastest of any player in 2020.

“It’s funny,” Prince said in a conference call Thursday, “because at the combine when that time posted, I was kind of like, ‘Yes! He’s going to drop and we’re going to be able to get him.’ ”

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Get him, the Lions did. While the Las Vegas Raiders continued Al Davis’ proud tradition of loving pure speed and drafted Ruggs 11th overall, the Lions were able to snag Cephus in the fifth round — partly because of speed issues but also because of off-field problems that concerned teams.

Prince said he saw past all of that and simply watched the tape, which told him what he needed to know. And watching what Cephus could do on the field looked familiar to Prince.

“You’ve got to look at the tape and the thing is, whatever his 40 was when he ran it, you watch the tape and he’s going by DBs on tape,” Prince said “He’s running go routes on guys and getting open.

“And I don’t know what Jerry Rice’s official time was in the 40, but it was not fast. But you watch the tape and he was always a little step faster than everybody else. And that’s the same thing with Quintez, is he doesn’t have just blatant all-out speed but he’s fast enough to get by a guy.”

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Prince was not anointing Quintez as the next Rice. But Rice did run a famously slow 40 — 4.71 seconds — at the 1985 combine, which allowed the San Francisco 49ers to draft the future Hall of Famer, the gold standard for receivers ever since, at No. 16 overall.

Expectations for Cephus’ second season will be high. He impressed Prince with his work ethic and had a good rookie year — 298 yards receiving and 16.6 yards per catch — without the benefit of a normal offseason. He’s also the only Lions receiver — other than Geronimo Allison, who opted out of 2020 due to COVID concerns — under contract for 2021.

“He’s part of the new class as far as no OTAs and not getting a chance to do that,” Prince said. “So a lot of our meetings started off virtual. And for us starting to work on techniques really didn’t start until training camp. So there’s been growth every day.

“One thing about that kid is he wants to get better. He comes in with a great attitude and not only is he trying to learn from me, he’s trying to learn from the veteran guys. They’ve gone a great job with him. I think his future will be bright.”

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Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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