NFL defensive linemen are some of the world’s best athletes, generating incredible explosiveness for their size to harass quarterbacks and shut down rushing games. I do not envy NFL offensive linemen for having to block these guys on a regular basis. What defensive linemen have hit the fastest 40-yard dash times at the NFL Combine in NFL history?
Fastest Defensive Linemen 40-Yard Dash Times in NFL Combine History
Defensive ends are some of the most twitched-up athletic marvels gracing football fields. Let’s look at the crème de la crème when it comes to speed.
DE Amare Barno (2022) — 4.36 Seconds
Just a year after Odafe Oweh set the record in 2021, Amare Barno out of Virginia Tech tied his official mark. A high-ceiling pass rusher, Barno displayed his athletic tools at the Combine with his 40 time, alongside his arm length as well as a 99th percentile broad jump at 131″ and a 93rd percentile vertical jump at 37″.
DE Odafe Oweh (2021) — 4.36 Seconds
Odafe Oweh took the NFL by storm with his Combine performance, and he ran the fastest 40-yard dash for any defensive lineman ever at that point with a 4.36. He came out of Penn State in 2021 as a relatively raw prospect, but his athletic tools wouldn’t go unnoticed. At 6’5″, 257 pounds, teams quickly moved him up their draft boards.
DE Montez Sweat (2019) — 4.41 Seconds
Montez Sweat held the record before Oweh broke it, but he still has one of the fastest defensive lineman 40-yard dash times ever.
Teams were waiting to see what he would do at the 2019 NFL Combine coming out of Mississippi State. At 6’6″, his length jumped out on tape, but it was unknown what he would show athletically. A 4.41 in the 40 at 260 pounds quickly eased any concerns.
Notable Defensive Linemen 40-Yard Dash Times
DE Rashan Gary (2019)
Some of these times aren’t the fastest ever at the position, but they would be relative to the player’s size. Rashan Gary weighed nearly 280 pounds and produced a time that would be considered decent for a wide receiver. Running a 4.58 elevated his draft stock and had scouts gushing over his explosiveness.
DE Jadeveon Clowney (2014)
Jadeveon Clowney was a unicorn coming out of high school and college. You just didn’t see players at his size with his power and athleticism. The fact that his 40 time (4.53) was faster than Davante Adams’ should tell you something.
Oh, and Clowney did it with 54 more pounds on his frame. So, yeah, not the fastest for a defensive lineman, but you have to respect the natural talent.
DE Travon Walker (2022)
The journey to Walker eventually being named the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft kicked off at the NFL Combine that year.
At a chiseled 6’5″, 272 pounds, Walker hit a 4.51 40-yard dash — one of the fastest ever for a defensive end and made more impressive by being several pounds heavier than others. Walker also hit a 93rd-percentile three-cone drill right after, making his athleticism an easy selling point.
DE Bruce Irvin (2012)
Bruce Irvin had one of the best NFL Combine performances ever, and it all started with the 40-yard dash. While he was considered an outside linebacker at the time, he would be utilized as a defensive end with the Seattle Seahawks. He ran a 4.41-second 40 at 245 pounds — it launched him into the top 15.
DT Calijah Kancey (2023)
Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey ran the fastest recorded 40-yard dash time for a defensive tackle in NFL Combine history at 4.67 seconds. He broke the previous record held by Aaron Donald. Although it was far from the fastest for a defensive lineman, it was still an unbelievable accomplishment. To put it into perspective, it was nearly 0.2 seconds faster than All-Pro Quinnen Williams.
DT Dontari Poe (2012)
Here’s where I need people to understand something. Running a sub-five-second 40-yard dash at nearly 350 pounds is unreal.
No human being has any right to do that. Dontari Poe not only did it but also produced one of the best NFL Combine performances ever. Guys his size simply don’t move that quickly. So, while it’s not one of the fastest times ever, what he did is more impressive than anyone else on this list.
DT Quinnen Williams (2019)
All Quinnen Williams did at Alabama was dominate, which says something for a guy competing in that league. He was considered one of the top prospects in 2019, and the 2019 NFL Combine confirmed that. His 4.83 40-yard dash still managed to turn some heads, proving he was one of the best in that class.
DT Aaron Donald (2014)
Shocker — Aaron Donald did something physically that made your jaw drop. One of the best defensive players to ever play the game needed to put up good numbers back in the day, though. His 4.68 seconds isn’t one of the best defensive linemen 40-yard dash times, but it was impressive given he nearly weighed 290 pounds.
He was considered a first-round pick, but there were still plenty of doubters — even his own team passed on him initially. The then-St. Louis Rams took Greg Robinson with the second pick before taking Donald at 13.
DT Fletcher Cox (2012)
Here’s another one that won’t get a ton of love. Fletcher Cox, if he were racing Donald, would finish less than a step behind him. At nearly 300 pounds, that’s incredible.
A 4.77 time helped add to the many reasons the Philadelphia Eagles took him with the 12th overall pick, but the time deserves more attention than it got. It’s rare for guys near or above 300 pounds to break five seconds in the 40, but Cox did it with ease.
Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast
Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Scouting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms. Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Scouting Podcast on our Scouting YouTube channel.