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Every year, 40 yard dash times are the most talked-about part of the NFL Combine. Outside of players who set records or put up amazing numbers in other Combine activities, 40 times are most utilized when evaluating someone’s Combine performance. However, do good 40 times convert to actual success at the NFL level? While there are some 40 times fraught with legend, such as Bo Jackson’s reported 4.13, there are other players who play at a speed far beyond their 40 time, such as Barry Sanders who ran a 4.37. Overall though, how do 40 times correlate to NFL success?

  • The fastest 40 time on record* is a 4.22 which was run by Washington receiver John Ross III. He was drafted 9th overall in 2017 by the Bengals and now plays for the Giants. He has 733 career receiving yards and 10 career touchdowns and has been widely considered a draft bust.
  • 2nd place is held by Chris Johnson, otherwise known as CJ2K, who ran a 4.24. He is one of the 8 running backs to have rushed for 2000 yards in a single season and had 6 straight seasons with over 1000 yards rushing. He had 9651 rushing yards and 55 TDs in his career, and while he may not be a Hall of Famer (although there is some dispute over that), he definitely had an amazing career.
  • There is a tie for third place between Dri Archer and Jerome Mathis. They both ran a 4.26 at their combines, and both were special team players who were out of the league within 2 and 3 seasons, respectively. However it should be noted that Jerome Mathis did go to a Pro Bowl and was a First Team All-Pro in his rookie season for his returning skills.
  • Another tie exists at fifth place (4.27 seconds) between 4 players but only three are worth noting: Marquise Goodwin, Stanford Routt, and Henry Ruggs III. Goodwin has been making his way around the league since 2013 when he was drafted and while he only has 2323 yards during that time, he still is in the league and to play that long is still respectable. Stanford Routt was never a Pro Bowler but played 8 years and did acquire 60 starts on pace to his 12 career interceptions and 55 pass breakups. Henry Ruggs of course is too young to look at his career but his speed helped him get picked at 12th overall.
  • After these players, the only real name worth noting at 4.28 is Champ Bailey, although he shares the time with 4 other players. Champ is easily one of the best corners of our time and easily deserving of his Hall of Fame induction.
  • This year Anthony Schwartz ran a 4.26 at his Pro Day so it is not on this list, however it will be interesting to track his career and see if he falls by the wayside, as many of these other speedsters did, or rises to excellence.


Some of the most famous speedsters ever in the league are noticeably absent from this list, so how well did they run at the Combine?

  • Tyreek Hill ran a 4.29 at his West Alabama Pro Day, he did not participate in the NFL Combine.
  • Lamar Jackson never ran a 40 time at the Combine, but allegedly ran a 4.34 in practice, which would place him one- hundredth of a second behind Michael Vick (4.33)
  • Dante Hall, aka the Human Joystick, ran a 4.29 at the Combine and went on to be one of the most dominant return men of all time.
  • Devin Hester, considered the best returner of all time, ran a 4.41 at his Combine.
  • Barry Sanders only ran a 4.37 40 time at his Oklahoma State Pro Day.

So if there is anything to draw from the 40 yard dash it is that it’s a complete hit or miss. There is more to football than speed and even so, the 40 yard dash doesn’t always accurately represent the true speed of a player. Nonetheless, the 40 yard dash will remain one of the most utilized representations of physical prowess for players joining the NFL.