A lot of numbers get thrown around at the NFL Combine, but none gets more attention -- fair or not -- than a player's 40-yard dash time. While one's performance in other drills might generate publicity if it's particularly impressive or disappointing -- I'm looking at you, Vince Young's Wonderlic score -- for most prospective NFL players in skill positions, it's their 40 time that ultimately will define whether or not they had a good showing at the Combine (at least in the eyes of the public).
With this in mind, we worked with Andrew Bergmann of @dubly to create an infographic showing the link between 40 times and draft stock of every wide receiver and running back that participated in the combine the past three years. We also included defensive ends, a non-skill position. 40 times are just one part of the equation when evaluating players (top prospects often skip it outright), but it's clearly more of a factor for some positions than it is for others.
Not surprisingly, the strongest correlation existed with wide receivers, where the likelihood of being drafted starkly decreased from players who ran between 4.3-4.4 and players who ran 4.6-4.7.
With running backs, more of a balance has to be considered with regards to bulk and durability. This is apparent based on that fact that backs who ran between a 4.3-4.4 were in fact less likely to be drafted than those who ran between 4.6-4.7.
And finally, every team needs defensive ends. Preferably fast ones.