The Top 25 Fastest Players in NFL History

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IApril 16, 2011

The Top 25 Fastest Players in NFL History

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    There has always been a "need for speed" in the NFL.

    Finding fast players to put on the field is, in some ways, as important as selecting players of size and strength.

    This is true particularly at the skill positions. If you don't have guys who have the ability to pull away from defenders, you may have trouble putting points on the board.

    The following is a list of the 25 fastest NFL players of all time.

    These are individuals who could chase you down or leave you in the dust.

    They might not all end up in the Hall of Fame, but they sure are able to fly.

25. DeSean Jackson

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    Position: Wide Receiver

    NFL Team:

    Philadelphia Eagles (2008–present)


    DeSean Jackson has become one of the most dangerous receivers and return specialists in the NFL.

    He has been selected twice to the Pro Bowl in his first three years in the league.

    He already has over 3,100 receiving yards and has scored 17 TDs. 

    Jackson ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at the 2008 NFL Combine.

24. Mike Wallace

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    Position: Wide Receiver

    NFL Team:

    Pittsburgh Steelers (2009–present)


    Mike Wallace came into the league ready to produce. He finished his rookie season leading the entire league in average per reception with 19.4 yards.

    This past year, he had a standout second season with the Steelers, establishing himself as one of the NFL's elite wideouts with 1,257 yards receiving (third most in the AFC) and 10 touchdowns.

    At the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine, Wallace finished second overall in the 40-yard dash with an official 4.33-second time.


23. Darrius Heyward-Bey

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    Position: Wide Receiver

    NFL Team: Oakland Raiders (2009-present)


    Because of a great combination of size and speed, Heyward-Bey was selected by the Oakland Raiders as the seventh overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, ahead of other standout receivers Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin.

    Heyward-Bey has a total of 35 career receptions for 490 yards and 3 TDs.

    He ran a 4.3 40-yard dash at the 2009 NFL Combine.

22. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

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    Position: Cornerback

    NFL Team:

    Arizona Cardinals (2008-present)


    Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has made an immediate impact in the NFL, already being known as being one of the best shut-down corners.

    In his three seasons with the Cardinals, he has recorded 136 tackles and intercepted 13 passes, taking four of those picks back to the house.

    At the 2008 NFL Combine, Rodgers-Cromartie ran a 4.29 40-yard dash, helping him become a first round draft pick.



21. Champ Bailey

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    Position: Cornerback

    NFL Teams:

    Washington Redskins (1999–2003)

    Denver Broncos (2004–present)


    Bailey is considered to be one of the league's best lock-down defenders in the last decade.

    A ten-time Pro-Bowl selection (NFL record for CBs), Bailey has recorded 793 tackles, 48 interceptions, and 3 sacks.

    Bailey ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at the 1999 NFL Combine. 


20. Joey Galloway

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    Position: Wide Receiver

    NFL Teams:

    Seattle Seahawks (1995–1999)

    Dallas Cowboys (2000–2003)

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2004–2008)

    New England Patriots (2009)

    Pittsburgh Steelers (2009)

    Washington Redskins (2010)


    Joey Galloway has had a fantastic NFL career, stacking up nearly 11,000 receiving yards and pulling in 77 receiving TDs.

    Galloway always has been able to utilize his exceptional speed and quickness to get open and beat defenders. 

19. Jerome Mathis

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    Position: Wide Receiver

    NFL Teams:

    Houston Texans (2005-2007)

    Washington Redskins (2008)


    In his short NFL career, Mathis made a name for himself as a dangerous kick returner, averaging 28.5 yards per return and scoring 3 TDs.

    Mathis ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at the 2005 NFL combine.

18. Dante Hall

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    Position: Wide receiver / Return specialist

    NFL Teams:

    Kansas City Chiefs (2000-2006)

    St. Louis Rams (2007-2008)


    One of Dante Hall's nicknames said it all: The Human Torch...Watch out! He'll burn you!

    Hall was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team with 12,397 total return yards, 1,747 receiving yards and 21 TDs (12 Returns and 9 Receiving).



17. Devin Hester

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    Position: Wide receiver / Return specialist

    NFL Team: Chicago Bears (2006- Present)


    Hester is a three-time Pro Bowl selection (2006, 2007, and 2010) as one of the most-feared return specialists in the game.

    In his first season with da Bears, Hester recorded six return touchdowns, including a punt return in his NFL debut, and a then-record tying 108-yard touchdown from a missed field goal against the New York Giants

    Hester ran a 4.26 40 at the 2006 NFL Combine.

