We nearly saw John Ross' record go down almost one year ago -- and more than once. Might someone break the 40-yard dash mark at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine?
Ross set the 2017 event on its head when he ran a 4.22-second 40, overtaking Chris Johnson's 2008 time of 4.24 seconds. Five years after Ross seized first place, it appeared his reign might be over.
At the 2022 combine, Baylor's Tyquan Thornton initially appeared to nip Ross with an unofficial time of 4.21 seconds. But once the times were made official, Thornton had to settle for a (still blazing) time of 4.28. (The correction didn't hurt come draft time, either, as he was selected in Round 2 by the Patriots.)
After the full field ran, Thornton wasn't even the fastest man in Indianapolis. That honor belonged to his Baylor teammate, Kalon Barnes, who burned his way to a 4.23. UTSA's Tariq Woolen, who went on to be a standout rookie with the Seahawks, earned second last year at 4.26 seconds.
Officially, there have been 13 times in the 4.2 range since the 2013 combine, and six of those were posted in the past four years. A few athletes have gotten close, but will anyone break Ross' mark in 2023? It's a tall order, but we think there are a handful of players who will be in the running:
Achane might be the favorite entering the combine. His résumé on the field and in track suggests he's one of the faster humans anywhere. He ran both indoor and outdoor track at A&M, earning all-SEC and first-team All-American honors in 2021 and posting a 6.63-second 60-meter dash to take first place at the 2022 Don Kirby Open. His best time in the 100 meters was reportedly a scalding (albeit wind-aided) 10.02 seconds.
When Hyatt ripped off a six-catch, 207-yard, five-TD game against Alabama in October, it was clear that his breakout season was no fluke. One of the best vertical threats in college football last season, he ripped off 15 TD catches and led all of FBS in 40-yard receptions (11), 50-yard catches (seven) and 60-yard catches (five).
In high school, he ran a 10.46 in the 100 meters, which would have equated to about a 4.36 40 four years ago. During Super Bowl week, Hyatt said that he was targeting a 4.29 40, although he did admit at the time that something in the 4.3 range was more likely. Still, that puts him in the running for what would be the top spot in many years, and it could lock up a first-round landing spot.
Davis might not be very big (5-foot-8 and 168 pounds), but before you can stop him, you have to catch him. He was arguably the fastest player in college football last season, at the very least on one play: He registered a stunning 23.47 mph on this 80-yard TD vs. SMU.
Davis was offered a track scholarship to LSU, and it's easy to see why, as he was the Louisiana 200-meter state champ as a senior in high school. He's also one of the best returners in recent college history, running back one kickoff and five punt returns for scores, adding 11 other TDs in five seasons with the Horned Frogs.
Don't be shocked if the 40 leaderboard has two Bearcats close to -- if not at -- the top. Tucker and Scott have gone back and forth over which of them is the fastest, and Indianapolis might provide the closest thing to a bet-settler.
Tucker registered one of the best on-field times at the Senior Bowl at 20.24 mph, and he was a 100-meter champ in high school, registering a silly 10.41 seconds at one meet. Believe it or not, none other than combine 40 legend Chris Johnson thinks Scott has a great chance to take home this year's best time.
Our gut says that while Scott might be the more refined player right now, Tucker might just be a half-step faster. This could be one of the fun little side plots in Indy this week.
Bennett was one of the fastest players at the Senior Bowl, according to executive director Jim Nagy, clocked at 21.22 mph during on-field drills, and per The Athletic, he says he once hit a shocking 22.9 mph. We also expect Bennett to be among the high-jump standouts, able to cross the 40-inch mark readily.
Copeland might be this week's sleeper pick. East-West Shrine Game director of operations Eric Galko boldly told us that Copeland could run "mid, maybe low 4.2s," doubling down on Twitter with the suggestion that Copeland could be this year's Tyquan Thornton after averaging more than 15 yards per catch in his college career at Florida and Maryland.
Mitchell ranked second in FBS at 7.2 yards per carry, and he tied for fifth with 1,837 all-purpose yards last season, despite only playing 12 games. Against Old Dominion, Mitchell hit 22.8 mph on the gun on his 81-yard touchdown run. Check out how smoothly he just glides by defenders ...
If Turner isn't the 40 champ, he might be one of the overwhelming favorites for the three-cone throne, reportedly once clocking a 6.29 -- one hundredth of a second from Jordan Thomas' all-time mark, set back in 2018. But in no way, shape or form are we overlooking Turner's 40 prowess either, as he reportedly hit 4.28 seconds in that drill, too.
Gibbs might not win this year's event, but a top-five finish could be in the cards. He said he's hopeful of besting the 4.32 40 he once ran at Georgia Tech, prior to joining the Crimson Tide. Gibbs' 2022 campaign in Alabama has him sitting pretty in the top 50 draft picks, but he could sprint into Round 1 with an exceptional time.
Could Gonzalez be this year's Woolen? They each are longer than your typical sprint champ while possessing easy but tremendous speed. The 6-foot-2 Gonzalez ran a 21.6-second 200-meter in high school and seems to have gotten faster, hitting 23.3 mph last spring after arriving in Eugene. Fast runs in the family, too: Gonzalez has two sisters who have run track for the Colombian national team.
The LSU transfer didn't break out as a receiver until moving to Lincoln, but he's never not been a blur. He posted a 10.42 100-meter time in high school, and he won four 200-meter state championships, including a state-meet record time (21.11) as a senior.
Palmer also clocked 21.15 mph at the Senior Bowl. Is it possible he's gotten faster since then? A scary thought.
Bennett, Palmer and Tucker were all truckin' down at the Senior Bowl. But the honor of fastest man in Mobile belongs to Rush, who registered a red-hot 21.65 mph during Senior Bowl practices. Here's what that game speed looks like, on Rush's 59-yard interception return against Texas A&M last fall. After a good Senior Bowl week, Rush is on the rise.
The nephew of Pro Football Hall of Fame RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Hodges-Tomlinson has worked out with his uncle, who can attest to Hodges-Tomlinson's "NFL-style training." We wouldn't be shocked if THT is a 4.3 guy in Indy.
We're not overlooking Tucker, who was a two-time state champ in the indoor 55 meters and also won the 100-meter and 200-meter outdoor sprints as a junior in high school. He even reportedly ran in the high 4.2s and low 4.3s at a high-school camp at Bowie State following his sophomore year. In college, Tucker had 39 runs of 15-plus yards the past two seasons.
Moss has elite, rare speed. In high school, he ran the 110-meter high hurdles in a blistering 13.91 seconds. Jim Nagy called Moss a 4.3 guy back in July 2022, and we think he'll prove to be right.
The 10.39 100-meter time Smith posted to win the Georgia state tile in high school might be the best among all 2023 combine invitees. Smith -- who is nicknamed "T-Time," and also won a title in the 200 -- flashed his jets at the East-West Shrine Game and could touch the low 4.3s. That would be a heck of a time.