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The 40-yard dash circus needs to stop

40-yard dash
Dec 19, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) drops back to pass against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The 40-yard dash circus needs to stop

A highlight of every NFL draft season is the 40-yard dash. This is the most ridiculous drill for assessing a football player’s ability. In 2021, without a combine or a standard way of measuring results, the 40-yard dash has become a joke.

This week alone, LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, and Florida tight end Kyle Pitts all supposedly clocked in 40-yard dash times under 4.45. What are we supposed to do with this information? How often will Justin Fields be asked to run 40 yards in a straight line? Should his draft stock skyrocket? Does this make him a better prospect than Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson?

The answer to all of those questions is nothing, rarely, no, and no. The only thing that this drill accomplishes is fooling teams into making bad decisions on draft day. Here is a list of the fastest 40-yard dash recorded times:

Fastest 40-yard dash recorded times

  • 4.22 seconds: John Ross, WR (2017)
  • 4.24 seconds: Chris Johnson, RB (2008)
  • 4.24 seconds: Rondel Menedez, WR (1999)
  • 4.26 seconds: Dri Archer, RB (2014)
  • 4.26 seconds: Jerome Mathis, WR (2005)
  • 4.27 seconds: Marquise Goodwin, WR (2013)
  • 4.27 seconds: Stanford Routt, CB (2005)
  • 4.27 seconds: Henry Ruggs III, WR (2020)
  • 4.28 seconds: Champ Bailey, CB (1999)
  • 4.28 seconds: Jacoby Ford, WR (2010)
  • 4.28 seconds: Jalen Myrick, CB (2017)
  • 4.28 seconds: J.J. Nelson, WR (2015)
  • 4.28 seconds: Demarcus Van Dyke, DB (2011)
  • 4.29 seconds: Fabian Washington, CB (2005)
  • 4.30 seconds: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR (2009)
  • 4.30 seconds: Yamon Figurs, WR (2007)
  • 4.30 seconds: Tye Hill, CB (2006)
  • 4.30 seconds: Darrent Williams CB (2005)

I may be wrong, but other than Chris Johnson and Champ Bailey, none of those names stand out to me. In fact, if you gave me a list of players who were over-drafted, I would not be surprised if it looked similar to this.

This drill hurts players as much as it hurts teams by prioritizing straight-line speed over skill. If war rooms throughout the league are focusing on 40-yard dash times in their evaluations, then I fully expect to see these same teams picking at the top of the draft next year.

SHOP!

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