Twitter discussion on player speed

Submitted by NorthSideBlueFan on July 20th, 2011 at 11:50 AM

Andy Staples posted the following response link to a report that a San Diego area player ran a 4.28. I know 40 times are kind of ridiculous any more, but this article from 2005 really brings it into context just how ridiculous these times are. The piece actually breaks down Roid Aided Ben Johnson's World Record 100m from the Olympics.

Timing officials have since broken down that famed race into 10-meter increments, and Johnson was so preposterously fast that he went through 50 meters in 5.52 seconds and 60 meters in 6.37 – both under the current world records at those distances. He went through 40 yards that day in 4.38 seconds.

So when we see these ridiculous low times that kids run these days they are just that RIDICULOUS! (Well except for anything Denard does, of course!)



July 20th, 2011 at 11:57 AM ^

Let's take 2 players, the 1st one runs a  4.4 40 - call him the burner WR, and the second one runs a "slow" 4.6 - call him an average corner

40Yrds/4.4 = 9.1 Yrds/Sec Average

40Yrds/4.6 = 8.695 Yrds/Sec Average

Let's say they run together for 1 second up the sideline on a go route:

So there's a difference between them of only a foot and a half - I dunno how long your arms are, but I can reach that far

Thats assuming no cushion and some other stuff, but come on.

When we debate 4.35 vs. 4.39 it's even more ridiculous


July 20th, 2011 at 12:08 PM ^

A foot and a half matters a great deal. You analyze this as if they are standing still at full speed, as if this a series of points in space. If one guy can extend his arms, the guy in front can also, he can lean, hell he can dive. All you need is one guy with the ability to get in front of another guy and a properly placed pass. A little more speed makes all the difference in terms of straight line running. 


July 20th, 2011 at 12:09 PM ^

Although I agree with your overall sentiment, when you take into account the QB taking a few seconds in the pocket and a few seconds while the ball is in the air, you're looking at closer to 7.5 feet between them, making that guy wide open with a decently thrown ball.

I agree that a cushion or a bump on the line can make up for this, but that much speed can make a difference.

NYC Blue

July 20th, 2011 at 12:16 PM ^

I agree and would add 2 things:

1. Perfect example- the 75 yard post to Roundtree in the Illinois game- take a look at the UFR post (and video clip)- it is roughly 6 seconds from snap to catch- that is 3 yards different- quite significant


2. Don't forget after the catch it pays to be faster than the coverage- Roundtree was caught from behind and did not score on that play


So speed does matter- and I think 4.40 vs 4.60 is pretty significant.


As for other points about 4.35 v 4.39 and the inaccuracy of the measurement- I totally agree.


July 20th, 2011 at 5:11 PM ^

Obviously the math shows that if 40 times are universally cheated by the same amount, then a fifth of a second matters. But I believe part of the point the OP brings up is that a group of players reporting times of 4.35, 4.4, and 4.5 may very well all have ran 4.6, and analyzing 40 times that did not at least come from the same camp/combine (which still does not guarantee comparability) is a totally useless exercise.


July 20th, 2011 at 12:16 PM ^

I agree somewhat that it's ridiculous that we overanalyze 40 times, but on certain routes (especially go routes) you are simplifying things.


First of all, it's not usually 1 second but more like 3-4 seconds. Which, by your math, is 4.5 to 6 feet (or, in Division 1 football terms, INCREDIBLY WIDE OPEN).

Secondly, even if we are only looking at a foot and a half worth of difference, the idea is that an accurate quarterback can throw into that foot and a half window where a receiver's outstretched arms will reach the ball and the defensive back's outstretched arms wont (you make the point that a DB's outstretched arms will easily cover the 1.5 foot difference between him and the WR, but you fail to consider that if the WR is stretching his arms away from the DB, then the DB would need arms 1.5 feet longer than the WR's arms to cover the gap which is essentially impossible).


July 20th, 2011 at 5:17 PM ^

Isn't the 40 meant to be a decent compromise for acceleration ("quickness") and speed? That is, it's short enough that initial burst makes a substantial impact but long enough that a player has a good 15-25 yards of top-end speed to show? And more importantly, it's a medium-to-just-over-medium distance for typical movement in a play (counting lateral distance, obvs)?

