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NFL combine drills explained: 40-yard dash

The electronically timed record of 4.24 seconds from Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans will be a tough mark to best.

Joe Robbins

The most glamorous of the NFL Combine drills is certainly the 40-yard dash, as all eyes are on the times as a reflection of speed. The idea of the drill is pretty simple: A player lines up and runs 40 yards as quickly as he can while coaches and talent scouts wait at the finish line with stopwatches.

Virtually every player finishes the drill in 4-6 seconds, but it's the tenths and hundredths of a second that truly make a difference in the dash. The difference between a 4.43 and a 4.56 can be huge on the field and cause teams to shy away from a skill position player without speed in the 4.2-4.5 range.

However, the reality is that the drill doesn't make a huge difference for a player unless his results don't match up with the speed expected of him. Only if a player expected to run in the 4.6-4.7 range finishes in under 4.5 or if a player expected to finish in the 4.4-4.5 range finishes over 4.6 will the drill truly cause scouts to re-evaluate a player's stock.

The fastest 40-yard dash in NFL Combine history is said to belong to former Heisman Trophy-winning running back Bo Jackson. At the 1986 NFL Combine, Jackson was timed by stopwatches with a time of 4.12 seconds and was subsequently taken with the first overall selection by the Los Angeles Raiders.

In 2000, though, an electronic timing system was introduced, and no player has finished under 4.2 seconds since. The fastest electronically recorded time came from running back Chris Johnson, who finished in 4.24 seconds, helping him to earn a spot in the first round, where the Tennessee Titans selected him with the No. 24 overall pick in 2008.

Players to watch

Beating Johnson's time will be a tall task, but there are some speedy players who could approach the number in 2013. Among them is Marquise Goodwin of the Texas Longhorns, a 5'9, 170-pound wide receiver who competed at the 2012 London Olympics in the long jump.

Other players that could wow scouts with stellar numbers in the 40-yard dash are West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Tavon Austin and California Golden Bears cornerback Steve Williams, each of whom are projected by many to finish in under 4.4 seconds.