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Are 40-yard dash times really important?

Every NFL combine, draft fans look forward to and obsess over the fastest 40-times. I would bet the NFL Network broadcast of the wide receivers and the running backs tearing up the 40 was the highest rated broadcast. First, have you ever wondered why 40 yards? Former Cleveland Browns head coach and NFL legend Paul Brown wanted the fastest players on the punt team because back then the average punt traveled 40 yards. Like most innovations by Brown, (the facemask, the draw play, the practice squad) it stuck. The big question is does being a fast player translate to NFL success? This year’s top five were:

Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas, 4.21.

Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson, 4.28.

Quinyon, Mitchell, CB, Toledo, 4.33.

Bryan Thomas, Jr., WR, LSU, 4.33.

Issac Guerendo, RB, Louisville, 4.33.

Going into this year’s combine, these were the top five:

John Ross, WR, Washington, 4.22.

Chis Johnson, RB, East Carolina, 4.24.

Dri Archer, RB, Kent State, 4.26.

Jerome Mathis, WR, Hampton, 4.26.

Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas, 4.27.

How did these times translate to NFL success:

John Ross – Ross was drafted ninth overall in the 2017 draft by the Bengals. He played in 37 games for the Bengals and the New York Giants. For his career, he has 62 receptions for 957 yards and eleven touchdowns. He retired from the NFL in 2023.

Chris Johnson – Prior to the combine, Johnson was projected to be a second to third round pick. He was selected in the first round (24th overall) by the Titans in 2008. He played in 130 games for the Titans, the Jets and the Cardinals. For his career, he rushed for 9651 yards on 2163 carries, and had 55 touchdowns. His best year was 2009 when he rushed for 2006 yards and was named NFL Offensive Player Of The Year. He retired in 2018 after a ten-year NFL career.

Dri Archer – Archer was drafted in the third round of the 2014 draft by the Steelers. He played in twelve games for Pittsburg rushing ten times for 40 yards. IN 2015 he saw more action as a kick returner with fourteen returns for 324 net yards. In February 2016 he signed a futures contract with the Jets but was waived in May. He was claimed off waivers by the Bills but failed to report to the team.

Jerome Mathis – Mathis was drafted by the Texans in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. He played in seventeen games. For his career he has six receptions for 80 yards and one touchdown. He also returned 72 kicks for 2154 yards and three touchdowns. In 2007 he was a restricted free agent, but the Texans declined to offer him a contract. In April of 2008, he signed a contract with Washington and was waived in May.

Marquise Goodwin – Goodwin was drafted by the Bills in the third round of the 2013 draft. He played in 105 games for five NFL teams (the Bills, the 49ers, the Bears, the Seahawks and the Browns). For his career he has 187 receptions for 3023 yards and 18 touchdowns. He is currently an unrestricted free agent of the Browns.

Looking at this small sample, do fast 40-times really predict NFL success? You be the judge.


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