BBD Assistant Editor: Joe Marino
Nothing that happens during the NFL Scouting Combine receives more attention than 40-yard dash times. That is especially true at the wide receiver position, where even a difference of less than .2 seconds could mean a difference of multiple rounds.
Should 40 times make such a big difference? How much stock should teams looking for receivers put into those times when they are stacking their boards for the 2014 NFL draft?
As Scott Hanson of NFL.com said Monday, fast 40-yard dash times do not necessarily lead to NFL success.
Clarifying my mistake: In last 5 yrs <not 10>, 15 WR hv run *official* sub 4.4 at Combine. Only 1 (Mike Wallace) has 1,000 yd NFL season.
— Scott Hanson (@ScottHanson) February 24, 2014
The speed demons at the combine haven’t necessarily become great NFL receivers, but that tweet could also be misleading.
Wide receivers who ran sub-4.4 40-yard dashes at the NFL Scouting Combine from 2009-2013:
|Player||40 Time||Round Selected||College|
|Johnny Knox||4.34||5||Abilene Christian|
|Deon Butler||4.38||3||Penn State|
|Edmond Gates||4.37||4||Abilene Christian|
|Ricardo Lockette||4.37||UDFA||Fort Valley State|
|Stephen Hill||4.36||2||Georgia Tech|
|Devon Wylie||4.39||4||Fresno State|
|Tavon Austin||4.34||1||West Virginia|
|Ryan Swope||4.34||6||Texas A&M|
All times found at NFL.com.
Though Hanson tweeted that NFL Network researchers only found 15 receivers who ran sub-4.4 40s in the past five years, and that Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones ran a 4.42 not a 4.39, NFL.com lists 18 players who ran sub-4.4 times at the Scouting Combine in the past five years. Only two of those, Mike Wallace and Jones, have had 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
Simply running a great 40-yard dash time does not ensure NFL success. Only five of those 18 sub-4.4 wide receivers were first- or second- round picks, indicating that many of those players’ overall skill sets were incomplete and might have flaws that are precluding them from significant NFL success.
The statistic is misleading, however, because most of those players are still in the league and could still have their best success and with that, 1,000-yard receiving seasons, to come.
On the other hand, a look at all the 1,000-yard receivers from the past five years shows that receivers who run faster 40 times — specifically, those who run sub-4.55 40s — are more likely to achieve high-level production in the NFL.
If we take a look at the top receivers of the past five years and compare them with their 40 times, we can get a better idea of how much straight-line speed actually matters as it translates to catching passes at the next level.
|Player||40 Time||Round Drafted||College|
|A.J. Green (3)||4.50||1||Georgia|
|Alshon Jeffrey||Did Not Participate||2||South Carolina|
|Andre Johnson (4)||Did Not Participate||1||Miami|
|Anquan Boldin (2)||4.72*||2||Florida State|
|Antonio Brown (2)||4.56*||6||Central Michigan|
|Brandon Marshall (5)||4.52*||4||Central Florida|
|Brian Hartline (2)||4.58||4||Ohio State|
|Calvin Johnson (4)||4.35*||1||Georgia Tech|
|Chad Johnson||4.57*||2||Oregon State|
|Demaryius Thomas (2)||Did Not Participate||1||Georgia Tech|
|Derrick Mason||4.51**||4||Michigan State|
|DeSean Jackson (3)||4.35||2||California|
|Dez Bryant (2)||Did Not Participate||1||Oklahoma State|
|Donald Driver||Non Invite||7||Alcorn State|
|Dwayne Bowe (2)||4.51*||1||LSU|
|Eric Decker (2)||Did Not Participate||3||Minnesota|
|Greg Jennings (2)||4.42*||2||Western Michigan|
|Hakeem Nicks (2)||4.63||1||North Carolina|
|Hines Ward||Did Not Participate||3||Georgia|
|Jordy Nelson (2)||4.51*||3||Kansas State|
|Josh Gordon||Non Invite||Supplemental||Baylor|
|Julian Edelman||Did Not Participate||7||Kent State|
|Keenan Allen||Did Not Participate||3||California|
|Lance Moore||Did Not Participate||UDFA||Toledo|
