A reminder of Washington Football Team S Troy Apke’s elite athleticism
By Ian Cummings
We all know that Washington Football Team safety Troy Apke fit the “raw athlete” designation coming out, but ranking his athleticism all-time shows just how much potential he has.
Heading into 2020, Troy Apke‘s outlook is somewhat clouded, but at the same time cautiously optimistic. Apke saw a slight uptick in production in 2019, logging an interception and two pass deflections in limited action, but the Washington Football Team, under Ron Rivera, has made clear that jobs won’t be simply given away due to talent.
If Apke wants a consistent increased role among Washington’s starting defenders, he’ll have to put his best foot forward and drastically refine the mental portion of his game. But Apke has one crucial element working in his favor in the fight for roster security, and that’s his raw athleticism, which, when quantified, pits him as one of the most athletic free safeties of all time.
The Relative Athletic Score (RAS), a metric created by Kent Lee Platte, is a tool that generates a composite grade of a player’s given athletic traits, and measures that grade against others that have come before it, thus formulating a percentile for any chosen athletic profile.
Dating back to the 1980s, there have been literally hundreds of free safeties who’ve had athletic numbers quantified by pro days or NFL Combine performances (since 2000), and Apke comes in very close to the top of that long list.
At the 2018 NFL Combine, Apke put his athleticism on display for NFL scouts, logging a 4.34 40-yard dash, a 41.0-inch vertical jump, a 131-inch broad jump, a 4.03 short-shuttle time, and a 6.56 three-cone time, all at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. All of those numbers, not counting his height and weight, were in at least the 94th percentile. His vertical was in the 97.6 percentile, while his speed was in the 99.8 percentile.
Apke’s weight knocked down his Relative Athletic Score slightly, but he still came in with a grade of 9.94, and was deemed the most athletic safety in his respective draft class. His 9.94 RAS score ranks fifth all-time among free safeties to be measured. That’s right: Fifth all-time, kids. This ranking qualifies Apke as a historic raw athlete at the free safety position.
It’s very important to note, however, that athleticism on its own does not equate to success. Of the four players ahead of Apke, none made any Pro Bowls in their respective careers, and only two, Tank Williams and Jason Allen, started more than 10 games at the NFL level. A more local example is also available: Montae Nicholson came in close behind Apke with a grade of 9.77, but off-field issues prevented him from reaching his full potential.
Plenty of teams have made the mistake of over-drafting hyper-athletic players like this in the past, thinking that they can mold them effectively. And plenty of teams have failed in accomplishing that.
Apke has one of the most enticing physical pallets in the league at his disposal, but he has to apply the mental acuity necessary to utilize his talents most effectively. Apke’s need for quicker on-field processing was very apparent at the collegiate level, and it’s what had some scouts label him as a seventh-round prospect, despite his elite athleticism.
Apke flashed his range and improved reading ability with his first career interception against the 49ers last season, but he’ll need to show it more consistently if he wants to become a more impactful player. He’ll also have a tough draw for the starting free safety position, as the Washington Football Team’s presumed starter Sean Davis, signed from the Steelers in free agency, came in 14th all-time at the position with a score of 9.8.
At the very least, the Washington Football Team at least has free safety candidates who have the tools needed to be productive starters, and that is a positive. Players with raw traits are coveted across the league, because their inherently lofty foundations yield the potential for inherently high ceilings. But too many have busted over the years for Apke to get a free pass.
If he can develop further in 2020 with the new coaching staff, Apke has otherworldly physical potential. As evidenced by what we’ve seen thus far, he still has a long way to go. But with two years left on his rookie contract, there’s still time for him to prove he deserves more time, to try and get to that point. With his athleticism, he can make it happen.