Fastest Running Back 40-Yard Dash Times in NFL Combine History

As the 2024 RB class gets set to take the field in Indianapolis, we look back at the fastest 40-yard dash times in NFL Combine history.

Many might argue that 40-yard dash times are a bit overrated for the running back position, given how seldom they sprint in a straight line for that distance on an NFL football field. Still, it’s a relevant data point to determine a ball carrier’s top speed.

Whether you place great value in these times at the NFL Combine or not, there’s no denying that some of the fastest running back performers at the event went on to have very productive NFL careers.

Fastest Running Back 40-Yard Dash of All Time

Here are the fastest 40-yard dash times recorded by running backs at the NFL Combine in recent years.

1) Chris Johnson, East Carolina (2008) | 4.24

One of the cases many NFL Draft pundits point to when advocating for the importance of this testing metric foreshadowing dynamic playmaking from the position came at the 2008 NFL Combine when Chris Johnson posted a blazing time of 4.24 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

The Tennessee Titans likely first noticed Johnson when he suddenly burst onto the scene with East Carolina during the 2007 college football season.

The production from his final collegiate season — finishing his fourth year with 1,423 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns, as well as over 500 receiving yards and another six TDs — put Johnson on the map of NFL scouts but didn’t exactly guarantee him as a first-round pick.

That all changed after Johnson tore up the NFL Combine and was later selected by the Titans at No. 24 overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Johnson made an instant impact in the league during his first three seasons. Back when the Pro Bowl had a bit more prestige, he was selected to the AFC team in his first three seasons.

Johnson’s best NFL campaign came in his sophomore year, where he produced an impressive 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns, earning himself the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award.

Johnson spent the first six seasons of his career with Tennessee while managing to top the 1,000-yard mark every single year. His days with the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals may not have been quite as memorable, but Johnson undeniably made a significant impact during his NFL tenure.

2) Dri Archer, Kent State (2014) | 4.26

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll find Kent State’s Dri Archer, whose 1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2012 put him on the NFL map for teams interested in adding a dynamic playmaker to the mix.

Archer’s electric skills as a kick returner also helped give him a potential road to contribute on special teams early in his professional career. He found the end zone on four kickoff returns during his final two collegiate seasons and averaged just under 37 yards per return in 2012.

Archer’s draft stock catapulted him into being a third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers after posting a scorching time of 4.26 in the 40-yard dash. Unfortunately, his impact was limited as a running back, failing to make an impression as a pure rusher working behind Le’Veon Bell.

Archer’s NFL career ended after just three seasons.

Running Back 40-Yard Dash Honorable Mentions

The athletic feats performed by Bo Jackson feel more like tall tales or Greek mythology than actual reality, but I would be doing a disservice to this article if his name was not mentioned.

Jackson claimed to have run the fastest 40-yard dash of all time in the history of the event, with a recorded time of 4.13 seconds.

KEEP READING: 2024 NFL Combine Measurements

Skeptics will be quick to point out this time came before technology played a huge role in the recording process, but the odds of the time being off by tenths of seconds isn’t likely given how explosive Jackson was as an athlete.

This time, posted back in 1986, still stands as a remarkable accomplishment, even if the record claim remains a bit controversial.

All the 2024 NFL Draft resources you need — the draft order, the top QBs, the Top 100 prospects, and the full 2024 Big Board — right at your fingertips at Pro Football Network!

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