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40-yard dash

The 40-yard dash is a sprint covering 40 yards (36.576 m). It is primarily run to evaluate the speed and acceleration 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 race.

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.[1] 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 player can run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds, they will be able to leave the line of scrimmage when a punt is kicked, and reach 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, this method of timing a 40-yard dash can affect the accuracy by as much as 0.5 seconds with the manual stopwatch method.

The National Football League (NFL) did not begin using partial electronic timing (i.e. started by hand, stopped electronically) at the NFL Scouting Combine until 1999.[2][3] For purposes of measurement at the Combine, the run is made along the lower sideline from the 40 yard-line to the end zone, which has built-in rundown space, and for electronically timed 40-yard dashes, the runner is allowed to start when they wish, and a timer hand-starts the clock.

In contrast, track and field races have the runner react to a starting gun, which takes approximately 0.24 second (based on FAT timing); further to this, IAAF rules state any runner with a reaction time of less than 0.1 second is subject to disqualification.

This aspect means that comparisons with track times are essentially impossible given that a reaction time is not factored in, and 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.[4]

For example, Jacoby Ford, who ran 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).[4]


In most settings, the 40-yard dash is conducted without fully automatic timing, where lasers are used at both the beginning and end of the race.[5] Instead, the 40-yard dash is most often hand-timed, leading to considerable measurement error. Many (in particular older) reports of times below 4.2 or 4.3 are considered suspect, such as Baylor's Gerald McNeil's 4.19-second 40-yard dash in the 1980s before being signed to the United States Football League (USFL),[6] or Deion Sanders' 4.27-second 40-yard dash in 1989.[7] More recent examples include rugby union's Carlin Isles time of 4.22 at a Detroit Lions facility during a 2013 workout,[8] and Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant being hand-timed by a New Orleans Saints scout at 4.1 in 2016.[9]

In 2017, Olympic sprinter Christian Coleman ran a time of 4.12 seconds on turf in response to claims that NFL players are as fast as Usain Bolt.[10] A year and a half after he retired from active competition, Usain Bolt ran a 4.22 in running shoes and a tracksuit at a promotional event for the Super Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia on February 2, 2019.[11]

NFL Scouting Combine

This is a list of the official 40-yard dash results of under 4.31 seconds recorded at the NFL Scouting combine since 1999, the first year electronic timing was implemented at the NFL Scouting Combine.[12][13]

Time Name Height Weight Position College Year Draft R
4.21 Xavier Worthy 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) 170 lb (77.1 kg; 12.1 st) Wide receiver Texas 2024 No. 28 overall by Kansas City Chiefs
4.22 John Ross 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) 190 lb (86.2 kg; 13.6 st) Wide receiver Washington 2017 No. 9 overall by Cincinnati Bengals [14]
4.23 Kalon Barnes 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) 183 lb (83.0 kg; 13.1 st) Cornerback Baylor 2022 No. 242 overall by Carolina Panthers
4.24 Rondel Menendez 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) 192 lb (87.1 kg; 13.7 st) Wide receiver Eastern Kentucky 1999 No. 247 overall by Atlanta Falcons
Chris Johnson 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) 192 lb (87.1 kg; 13.7 st) Running back East Carolina 2008 No. 24 overall by Tennessee Titans
4.26 Jerome Mathis 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) 184 lb (83.5 kg; 13.1 st) Wide receiver Hampton 2005 No. 114 overall by Houston Texans
Dri Archer 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) 173 lb (78.5 kg; 12.4 st) Running back Kent State 2014 No. 97 overall by Pittsburgh Steelers
Tariq Woolen 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) 205 lb (93.0 kg; 14.6 st) Cornerback UTSA 2022 No. 153 overall by Seattle Seahawks
D. J. Turner 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) 178 lb (80.7 kg; 12.7 st) Cornerback Michigan 2023 No. 60 overall by Cincinnati Bengals
4.27 Henry Ruggs III 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) 190 lb (86.2 kg; 13.6 st) Wide receiver Alabama 2020 No. 12 overall by Las Vegas Raiders
Stanford Routt 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) 193 lb (87.5 kg; 13.8 st) Cornerback Houston 2005 No. 38 overall by Oakland Raiders
Marquise Goodwin 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) 181 lb (82.1 kg; 12.9 st) Wide receiver Texas 2013 No. 78 overall by Buffalo Bills
4.28 Champ Bailey 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) 192 lb (87.1 kg; 13.7 st) Cornerback Georgia 1999 No. 7 overall by Washington Redskins
Jacoby Ford 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) 190 lb (86.2 kg; 13.6 st) Wide receiver Clemson 2010 No. 108 overall by Oakland Raiders
Jalen Myrick 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) 200 lb (90.7 kg; 14.3 st) Cornerback Minnesota 2017 No. 222 overall by Jacksonville Jaguars [15]
J. J. Nelson 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) 156 lb (70.8 kg; 11.1 st) Wide receiver UAB 2015 No. 159 overall by Arizona Cardinals [16]
DeMarcus Van Dyke 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) 187 lb (84.8 kg; 13.4 st) Cornerback Miami 2011 No. 81 overall by Oakland Raiders
Tyquan Thornton 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) 181 lb (82.1 kg; 12.9 st) Wide receiver Baylor 2022 No. 50 overall by New England Patriots
Nate Wiggins 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) 173 lb (78.5 kg; 12.4 st) Cornerback Clemson 2024 No. 30 overall by Baltimore Ravens
4.29 Fabian Washington 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) 188 lb (85.3 kg; 13.4 st) Cornerback Nebraska 2005 No. 23 overall by Oakland Raiders
Zedrick Woods 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) 205 lb (93.0 kg; 14.6 st) Safety Mississippi 2019 Undrafted [17]
Javelin Guidry 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) 191 lb (86.6 kg; 13.6 st) Cornerback Utah 2020 Undrafted
4.30 Darrent Williams 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) 176 lb (79.8 kg; 12.6 st) Cornerback Oklahoma State 2005 No. 56 overall by Denver Broncos
Tye Hill 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) 185 lb (83.9 kg; 13.2 st) Cornerback Clemson 2006 No. 15 overall by St. Louis Rams
Yamon Figurs 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) 174 lb (78.9 kg; 12.4 st) Wide receiver Kansas State 2007 No. 74 overall by Baltimore Ravens
Darrius Heyward-Bey 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) 210 lb (95.3 kg; 15.0 st) Wide receiver Maryland 2009 No. 7 overall by Oakland Raiders [18]
Jamel Dean 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) 206 lb (93.4 kg; 14.7 st) Cornerback Auburn 2019 No. 94 overall by Tampa Bay Buccaneers [19]
Jakorian Bennett 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) 188 lb (85.3 kg; 13.4 st) Cornerback Maryland 2023 No. 104 overall by Las Vegas Raiders

