Does Running A Fast 40 Yard Dash Correlate With NFL Success? | STACK

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Does Running a Fast 40-Yard Dash Correlate With NFL Success?

September 12, 2012

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(Photo via Austin American-Statesman)

The 40-Yard Dash has become the must-see event at the NFL Combine. It showcases the awesome speed of the nation's top college talent for drooling NFL scouts, coaches and fans. An eye-popping 40 time can take a projected top 20 pick into the top 10, and an underwhelming 40 can send a draft pick's stock plummeting.

But should we put so much stock in the 40? Does a blazing fast time even correlate with success in the NFL? To find out, STACK examined the five players with the fastest 40 times since 1999, when the NFL started recording times electronically, and the top five fastest 40 players of all time. After reading the list, check out STACK's guide to improving your own 40-Yard Dash time.

Top Five 40 Times Since 1999

5. Jerome Mathis (WR) – 4.28 (2005)

Mathis was taken 114th overall by the Houston Texans back in 2005, and his NFL career was short-lived. The wide receiver struggled to see the field in his natural position, but he excelled as a kick returner, getting selected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Injuries kept Mathis from rising up the ranks as a Texan, and he and the team parted ways after the 2007 season. From there, Mathis has bounced around from the Washington Redskins to the Canadian and Arena Football Leagues, most recently signing with the AFL's Pittsburgh Power.

Jerome Mathis

(Photo via Houston Chronicle)

4. Champ Bailey (CB) – 4.28 (1999)

Widely regarded as one of the best cornerbacks to ever play the game, Champ Bailey has more than lived up to his incredibly fast 40 time. After being taken seventh overall in the 1999 Draft by the Washington Redskins, Bailey got traded to the Broncos in 2004. He now leads the Broncos in all-time interceptions and has been selected to the Pro Bowl eleven times. He is the quintessential “shut down corner.”

Champ Bailey

(Photo via BroncoTalk)

3. DeMarcus Van Dyke (DB) – 4.28 (2011)

The jury is obviously still out on Van Dyke, since the 2011 Raiders draft pick has played just one season, but he did not get off to a strong start. Van Dyke didn’t see the field much for Oakland in 2011, starting just four games and registering only 13 tackles on one of the worst defenses in the league.

DeMarcus Van Dyke

2. Roland Melendez (WR) – 4.24 (1999)

We won’t blame you if you’ve never heard of Melendez. Not many people have. He doesn’t have a Wikipedia page or seemingly any record of what he did after being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons (we will assume that means he did nothing). But the wide receiver out of Eastern Kentucky held the record for the fastest 40 time in the electronic timing era for nine years, until Chris Johnson came along and tied it in 2008. If only we knew what Melendez was doing now…

1. Chris Johnson (RB) – 4.24 (2008)

Chris Johnson left a lot of people scratching their heads last year after he scored just four touchdowns and rushed for a hair above 1,000 yards. He was two years removed from becoming just the sixth player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season and scampering into the endzone 14 times. Titans fans hope 2011 was just a blip in an otherwise extremely promising career for the young running back.

Chris Johnson

(Photo via Helmet2Helmet)

Top 5 40 Times Ever

5. Joey Galloway (WR) – 4.18 (1995)

The Ohio State product and 17-year veteran had a long and successful career, piling up 1,000-yard receiving campaigns multiple years for multiple teams. Galloway’s best year came in 2005 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he racked up 1,287 yards receiving and grabbed 10 touchdowns.

Joey Galloway

(Photo via Sportsocracy)

4. Ahman Green (RB) – 4.17 (1998)

Green had an illustrious 12-year career in the NFL, his best season coming in 2003, when he rushed for 1,883 yards and 15 touchdowns. When his career was all said and done, the Nebraska graduate had compiled over 9,000 yards, giving him an impressive 4.5 yards per carry average for his entire career.

Ahman Green

(Photo via The Score)

3. Darrell Green (DB) – 4.15 (1983)

A seven-time Pro Bowler and recent Hall-of-Fame inductee, Darrell Green finished his career as a lifetime Washington Redskin with 54 interceptions. He joins Champ Bailey as one of the great all-time cornerbacks in the NFL.

Darrell Green

(Photo via

2. Alexander Wright (WR) – 4.14 (1990)

Although Wright won the NFL’s “Fastest Man” competition twice early in his career, his on-field performance never matched the hype that came from his speed. His best year came in 1993 as a member of the Los Angeles Raiders, when he compiled a modest 462 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Wright played just seven seasons in the NFL before retiring in 1996.

1. Bo Jackson (RB) – 4.12 (1987)

The man who ran the fastest 40 time ever recorded at the NFL Combine played just four seasons in the NFL, as his love of baseball (and a serious hip injury) kept the former Auburn Tiger from playing longer. Jackson never played a full season during his brief career, but his best season came in 1989 when he ran for 950 yards in just 11 games.

Bo Jackson

(Photo via Guyism)

So, does a fast 40 time at the NFL Combine correlate with success in the NFL? Not necessarily. While there are certainly guys on this list who became superstars (Champ Bailey, Darrell Green, Chris Johnson), a handful have fallen into relative obscurity, and one of them didn't even play a down in the NFL (Roland Melendez). Some scouts will continue to foam at the mouth for players who finish their 40 before you can blink, but the 40-Yard Dash's importance seems to have been greatly exaggerated.

Jordan Zirm
- Jordan Zirm is an Assistant Content Director for STACK Media. After earning his BS in Journalism from the University of Missouri, he spent time writing...
Jordan Zirm
- Jordan Zirm is an Assistant Content Director for STACK Media. After earning his BS in Journalism from the University of Missouri, he spent time writing...
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