|Larry Fitzgerald (3)||Did Not Participate||1||Pittsburgh|
|Marques Colston (4)||4.50*||7||Hofstra|
|Michael Crabtree||Did Not Participate||1||Texas Tech|
|Michael Floyd||4.47||1||Notre Dame|
|Mike Wallace (2)||4.33||3||Mississippi|
|Miles Austin (2)||4.47*||UDFA||Monmouth|
|Nate Washington||Non Invite||UDFA||Tiffin|
|Pierre Garcon||4.48||6||Mount Union|
|Randy Moss||Did Not Participate||1||Marshall|
|Reggie Wayne (3)||4.45**||1||Miami|
|Roddy White (4)||Did Not Participate||1||UAB|
|Santana Moss (2)||4.31*||1||Miami|
|Sidney Rice||4.51*||2||South Carolina|
|Steve Smith||4.44*||2||Southern Cal|
|Steve Smith (2)||4.41*||3||Utah|
|Stevie Johnson (3)||4.58*||7||Kentucky|
|TY Hilton||Did Not Participate||3||Florida Int’l|
|Victor Cruz (2)||Non Invite||UDFA||Massachusetts|
|Vincent Jackson (4)||4.46||2||Northern Colorado|
|Wes Welker||Did Not Participate||UDFA||Texas Tech|
**Not recorded as official times
49 different receivers have had 1,000 yard receiving seasons over the past five seasons. 26 of those 49 receivers have had multiple 1,000-yard seasons over the past five seasons.
Brandon Marshall is the only NFL receiver who has eclipsed 1,000 yards in each of the past five seasons. Five receivers (Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Roddy White, Marques Colston) have had four 1,000-yard seasons; six (A.J. Green, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith, Stevie Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald) have had three 1,000-yard seasons. 14 receivers have had two.
1,000-yard receivers by year over the last five seasons:
What rounds were 1,000-yard receivers drafted in?
Round 1: 17 (34.69%)
Round 2: 8 (16.32%)
Round 3: 8 (16.32%)
Round 4: 4 (8.1%)
Round 5: 0 (0.00%)
Round 6: 2 (4.08&)
Round 7: 4 (8.1%)
Undrafted Free Agents: 5 (10.2%)
Supplemental Draft: 1 (2.04%)
How Fast Did They Run at the NFL Combine?
Average 40-yard dash time for a 1,000-yard receiver over the past five seasons: 4.49 seconds.
15 players who have had a 1,000-yard receiving season in the past five years did not participate in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Josh Gordon (supplemental draft), Victor Cruz, Nate Washington and Donald Driver did not receive combine invitations.
16 (30.06%) of the 49 1,000-yard receivers from the past five seasons were from schools outside those that were in automatically-qualifying BCS conferences at the time.
1,000 yard receivers over the past five seasons by major college conference:
1. ACC: 9
2. SEC: 8
3. Big 12: 5
4. Big Ten: 4
5. Pac-10/12: 3
Fastest 1,000-yard receivers over the past five seasons:
1. Santana Moss: 4.31*
2. Mike Wallace: 4.33
3. Calvin Johnson: 4.35*
4. Desean Jackson: 4.35
5. Julio Jones: 4.39
Slowest 1,000-yard receivers over the past five seasons:
1. Anquan Boldin: 4.72*
2. Hakeem Nicks: 4.63
3. Brandon Lloyd: 4.62*
4. Kendall Wright: 4.61
5 (tie). Steve Johnson: 4.58*
5 (tie). Brian Hartline: 4.58
What does all this mean?
While 40-yard dash times are only an indication of a player’s straight-line speed, and disregards other important variables that ultimately determine a player’s success, the data indicates that receivers who had top-end NFL production ran good 40-yard dash times. Only eight of the 30 1,000-yard receivers who participated in combine drills failed to run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.55 seconds, while 14 ran sub-4.5 second times.
Truth be told, productive NFL receivers typically run good 40-yard dashes, and players who do not must overcome the odds. This does not bode well for the 13 wide receiver prospects who ran their 40-yard dash in more than 4.55 seconds at this year’s Scouting Combine, which includes a number of highly-regarded prospects including Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin, Penn State’s Allen Robinson, Fresno State’s Davante Adams, LSU’s Jarvis Landry, Rutgers’ Brandon Coleman and BYU’s Cody Hoffman.