Auburn’s Anthony Schwartz: I’m the ‘fastest guy in all of football’

Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz catches a pass for a touchdown during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Tennessee on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
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Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz catches a pass for a touchdown during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Tennessee on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Credit: Butch Dill

Credit: Butch Dill

Anthony Schwartz might be the fastest receiver in this year’s NFL draft class.

Entering Auburn’s Pro Day on Thursday, the expectation was that he would put up a blistering time in the 40-yard dash. And for those in attendance, Schwartz didn’t disappoint.

Schwartz’s best time of his two runs checked in at an unofficial 4.26 seconds. That evidence of speed is going to mean a lot to NFL teams, especially those in need of a receiver with big-play ability.

Schwartz’s straight-line speed can be compared with Kansas City Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill, who ran a 4.29-second 40-yard dash at West Alabama’s Pro Day in 2016. But while Hill has exceptional speed, he has displayed an ability to change direction quickly.

Throughout the pre-draft process, Schwartz has been studying Hill’s highlights to get a feel for how he can use his own speed to his advantage in areas that don’t involve running in a straight line down the field.

“I’ve been watching a lot of Tyreek Hill just how he’s able to use his speed in and out of breaks -- how he’s able to run with the ball and run his routes with his speed,” Schwartz said. “That’s something I’ve been trying to model, something I’m just trying to see things in his game that I can bring into my game. I’ve also been watching Stefon Diggs because he’s a receiver similar to my size and how he’s able to just release off the ball and run clean, crisp routes. That’s something I’ve been watching, too.”

In 2020, Schwartz put forth his best statistical season with 636 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 10 games played. However, it’s possible Schwartz’s numbers could have been greater had the Tigers possessed better accuracy at quarterback. While used in the screen game, Schwartz was the primary target on deep shots. However, quarterback Bo Nix was not accurate often enough on those particular downfield throws.

Perhaps the numbers have limited Schwartz’s draft projections to date as he’s been considered by analysts to fall in the third- to fifth-round range. However, his 40-yard dash time could open up some possibilities for Schwartz to be taken earlier than expected. The best example of that happening in recent years was when the Chiefs took receiver Mecole Hardman, who ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL scouting combine, in the second round. Entering that draft, Hardman was projected to go in the third or fourth rounds.

Since the 2020 season ended, Schwartz has been working hard on agility drills to improve his change of direction. He wants to prove he can do more as a receiver than run go-routes.

“I’ve learned how to kind of run fast at first without having to stride out, being able to be quicker,” Schwartz said. “So it’s come a little bit more naturally being able to get on top of my breaks and cut fast. It’s something that I’ve definitely worked on these past two months to try and improve to get it better. I feel like now I’ve got a better understanding, and now it’s been feeling a lot more natural and not as taxing as it used to be.”

Safety Jamien Sherwood, who also participated in Auburn’s Pro Day, was impressed with what he saw from Schwartz’s workout. At the same time, the 40-yard dash time was what Sherwood expected from Schwartz, calling it a “don’t blink” situation.

“He’s a great player. He’s lightning fast,” Sherwood said. “Whoever gets him at the next level won’t go wrong with him. He’ll be a great piece to anybody’s puzzle.”

Said receiver Eli Stove: “Really with Anthony, speed guy. They want him to go deep. They know he’s fast. Just get the ball to him, quick. I think he wants to be able to do everything. Have an impact in everything, special teams and offense.”

Of course, speed isn’t everything when it comes to being a receiver, especially at the NFL level. Footwork, strength off the line of scrimmage and precise route-running are just as, if not more, important. But if those qualities can be mastered in addition to this kind of speed, you have the makings of a dangerous receiver, such as Hill in Kansas City.

Schwartz should have plenty of NFL teams thinking about him following his fast 40-yard time. With what the Chiefs have done with Hill, this could be a recipe another team tries to re-create.

“I feel like I am the fastest guy in all of football, especially coming into the draft this year,” Schwartz said. “I feel like I have great football IQ, and I can kind of get the plays, and (it can) translate it to the field right away. So I feel like a mix of that is what I can bring to the table that I can do a lot of stuff as fast as some people.”