Running straight really fast in Under Armour compression gear doesn’t make a great football player. But it doesn’t hurt to clock the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds or under at the NFL Scouting Combine, either.
Twelve prospects have done so in Indianapolis since 2014. Eleven went on to be drafted. Six went within the initial 40 picks. One has yet record a regular-season statistic. Another has yet to appear in a regular-season game. And another is no longer in the league.
But three are with the New England Patriots in Brandin Cooks, Phillip Dorsett and Jonathan Jones.
TOP COMBINE 40-TIMES SINCE 2014
- John Ross, WR, Washington: 4.22 – 2017 first-round pick
- Dri Archer, RB, Kent State: 4.26 – 2014 third-round pick
- J.J. Nelson, WR, UAB: 4.28 – 2015 fifth-round pick
- Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota: 4.28 – 2017 seventh-round pick
- Trae Waynes, CB, LSU: 4.31 – 2015 first-round pick
- Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia: 4.31 – 2016 seventh-round pick
- Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio State: 4.31 – 2017 second-round pick
- Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame: 4.32 – 2016 first-round pick
- Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: 4.33 – 2014 first-round pick
- Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami: 4.33 – 2015 first-round pick
- Anthony Brown, CB, Purdue: 4.33 – 2016 sixth-round pick
- Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn: 4.33 – 2016 undrafted free agent
New England’s war room did not draft any of whom, yet Cooks, Dorsett and Jones all officially posted a 4.33 on the dot before finding themselves there.
Cooks, taken No. 20 overall out of Oregon State in 2014, proceeded to notch back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons with the New Orleans Saints before being traded to New England last March for first- and fourth-round picks. The 24-year-old wideout is now up to three 1,000-yard seasons in his first four, with 280 catches and 27 touchdowns altogether. Cooks’ seven receptions of 40-plus yards tied for second in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown in 2017. His 16.6 yards per reception set a career-high and ranked seventh.
Dorsett, on the other hand, did not see his 40-time translate as swiftly after landing with the Colts at No. 29 overall in 2015. The former Hurricane ran his share of go and clear-out routes, but finished his tenure in Indianapolis having started just seven of his 26 appearances to accumulate 51 catches for 753 yards and three TDs. New England acquired the 5-foot-10, 185-pound target in exchange for quarterback Jacoby Brissett a day before rosters went to 53 last September. Dorsett’s late arrival in Foxborough gave way to 15 appearances, two starts, and 12 receptions for 194 yards and no touchdowns in the regular season. He caught a pair for 50 more in the postseason.
And then there’s Jones – the only combine prospect to run the 40 in 4.33 seconds or less and go undrafted over the last four years. Jones, whose 5-foot-9 frame and 30 1/4-inch arms projected him to slot cornerback, did not test well in the agility drills gauged – 7.25 three-cone and 4.25 short shuttle – to play there. Even so, the Auburn product has played in all 32 regular-season games for New England since. His role as a gunner saw him collect eight tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery over 307 snaps on special teams as a rookie, and things carried over to the nickel in 2017. Before being placed on injured reserve with a leg injury this January, Jones totaled four starts, 44 combined tackles, one sack, eight passes defensed and his first career interception.
Time will tell whether another prospect who runs a 4.33 become will a Patriot this year. But while straight-line speed isn’t the be-all or end-all for a defensive back or wide receiver, the 40 either confirms what’s on film or compels teams to go back and revisit it. Some can win without being explosive out of the gate; some can’t.
It has its place.
And New England, coincidentally or not, has become the place for three of the fastest.