40-yard dash

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The 40-yard dash is a sprint covering 40 yards (36.58 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. 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, he 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. 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.

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).


It has been said consistently that Darrell Green recorded a time of 4.09 at the Washington Redskins' training camp in 1986. Bo Jackson claimed to have run a 40-yard dash with a time of 4.13 s, and there were also reports of Jackson running a 4.12 at the 1986 combine.[dubious ] Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant was hand-timed by a New Orleans Saints scout as running a 4.10 in 2016, potentially beating Jackson's time. In the early 1980s, Baylor's Gerald McNeil ran a 4.19-second 40-yard dash before being signed to the United States Football League (USFL). Deion Sanders ran a 4.27-second 40-yard dash in 1989.

In 2013, rugby union Carlin Isles recorded a time of 4.22 at a Detroit Lions facility during a workout.

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.

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.

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.

Time Name Height Weight Position College Year Draft R
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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

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.

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