NFL Combine 2012: Why 40-Yard Dash Times Are Overrated

Donald Wood@@Donald_WoodFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Cam Newton runs the 40-yard dash during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

There may be no more useless of a drill that can be done at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, or at any of the annual events, than the 40 yard dash. It’s as overrated as they come.

Ask a player how many times after he was drafted that he had to run the 40 yard dash. He will answer none.

That’s because while the idea of the test is the right one (gauging a players speed and acceleration), all the factors going into it and the fact that it doesn’t translate to the game make it obsolete.

Scouts should know if a kid has the kind of speed needed to be an elite wide receiver from the tape they watch, not the combine 40-time. Yet every year, scouts are sucked into this mess all over again.

Look at players like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin that ran sub-4.5’s at the combine and dropped in the draft because of it. Legends like Lynn Swann, Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith also fell in their respective drafts because the scouts weren’t high on the fact that they didn’t have that 40-yard dash speed.

It worked out pretty well for all of those players.

Since making 40-times official in 1999, the picture of whom the fastest players are in the draft has become clear.

With running backs, the smaller track stars always kill the 40 yard time while clunkier bruiser backs struggle. Wide receivers face the same fate. With track stars blowing the time out of the water, sure-handed stars like Fitzgerald and Boldin are docked points for not being as fast as the others.

That’s not a good grading tool.

I understand that this is a generic test that can just separate the players with the elite speed from the rest of the pack, but many scouts put far too much stock into this. Just ask the Oakland Raiders how important this drill is.

Looking at film should be the first thing scouts study, then the player’s pro day and finally the combine results. Putting too much stock in the 40-yard time is destined to end in failure.

Check back for more on the National Football League as it comes, and check out Bleacher Report’s NFL Page to get your fill of all things football.


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