More so than the 40-yard dash, the 10-yard time is extremely predictive of future pass rush production. It is not perfect — there are exceptions in both directions (with guys that worked out but didn’t have great 10 times and guys that had great 10 times yet didn’t work out). There are no absolutes, but if you want to play the odds, the 10 time is a very good predictor of the ability to pressure and sack the quarterback.
To be clear, the 10-yard split is not a predictor of all around play, nor is it a predictor of who’s going to make a Pro Bowl or who’s going to be good against the run. It’s purely a very good predictor regarding whether a pass rusher will have a major impact on the opponent’s quarterback in the form of sacks or pressures.
Although many defensive coordinators and defensive lineman know that getting off the ball quickly is very important, they still put a lot of weight in 40 times rather than 10 times. But there are teams that recognize the predictiveness of the 10 time and will use it in evaluating the current prospects.
The breaking point is around 1.6 (or even 1.61-1.62). A player at that number or lower is predicted to be very good at pressuring and sacking the quarterback. Obviously, the further below the 1.6 second threshold, the better.
So, Hutchinson at 1.61 has a very good time. He projects to be very good at pressuring and sacking the quarterback. Thibodeaux is at 1.56, which only sounds like three hundredths of a second better, but it actually indicates he may be even better at pass rushing than Hutchinson. Note that this only applies to their pass rushing skill sets; it doesn’t mean he’ll be a better player than Hutchinson. In contrast, it just means that if your emphasis is pressuring and sacking the quarterback, 1.56 projects to be a bit better than 1.61.
Walker’s 1.54 10-yard split is an extremely strong number. We rarely see numbers like that for guys that have this kind of size and ability to become quality NFL players. However, this doesn’t mean that Walker will be the best NFL player in this draft. This is merely an explanation for why he’s being seriously considered for the first overall pick. His 10 time is why people that recognize this correlation would consider Walker as the top player at No. 1 pick, and there is validity to that thinking.
On the other hand, if the other edge rushers are better against the run, have better motors, or are more consistent, it would be very reasonable to pick them over him. But if your priority is pressures and sacks, this 10 time would cause you to seriously consider him as the first pick over the other two guys. Once a player has met a certain threshold on height and weight, this measurable is the most correlative to the most important facet of any edge rusher’s game.
Despite his limited sack production in college, it is not crazy to consider Travon Walker for the first overall pick.