In a couple weeks, tons of NFL hopefuls will descend upon Indianapolis to pursue their dreams of being a professional football player.  The NFL Combine has become an awesome spectacle and right now as you are reading this, football players are training to have the best combine possible.  

Now a lot of athletes will come to the Combine and not do anything.  They have their own “pro days” at their college in their comfortable surroundings.  But, if you happened to be invited to Indy, you better take advantage of it if you aren’t one of the big time prospects.

The crown jewel of the Combine is the 40 yard dash.  It isn’t the most practical skill for a football player, but it is the favorite to watch.  I recently wrote a post that I thought if you were a high school player and ran a slow 40, don’t even bother attending a college Combine.  The same could apply to a college prospect aiming for the pros.

But, how fast do you have to run a 40?

Obviously, it depends on position, but this is what I’m discussing in today’s post.  I’ve got some good data so let’s talk about what I came up with.

How I came up with my data

I’ve kept track of results of the last three NFL Combines to determine exactly how running the 40 yard dash affects your draft position.  What I did was record every athlete by position at the combine who ran the 40 yard dash at a 4.49 or faster time.

If there was a position that didn’t have those times (such as lineman), then I took the top 5 fastest times.  I also added athletes who scored in the top 5 in the other categories as well (broad jump, vertical jump, etc.).  Sometimes those athletes were the same, sometimes they were new athletes and I recorded all their times for their drills they performed.

After the draft, I marked down who was drafted and who wasn’t.  I then divided those groups and took their average 40 time.  So I have the average 40 time for the drafted players and non-drafted per position.  I’m going to discuss four different positions for the sake of time and let’s see if we can see any patterns.

A fast 40 doesn’t seem to be real pertinent for running backs

For my 3 year span (2010 – 2012), running backs that participated at the NFL Combine and were drafted that met my above criteria ran the 40 in a 4.52.  Non-drafted running backs ran a 4.57.

There seem to be some other factors when it comes to running backs because some of the backs that were drafted not only were awful in the 40, but had horrible times in the other drills.

In 2011, the non drafted RB’s were actually faster on average (4.47 to 4.51).

If you are a defensive end invited to the Combine, perform and you’re drafted

Defensive ends that were drafted ran a 4.80 in the 40.  If they weren’t drafted, they ran a 4.85 with 2010 being a year where the undrafted ends were faster than the drafted ones.

Here’s the interesting nugget.  If you were a defensive end that qualified for my list (see above), then you had an awesome chance of getting drafted.  For the three year span, I had 53 defensive ends in my list.  Only 9 of them didn’t get drafted (3 per year).

So, if you get invited to the combine as a defensive end, my advice would be to prep as hard as you can for the drills.  You get in the top 5 for any drill and run around a 4.80 you SHOULD be drafted.

Who cares if you can catch, run fast

For the three years that I studied wide receivers, speed seemed to be an awesome indicator of being drafted.  Drafted receivers ran a 4.46, while undrafted receivers ran a 4.53 in the 40.

If you have size as well, that would be a bonus.  Unless, you have some pre-hype or went to a big university, if you run slower than a 4.50, you better say your prayers because being drafted might not be in your future.

Cornerbacks also need to cover besides running fast

Cornerbacks need to be fast and nowadays if you have size that is nice too.  Primarily if you ran fast, you can be drafted.  Drafted cornerbacks ran a 4.47 40 yard dash while undrafted ones ran a 4.54.

Here are two interesting tidbits.  In 2010, the drafted and undrafted cornerbacks both ran a 4.47.  There were 15 drafted and 7 undrafted that year based on my criteria.  In 2011, every cornerback that qualified for my data got drafted (25).  Bottom line is run fast and if you can move your hips effectively you have a great shot of being drafted.

If you want to see data for other positions or the data for the other drills at the positions I mentioned, feel free to let me know in the comments box below.