Who will be the fastest man at this year’s combine, and who has the best chance of breaking Chris Johnson’s record? A look at the leading contenders from the 2016 NFL draft class.
Free agent running back Chris Johnson admitted to SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday that he hopes his 40-yard dash record of 4.24 seconds, which was set at the 2008 NFL combine, continues to stand up through this weekend. He also said he was surprised someone hadn’t broken it yet.
Is this the year an NFL hopeful snatches the crown away from CJ2K? As if prospects need any motivation to prove their worth, adidas is offering $1 million to any combine participant who can beat Johnson with a time of 4.23 seconds or less.
Last year, UAB wide receiver J.J. Nelson led all participants with a 4.28 40-yard dash. PointAfter runs down the top five contenders to end up atop the leaderboard this weekend in Indianapolis.
Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU
Fastest reported time: 4.36
NFLDraftScout overall ranking: No. 148
Listenbee isn’t considered a top prospect, but he’s been anointed as the favorite to post the fastest 40 time this weekend by various analysts. The lanky 6' 1" wideout must test well to , because his statistical production at TCU wasn’t overly impressive.
Fellow Horned Frog Josh Doctson bested Listenbee in receiving yards in each of the last two seasons, and actually finished third on the team in 2015 with 597 yards on 30 catches in 11 games. That being said, Listenbee showcased his potential as a deep threat by averaging 41.4 yards on his five touchdown receptions last year.
This isn’t an especially strong class for wide receivers. If Listenbee can deliver on the hype and show he’s a cut above every other wideout when it comes to straight-line speed, he could very well jump up big boards across the league. We know from history that certain teams (ahem, Raiders) love taking fliers on speedy flankers, for better or worse.
LeShaun Sims, CB, Southern Utah
Fastest reported time: mid-4.3s
NFLDraftScout overall ranking: No. 248
A four-year starter at Southern Utah, Sims reportedly clocked in the mid-4.3s in front of NFL scouts last spring, before his redshirt senior season. That earned him a surprise invite to the combine, where two of his Thunderbird teammates will also try to make an impression.
FCS prospects are under additional pressure to open eyes at the combine, since film exploits can be explained away by facing weaker opposition. The combine puts all players on an even scale, and Sims can show he belongs with a 40 time that stands out from his FBS peers.
A sub-4.3 time could boost Sims’s stock into the middle rounds, so you can bet he’s invested a lot of time into perfecting every portion of his form.
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Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
Fastest reported time: 4.32
NFLDraftScout overall ranking: No. 46
Miller took a break from destroying cornerbacks’ dreams at the Senior Bowl to tell reporters he wanted to run a 4.28 at the combine. That’s a lofty goal for the former quarterback and two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, but he might possess the athletic ability to do it. As a QB, Miller frequently outran defensive backs at Ohio State, and even after switching positions he often took handoffs in the backfield last season in an effort to get the ball in his hands by whatever means necessary.
After focusing on honing his passing for most of his collegiate career, a full season of training as a skill player and this winter’s pre-combine workouts could’ve unlocked another level in Miller’s speed. We’ll see on Saturday, when wide receivers run the 40.
Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
Fastest reported time: 4.42
NFLDraftScout overall ranking: No. 43
Fuller couldn’t crack the first two rounds of Chris Burke’s latest mock draft, but the Notre Dame product could improve his stock by offsetting his mediocre size (6-foot, 184 pounds) with top-flight speed. A long strider for his height, Fuller took the top off of defenses for two years as the primary target in Notre Dame’s offense.
Whether or not Fuller’s 40 time this weekend reflects it, he clearly possesses the open-field speed to cut it in the NFL.
Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
Fastest reported time: 4.54 (high school)
NFLDraftScout overall ranking: No. 3
Already pegged as the top defensive back in this year’s class, Ramsey would cement his status as a top-five pick if he can stun scouts and smash Johnson’s record. Don’t discount the possibility of that happening. Ramsey has matured into a world-class athlete during his time as a Seminole and should blow by the 4.54-second time he recorded in high school.
Ramsey ran the leadoff leg in Florida State’s 4x100 relay team that captured the ACC championship in 2015, when the consensus All-America selection also won the conference’s indoor and outdoor long jump title.
He’ll have the chance to add the title of the draft’s fastest prospect to his impressive résumé on Monday, when defensive backs wrap up on-field workouts and the year’s 40-yard dash champion is crowned.