By W. Casan Scott
For four days in February, around 300 NFL prospects will line up to sprint 40 yards as fast as they possibly can. Do any 2016 NFL hopefuls have a realistic chance to break Chris Johnson’s record of 4.24 seconds? Dri Archer missed the record by only 0.02 seconds in 2015, and there are several prospects this year who have the speed to challenge Johnson’s mark.
The biggest threat to Johnson’s record is Kolby Listenbee, an All-American sprinter and All-Big 12 wide receiver for TCU. Listenbee did not join TCU’s track team as a heralded high school sprinter. He ran the 200 meter dash (PR of 21.59 seconds) at Arlington Bowie High in Texas, won a district championship, but was not known as a dominant sprinter in the state. However, as a member of the TCU track team, Listenbee ran the 100 meter in 10.04 seconds (PR), and made it all the way to the NCAA National Championship Finals in 2015. Based on NFL Combine alumni Jacoby Ford and Trindon Holliday who also ran the 100 m in sub 10.10 seconds, Listenbee is seemingly guaranteed to run sub 4.35 in the 40 this year.
Biletnikoff Award winner Corey Coleman has largely flown under the radar leading up to the Combine, but he has an outside chance to run under 4.3 seconds this year. Coleman’s high school times of 10.83 and 21.91 seconds in the 100 and 200 meter respectively, compare favorably to Trae Waynes and Brandin Cooks who both ran under 4.35 seconds. Last spring, the Baylor football program also reported that Coleman was timed at 4.38 seconds in the 40 and vertical leaped 45 inches. Training for the Combine at Proactive SP (who prepared Trae Waynes last year) should at least give Coleman a puncher’s chance at breaking 4.3.
Jalen Ramsey, defensive back for Florida state, set school and state records, was named an NCAA All American, and won the ACC Championship…in long jump. Ramsey also ran a collegiate PR of 10.61 in the 100 meters for the Florida State track team in the ACC Championships. Marquise Goodwin, a 2012 Olympian in the long jump, was able to translate his leaping ability to the track, as he ran a 4.27 at the 2013 NFL Combine. Ramsey is already regarded as possibly the top athlete in the entire 2016 NFL Draft class, but he has the world-class explosive ability to run the fastest 40 yard dash as well.
Will Kolby Listenbee’s NCAA track speed be enough to best Chris Johnson, or will he narrowly miss breaking the record like former sprinters Trindon Holliday and Jacoby Ford? Does 100 meter track speed translate to 40 yards of turf in Lucas Oil Stadium?
It seems inconceivable that Trindon Holliday didn’t break the 40-yard dash record. He placed second in the 100 meters at the USA Championships in 2007…behind Tyson Gay. Holliday was the second fastest 60 meter sprinter in the NCAA, behind only his teammate and Olympic silver medalist Richard Thompson. And Holiday had a better start than any sprinter in the country, which, one would assume translates even better to the 40 yard dash (36.58 meters). Yet somehow, Johnson still ran faster. Yes, Listenbee is an All-American NCAA sprinter, but I personally do not think he will break 4.24 seconds.
For a better historical context, some of the fastest 40-yard dash times over the past 15 years of the NFL Combine are plotted against each prospects’ high school and collegiate personal records.