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Fastest receivers at the Combine rarely pan out


J.J. Nelson, a little-known prospect from UAB, raised eyebrows at the Combine on Saturday by running the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds, the fastest of any receiver this year and the second-fastest in the last 10 years. So what does that mean for his prospects of becoming a big-play receiver in the NFL?

Not much.

Taking a look at the Combine data available at, it’s clear that the fastest receivers at the Combine rarely become good NFL players. Here’s the list of the 14 receivers who have run sub-4.35-second 40s at the Combine in the last 10 years, along with their career receiving yards in the NFL, how many seasons they played and how many yards they averaged per season:

1. Marquise Goodwin, 4.27 in 2013: 325 yards in two seasons, 162.5 a season.
2. Jacoby Ford, 4.28 in 2010: 848 yards in four seasons, 212 yards a season.
2. J.J. Nelson, 4.28 in 2015
4. Yamon Figurs, 4.30 in 2007: 103 yards in four seasons, 25.8 yards a season.
4. Darrius Heyward-Bey, 4.30 in 2009: 2,413 yards in six seasons, 402.2 yards a season.
6. Jason Hill, 4.32 in 2007: 2,413 yards in six seasons, 173.8 yards a season.
6. Chad Jackson, 4.32 in 2007: 171 yards in three seasons, 57 yards a season.
8. Brandin Cooks, 4.33 in 2014: 550 yards in one season.
8. Phillip Dorsett, 4.33 in 2015
8. Mike Wallace, 4.33 in 2009: 5,834 yards in six seasons, 972.3 yards a season.
11. Tavon Austin, 4.34 in 2014: 660 yards in two seasons, 330 yards a season.
11. Johnny Knox, 4.34 in 2009: 2,214 yards in three seasons, 738 yards a season.
11. Willie Reid, 4.34 in 2006: 54 yards in two seasons, 27 yards a season.
11. Ryan Swope, 4.34 in 2013: Never played in the NFL.

Wallace had a couple of very good years for the Steelers, and Cooks showed promise with the Saints in his rookie year, but otherwise this is a list of receivers who have under-achieved or been injury-prone. Anquan Boldin, whose 4.72-second 40 makes him one of the slowest wide receivers in the NFL, has had a far better career than any receiver on this list.

So let’s pump the brakes on the 40-yard dash hype train. Being the fastest receiver at Lucas Oil Stadium on a Saturday in February doesn’t translate to being a great receiver in the NFL.