16. Jacoby Ford

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    Position: Wide Receiver

    NFL Team:

    Oakland Raiders (2010-present)


    Jacoby Ford is a long and detailed resume as a track athlete. Now, he is starting to build one in pro football.

    In his first season in the NFL, Jacoby Ford already holds the Raiders record for the most kickoff returns for a touchdown in a season at 3.

    At the 2010 NFL Combine, Ford recorded a 4.26 40-yard dash, the fastest of the 2010 class.

15. Fabian Washington

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    Position: Cornerback

    NFL Teams:

    Oakland Raiders (2005–2007)

    Baltimore Ravens (2008–present)


    Washington was drafted by the Oakland Raiders with the 23rd overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft after his draft stock rose after rocketing to the fastest 40-yard dash at the 2005 NFL Combine with a time of 4.25 seconds

    In his six years in the league, Washington has recorded 222 tackles and 6 passes.

14. Ron Brown

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    Position: Wide Receiver

    NFL Teams:

    L.A. Rams (1984-1989)

    L.A. Raiders (1990)

    L.A. Rams (1991)


    Brown was a gold medal winner, running the second leg on the U.S. world record-breaking 4x100 Relay in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

    He also placed fourth in the 100 Meter Dash at the same Olympics.

    In his NFL career, Brown caught 98 passes for 1,791 yards and 13 TDs.

13. Stanford Routt

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    Position: Cornerback

    NFL Team:

    Oakland Raiders (2005-present)


    Stanford Routt may not be a household name but he has become one of the top DBs in the NFL.

    This past season, Routt had the 2nd lowest completion percentage in the NFL among all corners behind Darrelle Revis.

    For his career, Routt has 188 tackles, 35 pass deflections, six interceptions, and 1 interceptions returned for a TD.

    At the 2005 NFL Combine, Routt was recorded as having the fastest 40 yard dash with a time of 4.25 seconds.

12. Randy Moss

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    Position: Wide Receiver

    NFL Teams:

    Minnesota Vikings (1998–2004)

    Oakland Raiders (2005–2006)

    New England Patriots (2007–2010)

    Minnesota Vikings (2010)

    Tennessee Titans (2010–present)


    Randy Moss has been one of the most prolific receivers in NFL History.

    He has the NFL record for most TDs receptions in a season (23, 2007), most TD receptions by a rookie in a season (17, 1998), Most seasons with 17 or more TD receptions (3) and many, many more.

    He is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.

    At the 1998 NFL Combine, Moss ran a 4.25 40-yard dash. Even many years later, Moss still has extraordinary speed and burst.

11. Michael Vick

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    Position: Quarterback

    NFL Teams:

    Atlanta Falcons (2001–2006)

    Philadelphia Eagles (2009–present)


    No other NFL Quarterback has ever had the speed of Michael Vick.

    Though he has learned the position and become more of a standard QB, Vick still makes a lot of plays with his feet and speed.

    Over his career he has rushed for over 4,600 yards and scored 32 rushing TDs.

    He is the only QB in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 in a season.

    At the 2001 NFL Combine, Vick ran a 4.25 40-yard dash 





10. Chris Johnson

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    Position: Running Back

    NFL Team:

    Tennessee Titans (2008–present)


    Chris Johnson has become one of the league's premier players, and a Pro Bowl starter in his first three seasons.

    Johnson set the NFL record for 2,509 scrimmage yards in a season (2009).

    He was named the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2009)

    Johnson ran a 4.24 40-yard dash at the 2008 NFL Combine.

9. Trindon Holliday

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    Position: Wide Receiver

    NFL Teams:

    Houston Texans (2010–present)


    During the 2010 NFL Combine, ESPN reported that he ran a 4.22. However, said he did not, listing Holliday's times at 4.27 and 4.32.

    Either way, Holliday is a burner.

    While in college at LSU, Holliday ran the 100-meter dash at the 2007 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, where he recorded 10.07 seconds in the final – ahead of world-class sprinter Walter Dix and second only to Tyson Gay.


8. Cliff Branch

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    Position: Wide Receiver

    NFL Team:

    Oakland / Los Angeles Raiders (1972-1985)


    Long before the NFL Combine existed, NFL Scouts knew that Cliff Branch was fast...very fast.

    The four-time Pro Bowler used his instant acceleration to run by defenders and would-be tacklers.

    For his career, Branch pulled in over 8,600 yards of reception yards and scored 67 TDs.