Average time by position

According to a five-year NFL combine report, wide receivers and cornerbacks had the fastest average times at 4.48, followed by running backs at 4.49. The following average times were measured between 2000 and 2012 at the NFL combine for players who played at least 5 games.[20]

Position Time
Wide receiver 4.48
Cornerback 4.48
Running back 4.49
Free safety 4.53
Strong safety 4.55
Outside linebacker 4.60
Tight end 4.70
Inside linebacker 4.76
Fullback 4.80
Defensive end 4.80
Quarterback 4.93
Defensive tackle 5.06
Center 5.30
Offensive tackle 5.32
Offensive guard 5.37


  1. ^ MacCambridge, Michael (2005). America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation (1st ed.). New York: Anchor Books. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-375-72506-7. Intent on building a fast team, [Paul Brown in the mid-1940s] began timing players in the 40-yard dash, rather than the 100, reasoning that the 40 was a more meaningful measure of true football speed: about the distance a player would cover on a punt.
  2. ^ "isbn:0345545141 - Google Search".
  3. ^ Davenport, Gary. "How Are 40-Yard Dash Times Recorded?".
  4. ^ a b 60 Metres - men - senior - indoor. IAAF. Retrieved on May 29, 2013.
  5. ^ "How Are 40-Yard Dash Times Recorded?". Bleacher Report. February 25, 2013.
  6. ^ Argovitz, Jerry; Miller, J. David (2013). "Chapter 40: A Better Mousetrap". Super Agent: The One Book the NFL and NCAA Don't Want You to Read. New York: Sports Publishing. ISBN 978-1613210680.
  7. ^ Hessler, Warner (April 23, 1989). "NFL General Managers Moan About Another Diluted Draft". Daily Press. Retrieved March 1, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Detroit Lions sign rugby player Carlin Isles to practice squad". Daily News. New York. December 26, 2013.
  9. ^ Haislop, Tadd (March 11, 2016). "Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant clocked at 4.10 in 40-yard dash". SportingNews. Archived from the original on April 20, 2016. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  10. ^ "Olympic sprinter shows up John Ross". USA Today. May 2017. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  11. ^ Clark, Nate (February 2, 2019). "Usain Bolt having fun at Super Bowl, 'ties' NFL Combine 40-yard dash record". NBC. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  12. ^ "Top Performers 2006-2011". July 16, 2011.
  13. ^ Cooney, Frank (March 1, 2011). "Officially, Van Dyke is combine's fastest player". USA Today.
  14. ^ "John Ross III runs 40-yard dash in record 4.22 seconds at NFL Combine". Sportsnet. March 4, 2017. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  15. ^ "Jalen Myrick Combine Profile". Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  16. ^ "NFL on Twitter". Twitter. February 21, 2015. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  17. ^ "NFL Events: Combine Top Performers 2019". Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  18. ^ "Darrius Heyward-Bey - WR - Maryland - 2009 NFL Combine Results". NFL Combine Results.
  19. ^ "NFL Events: Combine Top Performers 2019". Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  20. ^ Topher Doll (February 12, 2013). "Some Clarification is in Order: Average Speed by Position". Archived from the original on November 11, 2018. Retrieved November 11, 2018.

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40-yard dash
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