Written by: Michael Bruckner– Staff Writing Intern (@thebruckreport)
It has been confirmed that John Ross is very, very fast. Over the weekend, the former University of Washington wide receiver and return man broke an NFL Combine record by blazing his way to an astounding 4.22 official time in the 40-yard dash. The time broke Chris Johnson’s previous record set at the 2008 combine of 4.24, and Ross’s performance in Indianapolis has scouts buzzing that he has solidified himself as a first round pick in next month’s NFL Draft. Although the record-breaking time is without a doubt impressive, is a prospect’s 40-yard dash time truly indicative of how productive he will be at the next level?
Since electronic timing was implemented at the NFL Combine in 2009, Ross and only five other wide receivers have ever recorded 40-yard dash times in the 4.2s. In addition to John Ross, the wide receivers who are members of this ever-so elite 4.2 club are as follows:
Rondel Menendez (4.24/1999) – Knee injury in preseason during rookie season ended career.
Jerome Mathis (4.26/2005) – First-team All-Pro Kick Returner in 2005 rookie season for Texans before career was derailed by off-field problems and injuries.
Marquise Goodwin (4.27/2013) – 780 total receiving yards to this point in four-year career with Buffalo Bills.
Jacoby Ford (4.28/2010) – 848 total receiving yards during four-year career from 2010-2013 with Oakland Raiders.
J.J. Nelson (4.28/2015) – 867 total receiving yards and 8 receiving touchdowns to this point in two-year career with Arizona Cardinals.
Of the five wide receivers to previously run the 40-yard dash in the 4.2s, no wide receiver has ever recorded over 570 receiving yards in a single season. The only wide receiver in the club to make a Pro Bowl qualified as a kick returner, and zero of the receivers were drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.
The fastest wide receiver to ever be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft is Derrius Heyward-Bey. A highly criticized selection at the time, the Oakland Raiders selected Heyward-Bey seventh overall in the 2009 draft after he ran a 4.30 40-yard dash at the combine. The man known formally as DHB has never recored a 1000 yard season, has never been selected to a Pro Bowl, and only lasted with the Raiders for four seasons before being released and bouncing around the league.
Since electronic timing of the 40-yard dash began in 2009, the evidence shows that a wide receiver’s ability to run the 40 in under 4.3 has no direct correlation with how productive the wide receiver will be at the next level. In the NFL, fast guys are fast. In my eyes, there’s no huge difference between a guy running a 4.22 and 4.45. We get it, bro. You’re fast.
Don’t get me wrong though, as John Ross proved he was a good football player by setting the Pac-12 on fire in 2016. Last season alone, Ross reeled in 81 receptions for 1150 yards and a ridiculous 17 receiving touchdowns. He arrived at the combine as a consensus top-20 pick in pre-combine NFL.com mock drafts after earning First-team All-Pac-12 and AP Pac-12 Player of the Year honors in his breakout redshirt junior season. He’s just under 5’11 and 190 pounds, and has been graded as the third best wide receiver in the draft class by NFL.com.
I believe that John Ross has a very good chance at having a very highly productive NFL career, but it’s no guarantee he’s going to multiple Pro Bowls because he ran a 4.22 at the NFL Combine. There’s no denying his speed will be able to take the top off of defenses at the next level, and he could serve as a viable deep threat in the NFL for years to come, a la Desean Jackson.
There’s no denying that it was fun to see an illustrious record broken over the weekend, but let’s all hold our horses before we crown John Ross the G.O.A.T.