7. Willie Gault

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    Position: Wide Receiver

    NFL Teams:

    Chicago Bears (1983-1987)

    Los Angeles Raiders (1988-1993)


    Gault was a 110 meter hurdler and a member of a world record-setting 4 x 100 meter relay team, who would have gone to the 1980 Summer Olympics if the United States had not boycotted the event.

    Gault, a member of the Chicago Bears Super Bowl XX Championship team, finished his 11 NFL seasons with 333 receptions for 6,635 yards.

    He also returned 9 punts for 60 yards, rushed for 154 yards, returned 45 kickoffs for 1,088 yards, and scored 45 touchdowns (44 receiving and 1 kickoff return).


6. Renaldo Nehemiah

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    Position: Wide Receiver

    NFL Team:

    San Francisco 49ers (1982-1984)


    Renaldo Nehemiah was the world record holder and the first man to run the high hurdles in under 13 seconds. He was ranked number one in the world for four straight years.

    He worked out for several NFL teams before decided to play for the 49ers.

    During his three years as a wide receiver he caught 43 passes for 754 yards, a 17.5 average, and 4 touchdowns.

5. Ike Taylor

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    Position: Cornerback

    NFL Team:

    Pittsburgh Steelers (2003–present)


    Ike Taylor took a unique path to get to the NFL.

    Taylor walked on at University of Louisiana-Lafayette, but was academically ineligible his first two years.

    For his first year playing in college, he was a running back. Before his senior season, Taylor asked to be moved to cornerback. He started the season at the right cornerback spot and recorded 46 tackles, eight passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

    He was not invited to the NFL Combine, but he allegedly ran an unofficial, hand-timed 4.18 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

    With that, the Steelers drafted him, and Taylor has never looked back since, playing on both of the XL and XLIII Super Bowl Championship teams.



4. Deion Sanders

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    Position: Cornerback

    NFL Teams: 

    Atlanta Falcons (1989–1993)

    San Francisco 49ers (1994)

    Dallas Cowboys (1995–1999)

    Washington Redskins (2000)

    Baltimore Ravens (2004–2005)


    Deion Sanders was one of the most electric players in NFL history.

    Sanders ran a 4.21 40-yard dash at the 1989 NFL combine

    During his career, Sanders intercepted 53 passes for 1,331 yards (a 25.1 yards per return average), recovered four fumbles for 15 yards, returned 155 kickoffs for 3,523 yards, gained 2,199 yards on 212 punt returns, and caught 60 passes for 784 yards.

    Sanders amassed 7,838 all-purpose yards and scored 22 touchdowns: nine interception returns, six punt returns, three kickoff returns, three receiving, and one fumble recovery.

    His 19 defensive and return touchdowns are an NFL record.

    He was selected to eight Pro Bowls in 1991--1994, 1996–1999. He was also awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1994.

3. Darrell Green

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    Position: Cornerback

    NFL Team:

    Washington Redskins


    Darrell Green was one of the most incredible athletes to play in the NFL.

    Not only was he good for the first several years of his career, he continued to play at the highest level into his forties at a position that few make it into their mid-thirties.

    Green reportedly recorded a time of 4.09 at the Washington Redskins’ training camp in 1986. 

    Green ran down from significant distances many of the fastest running backs and receivers to play in the NFL.

    Green has said in interviews that the fastest time he has ever been aware of running is 4.15.


2. Bo Jackson

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    Position: Running Back

    NFL Team:

    Los Angeles Raiders (1987–1990)


    Bo Jackson was one of the most amazing athletes of our time.

    He not only played in the NFL, but he also played major league baseball too.

    At 6'1" 227 lbs, Jackson was an unreal physical specimen.

    He ran a blistering 4.12 seconds (hand-timed) 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine, which is still the fastest verifiable 40-yard dash time ever recorded at any NFL Combine.

    In his four seasons in the NFL, Jackson rushed for 2,782 yards (2,544 m) and 16 touchdowns with an average yards per carry of 5.4

1. Bob Hayes

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    Position: Wide Receiver

    NFL Team:

    Dallas Cowboys (1965-1974)

    San Francisco 49ers (1975)


    Bob Hayes is the fastest player in NFL history.

    At the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Hayes won the 100 meter and broke the existing World Record with a time of 10.06 seconds.

    He also won a second gold medal in the 4 x 100 meter relay, which also produced a new World Record (39.06 seconds).

    Hayes was a three-time Pro Bowler and was inducted in 2009 in the Football Hall of Fame.