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Not So Fast

Photo courtesy of Maize n Brew.

A lot of stock goes into the 40-times at the NFL combine, but as history teaches with a look back at the fleetest of foot, this test has not assured success at the next level. Rumors have it that in 1986, Bo Jackson ran a hand-timed 4.12 and Deion Sanders ran a 4.19 in 1989. John Ross has the best ever recorded time at 4.22 in 2017.

Draft Nation glanced back to compare 40-times over the years to see which speed merchants made it, and which didn’t:

2000- CB-Antwan Harris- Virginia  (4.32)

Drafted in the 6th round- Pick 187- New England Patriots

He played 4 seasons, appearing in 52 games, had 52 tackles and 1 interception. He won 2 Super Bowls in New England.

2001- WR- Santana Moss- Miami  (4.31)

Drafted in the 1st round- Pick 16- New York Jets

Moss played in 14 seasons and finished with 732 receptions for 10,283 yards and 66 touchdowns. He played for both the Jets and Redskins during his stellar NFL career

2002- WR- Aaron Lockett- Kansas State (4.31)

Drafted in the 7th round- Pick 254- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lockett was released at the end of training camp and was signed to the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad. He never played in an NFL game. 

2003- CB- Kevin Garrett- SMU (4.32)

Drafted in the 5th round- Pick 172- St. Louis Rams

Garrett played in 24 games between the Rams and the Houston Texans and tallied 26 tackles in his 3 NFL seasons.

2004- WR- Carlos Francis- Texas Tech (4.33)

Drafted in the 4th round- Pick 99- Oakland Raiders

Francis played in 5 games in 2004 and was only used as a kick returner. He returned 14 kicks for 259 yards.

2005- CB- Stanford Routt- Houston (4.27)

Drafted in the 2nd round- Pick 38- Oakland Raiders

Routt had a solid 8-year career, playing in 117 games. He recorded 258 tackles and picked off 12 passes. He played for the Raiders, Chiefs and Texans during his career.

2006- CB- Tye Hill- Clemson  (4.30)

Drafted in the 1st round- Pick 15- St. Louis Rams

Hill’s career was cut short due to injuries. He played in 40 games total for the Rams, Falcons and Lions and had 121 tackles and 5 interceptions.

2007- WR- Yamon Figurs- Kansas State (4.30)

Drafted in the 3rd round- Pick 74- Baltimore Ravens

Figurs only played in 4 seasons and then departed for the Canadian Football League where he started 34 games, almost exclusively on special teams. He finished with 5 receptions for 103 yards as a receiver and returned 1 kickoff and 1 punt return for a touchdown.

2008- RB- Chris Johnson- East Carolina  (4.24)

Drafted in the 1st Round- Pick 24- Tennessee Titans

Johnson was the best back in football for several seasons, including running for 2,006 yards in 2009. He had 6 seasons of 1,000 or more yards but then injuries got the best of him. He finished with 9,651 yards and 55 touchdowns for the Titans, Jets and Cardinals.

2009- WR- Darrius Heyward-Bey- Maryland  (4.30)

Drafted in the 1st Round- Pick 7- Oakland Raiders

Heyward-Bey never became the #1 receiver that the Raiders thought he should, but he had a long 10-year career producing on primarily on special teams. His best season as a receiver was 2011, when he hauled in 64 passes for 975 yards and 4 touchdowns. His career totals were 202 receptions for 2,897 yards and 16 touchdowns.

2010- WR- Jacoby Ford- Clemson  (4.28)

Drafted in the 4th Round- Pick 108- Oakland Raiders

Ford only played 3 seasons in the NFL and caught 57 passes for 848 yards and 3 touchdowns, before moving to the CFL.

2011- DB- DeMarcus Van Dyke- Miami  (4.28)

Drafted in the 3rd Round- Pick 81- Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders draft the fastest player at the combine for the 3rd straight season and once again do not get much out of their “need for speed.” Van Dyke only played 1 season in Oakland before playing 2 with the Steelers. He played a total of 25 games and had 17 tackles and 1 interception. 

2012- CB- Josh Robinson- Mississippi State (4.33)

Drafted in the 3rd round- Pick 66- Minnesota Vikings

Robinson played in 93 games in the NFL for the Vikings, Buccaneers, Saints and Jaguars. He totaled 182 tackles and had 5 interceptions.

2013- WR- Marquise Goodwin- Texas  (4.24)

Drafted in the 3rd round- Pick 68- Buffalo Bills

Goodwin has battled injuries for a lot of career, especially early on, and has never become that deep ball threat that the Bills thought they would. In 2023, he is a Cleveland Brown and over his career, he has played 114 games and has 191 catches for 3,090 yards and 18 touchdowns.

2014- RB- Dri Archer- Kent State (4.26)

Drafted in the 3rd round- Pick 97- Pittsburgh Steelers

Dri Archer never panned out for the Steelers or in the NFL. He had 10 carries for 40 yards and returned 23 kicks. The Steelers waived him after two seasons, and he bounced around teams' practice squads for a couple of seasons. 

2015- WR- J.J. Nelson- UAB  (4.28)

Drafted in the 5th round- Pick 159- Arizona Cardinals

Nelson was a solid 4th receiver for the Cardinals in his first 3 seasons but was never able to put his speed to use. He finished his career playing in 58 games and hauled in 85 passes for 1,475 yards and 11 touchdowns. He played 4 seasons in Arizona and 1 in Oakland.

2016- RB- Keith Marshall- Georgia  (4.31)

Drafted in the 7th round- Pick 242- Washington Redskins

Marshall tore his patellar tendon in training camp and was waived by the Redskins. He never played a snap in the NFL.

2017- WR- John Ross- Washington  (4.22)

Drafted in the 1st round- Pick 9 - Cincinnati Bengals

Ross ran the fastest time in combine history and was supposed to be a receiver who could stretch defenses. Shoulder injuries hampered him from day one in Cincinnati. and he only played 37 games over 5 seasons. He grabbed 62 passes for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns and never got to do damage with his 4.22 speed. 

2018- CB- Denzel Ward- Ohio State (4.32)

Drafted in the 1st round- Pick 4- Cleveland Browns

Denzel Ward has proven to be well worth the 4th pick by the Cleveland Browns, becoming one of the better cornerbacks in football. In 6 seasons, he has played 79 games and has 273 tackles and 15 interceptions. 

2019- S- Zedrick Woods- Mississippi  (4.29)


Woods was the first guy since 2000 who was the fastest at the combine to not get selected. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but after the team’s minicamp, he retired before ever playing in a game.

2020- WR- Henry Ruggs III- Alabama  (4.27)

Drafted in the 1st round- Pick 12- Las Vegas Raiders

Ruggs showed potential in his first 1 ½ years in Las Vegas, but on November 2, 2021, he was released from the team. On the same day, he was involved in a drunk driving car crash, which killed the other driver.

2021- n/a  —No Combine

2022- CB- Kalon Barnes- Baylor  (4.23)

Drafted in the 7th round- pick 242- Carolina Panthers

Barnes has bounced around the league and has only seen action in 2 games on special teams in his career for the Minnesota Vikings in 2022. 

2023- CB- D.J. Turner II- Michigan (4.26)

Drafted in the 2nd round- pick 60- Cincinnati Bengals

Turner got better as the season went on in 2023. He played in all 17, starting 12 and finished with 50 tackles and 1 sack for the Bengals in his rookie season.

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