On March 4th, 2017, John Ross from the University of Washington Huskies ran the fastest 40 yard dash time in the history of the NFL Combine. John Ross ran a blistering 4.22 40 yard dash, breaking Chris Johnson's record of 4.24. This is an eye-popping time to say the least! But this feat got me thinking: does great 40 yard dash times indicate NFL success?
According to NFL.COM, the top ten 40 yard dash times are: John Ross, Chris Johnson, Dri Archer, Jerome Mathis, Marquise Goodwin, Stanford Routt, Tyrone Calico, Jacoby Ford, Fabian Washington, and Darrius Heyward-Bey. The difference in these players range from John Ross's 4.22 to Heyward-Bey's 4.3. So no matter how you look at this top 10; these guys are super fast.
So, does being super fast mean you will have success in NFL? Not really. Out of that list of the ten fastest players, there has been only 4 Pro Bowls and two all-pro seasons between them; and those were by Chris Johnson and Jerome Mathis. Chris Johnson has been to three Pro Bowls and was a first team all-pro once. Jerome Mathis went to one Pro Bowl and was selected as an all-pro once. In conclusion, only two of the top ten fastest players to ever play in the NFL found Pro Bowl success.
For one week each year, the NFL puts NFL hopefuls through quantifiable drills to get a better understanding about the players' skills and where they should be drafted, if at all. These can all be helpful in projecting a player's success but they are clearly not determinative. Straight line speed is a great asset to have, but as you can see it does not lead to success in the NFL.
*It should be noted that Bo Jackson ran a 4.12 40 yard dash but that was with hand stopwatches and not the electronic timers that are used today.