No drill at the NFL combine draws more eyes and hype than the 40-yard dash. A player can be the best at his position, but run a poor 40 and see himself slide in the draft. They say you can’t teach speed, and the NFL is the league that puts this on display each and every year. The best 40 times in history are a mixture of some of the greatest players to ever take the field and some guys with names you probably have never seen in your life. That is the 40-yard dash summed up. We often look at it too deeply and judge players on it more than anything else. Guys have had great careers after blazing through the 40, and some have also disappeared not long after. Furthemore, their have been players to run abysmal 40s, but go on to become superstars. Have you ever checked out Tom Brady’s combine tape? Do yourself a favor and look it up for a good laugh, but don’t laugh for too long because at the end of the day he has five rings.
The NFL did not start electronically timing the 40-yard dash until the 2000 combine to ensure that the times are precise. However, we cannot forget about all the guys before 2000 who deserve their recognition. So, this list will include both hand-recorded times on top of those electronically clocked after 2000. The hand-recorded times will be questioned obviously, but that is something we can debate forever as sports fans. Football is home to some of the fastest men on the planet and this list will help their legacies live on.
25 Trae Waynes, Tyvon Branch, Justin King, Jonathan Joseph, Aaron Lockett, Santana Moss, Keith Marshall - 4.31 Seconds
We start our list with the sluggish time of 4.31 compared to what is soon to come. There is a good mix of players who became stars here and also a couple that didn’t quite pan out. Jonathan Joseph is still holding down a corner spot on the Houston Texans and actually just resigned with the team. Santana Moss was once a dominant receiver with the Washington Redskins. Aaron Lockett and Keith Marshall were both 7th round picks, however, and have not done much.
24 Darrius Heyward-Bey, Yamon Figurs, Darrent Williams, Tye Hill - 4.30 Seconds
This next group doesn’t boast the same superstar names as the previous one does. Darrius Heyward-Bey is the biggest name here as he has had the longest career and is still playing today for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Figurs was drafted in the third round by the Baltimore ravens, but bounced around teams and eventually fell out of the league. Darrent Williams was drafted in the second round by the Denver Broncos, but was tragically killed after just 2 seasons. Tye Hill was a first round pick by the then St. Louis Rams and excelled early. However, he eventually battled injuries and fell off.
23 Fabian Washington, Trindon Holliday, Laveranues Coles, James Williams, Gaston Green, Jay Hinton - 4.29 Seconds
Laveranues Coles and Trindon Holliday highlight this group, but aren’t super big legends of the game.
Coles was a solid receiver for the New York Jets for some time and Holliday will mainly be known for his return duties.
However, Holliday was on the other side of the greatest hit by a kicker in NFL history when Pat McAfee brutalized him on the sideline after a long return. Gaston Green had one, 1,000-yard season for the Broncos, Washington played for five years and recorded 6 interceptions, and Hinton went undrafted in 1999.
22 Raghib Ismail, C.J. Spiller, Champ Bailey, Kevin Williams - 4.28 seconds
Our first Hall of Famer of the list. Well, not quite yet, but Champ Bailey will definitely find himself in Canton in due time. Bailey shutdown one side of the field for over a decade and ended his career with 52 interceptions. C.J. Spiller also has had a very good career. His is not on par with Bailey, but his name will not go forgotten. Ismail dominated college and was on his way to be drafted first overall, but instead decided to play in the CFL. Kevin Williams may not be remembered by many, but he won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys.
21 Jacoby Ford, James Jett, Darren McFadden, Devin Hester, Stanford Routt, Marquise Goodwin - 4.27 Seconds
If you haven’t realized the Oakland Raiders pattern yet, here is another one to add. Jacoby Ford was drafted by the Raiders in the fourth round in 2010. Mcfadden was also drafted by the Raiders in 2008 with the fourth pick overall. Mcfadden battled a plethora of injuries early in his career and never lived up to being a top 5 pick. Goodwin is a former Olympic long jumper, and current receiver on the San Francisco 49ers. Devin Hester is the probably the most known player here as he is arguably the greatest return man in NFL history.
20 Dri Archer - 4.26 Seconds
All eyes were on Archer at the 2014 combine because some thought he could possibly break Chris Johnson’s record of a 4.24 40-yard dash at the 2008 combine. Well, he came pretty damn close.
He earned himself a third round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers by posting such a blazing time.
However, he only spent two seasons with the team before he was released. He had stops with the Jets and Bills, but nothing big. He is currently not on an NFL roster.