El Demonio

July 20th, 2011 at 12:05 PM ^

The deadliest guys are those with the combination of speed and quickness.  If the speed guy is great in a straightline but can't come off a cut as fast as someone slightly slower, give me the quick guy everytime.  The long ball potential is amongst the most overrated "qualities" in football.


July 20th, 2011 at 1:55 PM ^

and so would nearly all coaching theory. Preventing the big play is where most defensive philosophies begin. A deep ball is the ultimate expression of that in the passing game.

Cover 1, Cover 2, and Cover 3 are all descriptions of how many people are kept back to cover the deep field. Cover 0 is almost never used, and Cover 1 is rare. Neither would be the case if the deep ball weren't one of the greatest defensive risks in football.

Having a quality receiver running deep with single coverage most often ends badly for the defense. So much so that DC's devise a good portion of their gameplans around it, and OC's set up runs, fakes, and misdirections to find it.


July 20th, 2011 at 12:57 PM ^

Not to mention that these guys are starting from a more explosive position. How you break out of the starting position determines a lot regarding how fast you run the 40. It is more efficient and quicker than starting from standing upright. It is quite easy to train for 40 yard dash times and improving your break from your stance can probably be the easiest way to improve your time. Nonetheless, no football player is ever going to be able to start from the same position. It is great a guy has a fast 40, but it isn't exactly a perfect measure of speed depending on how you define speed. Also, it doesn't say anything about the speed translating to one's field of play.

Here is wikipedia's page on 40 yard dash: It says the gun in track events counts for .24 seconds versus being laser timed at the moment you start moving. Don't know if that means we can subtract that from Ben Johnsons 40 time, but 40s and 100 meters are very different races in which athletes have very different training methods.

Additionally, many more things factor into speed. Quickness, felxibility, and agility can augment your speed. They allow you to change direction and make better/longer strides. Endurance is also key to speed. A 40 yard time is speed in a vaccum. It doesn't necessarily translate.

Also, as Jim mentions, defenders, pads, and pressure also change the elements. And if we are considering the above example of the defender and receiver, it would seem everyone is assuming the corner is lining up next to the receiver. Usually the corner is anywhere from 1-10 yards off the line of scrimage, depending on if GERG is calling plays. If the corner has 5 yards of space on a receiver that is 15 feet. Obviously, then it isn't speed that is the true concern, but how well the corner can turn his hips and accelerate up the field.

In conclusion, 40's seem very overrated. Although, Al Davis would disagree: he has drafted 5 of the top 15 40 times in the draft. No other team has drafted more than 1 and 1 player didn't get drafted. Worked out well for the Raiders.


July 20th, 2011 at 12:12 PM ^


 Intresting break down, and I don't think too many people would ever disagree that football players are without question some of the world fastest.


 That being said, there is a DRASTIC sprinting difference between a 100m dash and a 40 yard dash.   Comparing the two is just going to give misleading results.


July 20th, 2011 at 4:30 PM ^

What is the "drastic difference"?  I was never that serious about competitive track but from what I know both races involve getting up to full speed as fast as possible and staying at full speed the whole time.


July 20th, 2011 at 12:24 PM ^

One HUGE difference to keep in mind between 40 times and any track time is that 40 times are measured from first movement, rather than the runner reacting to the gun, as is the case in track.  That can accoutn for at least some difference. 

But I agree with the overall sentiment that 40 times are generally ridiculous. 


July 20th, 2011 at 12:54 PM ^

I mentioned this before but during The Opening SPARQ competition they had two tries to run the 40.  The one guy I watched ran a 4.69 his first try.  If he would have stopped after this try he would be classified as a slow player.  On his next run he ran a 4.40 giving him one of the fastest times and making him look like a 'burner'.  I am sure most of the players coming out of high school are not running, consistently at least, the times they claim too.  NFL players train with professionals to maximize their speed specifically for the 40 and yet high school kids routinely claim to have comparable times.


July 20th, 2011 at 1:56 PM ^

I agree that the difference between a 40yd and 100m race are very different.  I'm sure that Ben Johnson (especially 'roids aided') would be able to run the 40 in significantly less than 4.38s if he had trained specifically for that distance.