If you don’t believe that we’re evolving as humans, look no further than NFL Draft prospects along the defensive line. Science aside, some of the fastest 40-yard dash times from defensive linemen don’t make sense, especially when they’re over 270 pounds. Even the edge rushers that weigh around 250 will make your eyes widen. Don’t believe me? Look at these NFL Combine times and tell me I’m wrong.
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 créme when it comes to speed.
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 linemen ever at 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 linemen 40-yard dash times ever.
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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 nearly weighed 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 Ziggy Ansah (2013)
Ziggy Ansah made a name for himself by blazing through the 40-yard dash at 4.56 seconds. At 6’5″, 271 pounds, teams quickly lined up for his services. Detroit took him fifth in the 2013 NFL Draft, and he had a nice career with the Lions by making life miserable for opposing offensive tackles.
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 he produced one of the best NFL Combine performances ever. Guys his size simply don’t move that quick. 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.