19 Jerome Mathis - 4.25 Seconds
Mathis was a fourth round pick in 2005 by the Houston Texans. He was actually named to the Pro Bowl as a returner in his rookie year joining only Shawne Merriman of the Chargers and Lofa Tatupu as the only three rookies to make the Pro Bowl that year. Unfortunately, he fractured his foot in that game and missed extended time to begin the next season. After that injury his career took a tumble as he eventually found himself in the CFL.
18 Michael Vick - 4.25 Seconds
Is Michael Vick a Hall of Famer? Only time will tell. What we do know is that Vick was one of the most athletic, explosive quarterbacks the league has ever seen. How many times did he make defenses look silly running around in circles and escaping pressures? His speed was unreal and that correlated in the Madden football video game in 2004 where Vick was basically a cheat code. The game may never see another quarterback to do it like Vick did.
17 Randy Moss - 4.25 Seconds
Another Hall of Famer lands on our list of speedsters. Arguably the greatest receiver of all time, Randy Moss combined elite speed with size to make him an absolute nightmare for defensive backs.
How are you supposed to cover a guy who has over 5 inches on you and can run faster than you backwards on one foot?
You had to pray, and pray is what the league did for years while facing him. Moss was a once in a generation kind of talent.
16 Taylor Mays - 4.24 Seconds
What a disappointment Taylor Mays was. He dominated college football as a safety at USC by combing his blazing speed with hard hitting mentality. However, as the NFL quickly showed us, he couldn’t cover a lid on a Tupperware container. Mays’ game did not translate to the NFL at all after being selected in the second round by the 49ers in 2010. He found some more playing time on the Bengals the next season, but bounced around teams after that and is currently in the CFL.
15 Rondel Menendez - 4.24 Seconds
Menendez was drafted in the seventh round by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1999 draft. He burst on the scene with a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown in a preseason game against the Lions, but that is all there really is to say about his career. In the final preseason game of that season, he tore his meniscus and would then jump around a few different teams, but not finding anything serious. He ended up on a team in Europe which really says it all. If you’re playing a sport in Europe where you’re allowed to use your hands, chances are you’re not on a very big team.
14 Chris Johnson - 4.24 Seconds
Chris Johnson was at one point one of the most explosive and exciting running backs in the NFL.
The Tennessee Titans drafted him in the first round after he broke the 40-yard dash record at the 2008 combine. That record remained until 2017.
Johnson’s best year came in 2009 where he rushed for 2,006 yards and broke Marshall Faulk’s single season yards from scrimmage record with 2,509 earning him the nickname “CJ2K” and Offensive Player of the Year.
13 Willie Parker - 4.23 Seconds
Willie Parker is our first good story of the list. After going undrafted in 2004, he earned a spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers where he was a backup his rookie season. The next season however, Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley were both battling injuries so Parker got his chance to start and never looked back. He has been to two Pro Bowls, owns the longest run in a Super Bowl, and has two rings with the Steelers. The arrival of Rashard Mendenhall is what ultimately pushed Parker out of Pittsburgh. He retired in 2012 after a small stint with the Redskins.
12 Donte Stallworth - 4.22 Seconds
Stallworth played 10 season in the NFL after being drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the first round in 2002. Even though he has played 10 seasons, however, he has not proved to be a number one guy in any of those years. That is why he has played for five different teams. He never broke 1,000 yards receiving in a single season. He did come close in 2005 where he caught 70 balls for 945 yards and 7 touchdowns. He had 4,837 yards receiving in his career to go with 35 touchdowns.
11 John Ross - 4.22 Seconds
Similar to Dri Archer as we touched on earlier, everyone had their eyes glued to John Ross at the 2017 combine because there was a chance he would break Chris Johnson’s 40-yard dash record of 4.24 seconds. He went on to break the record by posting a 4.22.
That time got him drafted as the ninth overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals.
After one season, that is looking like it was a mistake by the Bengals. Ross touched the ball one time in his rookie season on a rushing play where he fumbled and never saw the field again.
10 Don Beebe - 4.21 Seconds
Have you seen videos of players celebrating too early and fumbling before they cross into the endzone or something similar? Well Beebe was part of of the most infamous situations like that in NFL History. While playing for the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII, Beebe chased down Leon Lett of the Dallas Cowboys and stripped the ball from his hand as he extended it to showboat a touchdown. The Bills were getting beaten badly, so the play wasn’t a game saver. But it did, however, prevent the Cowboys from scoring the most points ever in a Super Bowl so there’s that, right?
