Ahead of the NFL Draft, beginning on April 28, fans are excitedly looking over the capabilities of the incoming players and hoping that their team will select those who can make a positive impact.
It can be difficult to evaluate which college football players will be successful at the NFL level, so teams often look for the most physically gifted players in the hopes that their athleticism can translate into success. (These are the most valuable college football teams.)
One of the most important traits teams look for is speed. Offensive players who can outrun their opponents – and defenders who can keep up with anyone on the field – are always in high demand.
To determine the fastest NFL players of the century, 24/7 Tempo reviewed 40-yard dash results from the NFL combine since 2000 from Pro Football Reference. Only players who have played in the NFL or are part of the 2022 NFL Draft, were considered.
The fastest players on the football field almost always play one of two positions – cornerback or wide receiver. Speedy receivers are coveted for their ability to run past defensive backs for deep passes, and fast corners are essential to keep up with those receivers.
Only one prospect who didn’t play receiver or corner has run a 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds or less in the last two decades – running back Chris Johnson. The speedy back is one of just eight players to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season. He is also the most recent, amassing 2,006 yards in 2009 with the Tennessee Titans (which is, nonetheless, one of the 12 NFL teams that have never won a Super Bowl.)
Running well at the combine often causes players to shoot up draft boards. Of the 16 players who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 or fewer seconds in years past, 11 were drafted in the first three rounds. The three prospects who ran sub-4.3 40-yard dashes in 2022 could be drafted highly as well.