The 40-yard dash is a sprint covering 40 yards (36.58 m). It is primarily run to evaluate the speed of American football players by scouts, particularly for the NFL Draft but also for collegiate recruiting. A player's recorded time can have a heavy impact on his prospects in college or professional football. This was traditionally only true for the "skill" positions such as running back, wide receiver, and defensive back, although now a fast 40-yard dash time is considered important for almost every position. The 40-yard dash is not an official race in track and field athletics and is not an IAAF-recognized event.
The origin of timing football players for 40 yards comes from the average distance of a punt and the time it takes to reach that distance. Punts average around 40 yards in distance from the line of scrimmage, and the hangtime (time of flight) averages approximately 4.5 seconds. Therefore, if a coach knows that a player runs 40 yards in 4.5 seconds, he will be able to leave the line of scrimmage when a punt is kicked, and reach at the point where the ball comes down just as it arrives.
Timing method and track comparisons
In terms of judging a person's speed, the best method of timing is through lasers which start and stop the times when passed through. A laser start (from a stationary position) is more accurate for measuring pure speed as it does not register a runner's reaction time. However, the method of timing a 40-yard dash can affect the accuracy by as much 0.5 seconds (with the manual stopwatch method). The National Football League (NFL) did not begin using partial electronic timing (started by hand, stopped electronically) at the NFL Scouting Combine until 1990.
In track and field races, the runner must react to the starting gun, which takes approximately 0.24 seconds, based on FAT timing. For electronically timed 40-yard dashes, the runner is allowed to start when he wishes, and a timer hand-starts the clock. This aspect means that comparisons with track times are impossible given that a reaction time is not factored in. Furthermore, the use of hand-timing in the 40-yard dash can considerably alter a runner's time; the methods are not comparable to the rigorous electronic timing used in track and field.
Jacoby Ford, who ran a 4.28 s in the 2010 NFL Combine, had a collegiate best of 6.51 s in the 60-meter dash (outside the top-40 of the all-time lists). Justin Gatlin was significantly slower at the NFL Combine, achieving a 40-yard dash best of 4.42 s, but holds the fifth fastest 60-meter dash ever with 6.45 seconds. This highlights the difficulties in comparing track running times to football 40-yard times due to the different timing methods.
This is a list of the official 40-yard dash results of 4.30 seconds or better recorded at the NFL Scouting combine since 1999, the first year electronic timing was implemented at the NFL Scouting Combine. Before 1999, 40-yard dash times were somewhat unreliable and often prone to exaggeration.
In 1986, Auburn's Bo Jackson ran the fastest 40-yard dash at an NFL combine, with a reported time of 4.12. The time was scrutinized, but a time of 4.18 run by Jackson within the same week added some support to the legitimacy of the times. Deion Sanders ran a 4.27-second 40-yard dash in 1989.
|4.24||Rondel Melendez||5 ft 9 in (175 cm)||192 lb (87 kg)||Wide receiver||1999||7th round by Atlanta Falcons|
|4.24||Chris Johnson||5 ft 11 in (180 cm)||192 lb (87 kg)||Running back||2008||#24 overall by Tennessee Titans|
|4.25||Marquise Goodwin||5 ft 10 in (178 cm)||181 lb (82 kg)||Wide receiver||2013||#78 overall by Buffalo Bills|
|4.25||Tavon Austin||5 ft 9 in (175 cm)||174 lb (79 kg)||Wide receiver||2013||#8 overall by St.Louis Rams|
|4.25||Darrius Heyward-Bey||6 ft 2 in (188 cm)||210 lb (95 kg)||Wide receiver||2009||#7 overall by Oakland Raiders|
|4.26||Jeff Demps||5 ft 7 in (170 cm)||198 lb (90 kg)||Running Back||2012||Undrafted New England Patriots|
|4.26||Jerome Mathis||5 ft 11 in (180 cm)||184 lb (83 kg)||Wide Receiver||2005||#114 overall by Houston Texans|
|4.27||Stanford Routt||6 ft 2 in (188 cm)||193 lb (88 kg)||Cornerback||2005||#38 overall by Oakland Raiders|
|4.27||C.J. Spiller||5 ft 11 in (180 cm)||200 lb (91 kg)||Running back||2010||#9 overall by Buffalo Bills|
|4.28||DeMarcus Van Dyke||6 ft 1 in (185 cm)||187 lb (85 kg)||Cornerback||2011||#81 overall by Oakland Raiders|
|4.28||Champ Bailey||6 ft 0 in (183 cm)||192 lb (87 kg)||Cornerback||1999||#7 overall by Washington Redskins|
|4.28||Jacoby Ford||5 ft 9 in (175 cm)||190 lb (86 kg)||Wide receiver||2010||#108 overall by Oakland Raiders|
|4.29||Josh Robinson||5 ft 10 in (178 cm)||199 lb (90 kg)||Cornerback||2012||#66 overall by Minnesota Vikings|
|4.29||Fabian Washington||5 ft 11 in (180 cm)||188 lb (85 kg)||Cornerback||2005||#23 overall by Oakland Raiders|
|4.29||Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie||6 ft 2 in (188 cm)||184 lb (83 kg)||Cornerback||2008||#16 overall by the Arizona Cardinals|
|4.30||Yamon Figurs||5 ft 11 in (180 cm)||174 lb (79 kg)||Wide receiver||2007||#74 overall by Baltimore Ravens|
|4.30||Darrent Williams||5 ft 9 in (175 cm)||176 lb (80 kg)||Cornerback||2005||#56 overall by Denver Broncos|
|4.30||Tye Hill||5 ft 10 in (178 cm)||185 lb (84 kg)||Cornerback||2006||#15 overall by St. Louis Rams|