9 Kevin Curtis - 4.21 Seconds
Curtis was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the third round of the 2003 draft. In 2004, Curtis caught four passes for 107 yards in a playoff victory over the Seahawks. The Rams became the first team to win a playoff game with a losing record. The next week, Curtis caught seven passes for 128 yards and touchdown after burning DeAngelo Hall of the Atlanta Falcons. He had some huge games in his career, but eventually battled some nagging injuries that kept him off the field more than on.
8 Deion Sanders - 4.21 Seconds
We come to Mr. Primetime himself. Deion Sanders is legend of the NFL for both his fantastic play and his flashy style to pair with it.
His signature high-step into the endzones is something players still do today.
He won Defensive Player of the Year in 1994 and also won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.
While Sanders was definitely more successful in football, he was no slouch on the diamond as well. He also played professional baseball for the Yankees, Braves, Reds, and Giants. He even led the league in triples in 1992, which shows off just how fast he was. He famously said, “football is my wife and baseball is my mistress.”
7 Terrell Sinkfield - 4.19 Seconds
Sinkfield went undrafted in 2013 out of Northern Iowa. He has been of numerous NFL rosters along with some stops in the CFL. He is currently a cornerback for the New York Jets. this is probably the least known name on the list as he has not done much of anything in his NFL career. He does have 86 catches for 1,240 yards and 7 touchdowns in his CFL career. His speed is a great fit for the CFL's wider and longer field.
6 Joey Galloway - 4.18 Seconds
Galloway was the eighth overall pick in the 1995 draft by the Seattle Seahawks. He played 16 seasons for the Seahawks, Cowboys, Buccaneers, Patriots, Steelers, and Redskins.
He played his best ball while on the Redskins as he posted three straight 1,000 yard seasons in 2005-07.
After 2007, however, there was a huge dip in his numbers and they would never return. A foot injury caused him to miss time, but he still signed with the Patriots after the Buccaneers. He never saw much more production though.
5 Ahman Green, 4.17 Seconds
Ahman Green played 12 seasons in the NFL and is the all-time leading rusher in Green Bay Packers history. The Seahawks drafted Green in the third round of the 1998 draft, but after struggling to earn playing time behind Ricky Watters, he was traded to the Packers. Green is one of only two players to have two rushing touchdowns of over 90 yards (the other is also on this list). After leaving the Packers, Green joined the Houston Texans. His best years were behind him at that point.
4 Darrell Green - 4.15 Seconds
Green is arguably one of the best cornerbacks in NFL history and a Hall of Famer. He was a first round pick in the 1983 draft by the Washington Redskins where he would spend the rest of his 19-year career. He holds numerous records including most consecutive seasons with an interception with 19. He is also the all-time leader in interceptions for the Redskins with 54. His dash time of 4.15 was unofficial, and some even said he ran a 4.09 time at Washington's training camp in 1986. Green has said though, that his 4.15 time is the fastest he's aware of.
3 Alexander Wright - 4.14 Seconds
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Wright in the second round of the 1990 draft to add a speedster to compliment Emmitt Smith, who they drafted the same year in the first round. Things did not exactly end up as the Cowboys planned, however.
Wright never really developed into that consistent threat.
He is the epitome of an athletic freak who is unable to put it all together on the field. They would eventually trade him to the Los Angeles Raiders in 1992. He never had more than 460 yards receiving in a year.
2 Michael Bennett - 4.13 Seconds
Bennet was drafted in the first round of the 2001 draft by the Minnesota Vikings after attending Wisconsin University where he also excelled as a track sprinter. In 1997, he set records in both the 100 meter and 200 meter dashes as a junior. He followed that up in his senior year by breaking both of those records again. In his second year in the NFL he exploded for 1,296 yards rushing and five touchdowns, earning himself a trip to the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately, that was the peak of his career as injuries plagued the remainder.
1 Bo Jackson - 4.12 Seconds
I’m sure not many are surprised by who tops this list. Bo Jackson was one of the greatest athletes sports have ever seen. He is the only guy in history to be named an All-Star in both football and baseball. After winning the Heisman Trophy in 1985, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him first overall, but he refused to play for them. He instead entered the following draft and was selected in the seventh round by the Los Angeles Raiders.
He is the other player along with Ahman Green to have two rushing touchdowns of over 90 yards.
Unfortunately, we only got four years of Bo Jackson due to a serious hip injury he suffered in the 1990 playoffs that eventually forced him to retire. If that never happens, who knows what more we could be saying of Bo today.