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40-yard dash results don’t matter for NFL offensive linemen, but they train for it anyway

Here’s how they prepare.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — NFL talent evaluators use 40-yard dash results to evaluate speed and acceleration, which matter at every position at the pro level. But realistically, the times bear a bit less significance for guys who need to weigh upward of 300 pounds to be effective. The 40 isn’t a great indicator of success for offensive linemen, but they have to prepare for it and run it anyway.

Most linemen train for the combine the same way every other draft prospect trains. They work with a coach and a group of other prospects to hone their speed, fluidity, and agility so they can excel at the combine’s drills.

For the big guys, form is one of the key things they focus on to get ready for the 40.

At 6’7 and 318 pounds, Bucknell’s Julie’n Davenport had to focus on perfecting his form to shave valuable milliseconds off of his time.

“You just make sure you have good technique just going through,” Davenport said. “And I know it’s not the moneymaker for offensive linemen, but I’ve been approaching it, working on my starts, and making sure the technique’s good coming out and just keeping that good running form.

“Because you have to try to be an athlete and get into the motions that you may need to run your best time, and before that, you may not have thought of that.”

Davenport ran a 5.45 in Indianapolis this week.

Ethan Cooper, a 6’2, 322-pound tackle out of Indiana University in Pennsylvania, said he prepared for the 40 the same way as the defensive backs and wide receivers who trained with him did.

“I just take it in strides, making sure that I work on each phase of the 40, making sure that I try to perfect it as much as I possibly can and just working on it every day,” Cooper said. “I’m actually very confident in my 40. I feel that I can run pretty well that way.”

But Cooper got a little extra attention from his coach, Tom Shaw.

“He’s taking time out to work with me individually, making sure I prepare well, that way I can run well,” Cooper said.

Cooper ran a 5.36 40 at the combine.

Utah’s J.J. Dielman, who measured in at 6’5 and 309 pounds at the Combine, suffered a season-ending foot injury in October and wasn’t medically cleared to participate in drills. But Dielman sees the 40 as one thing on a checklist, and said it’s important for linemen to run it effectively enough that teams don’t view their performance as a red flag.

“From what I’ve heard, the combine’s more of a checklist thing, and you get a certain time or a certain number of reps, that’s just a check in one category or another,” Dielman said. “So you want to have the least amount of question marks as you can before you go into this thing, and then that’s just part of the gig, whether it’s important or completely unimportant.”

It’s rare to see an offensive lineman running 40 yards in a straight line in a game situation, so a slow 40 time isn’t a red flag for lineman. Dielman hopes, however, that he has plenty of opportunities to simulate a 40-yard dash in games, sprinting along as one of his teammates heads toward the end zone.