The truth about 40 times
Philadelphia, PA ( - One, two, three, four andddd stop ... 4.68.

That's how fast Johnny Manziel ran the 40-yard dash Sunday at the NFL Combine.

Not bad, but is four and a half seconds really enough time to determine a player's NFL future?

Some think it is.

Robert Griffin III rode his 4.41 all the way to the No. 2 pick in 2012. Similarly, Tavon Austin landed the No. 8 spot in last year's draft after blazing a 4.25 at the combine.

So where does Johnny Football stack up?

Well, compared to some of the guys we've seen recently, about average. Cam Newton (4.58), Colin Kaepernick (4.53) and Russell Wilson (4.55) all produced faster 40 times than Manziel at their combines. Andrew Luck's 40 time was almost identical to Manziel's (4.67).

While Manziel's draft stock probably stayed about the same, Central Florida QB Bortles may have taken a hit after his 40. Even for a bigger guy (6-foot-5, 234 pounds), Bortles' time of 4.93 wasn't what scouts were looking for. Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger both showed better burst at their combines (4.86 and 4.75 respectively) and neither one of them is considered "fast" by today's standards.

And that's the problem with 40 times. Scouts are putting way too much emphasis on the word "fast." Being a great "athlete" doesn't make you a great football player.

Last season, Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin wowed scouts at the combine with his brilliant 40 time (4.27). But he didn't wow many fantasy owners. Goodwin's 283 receiving yards as a rookie ranked 168th in the NFL. Over his final five games, he made just one catch.

Austin's transition from athlete to football player has been just as rocky. Austin was able to take advantage of his incredible speed a few times last season (138 yards, two TD against the Colts) but was mostly a non-factor (418 receiving yards in 13 appearances).

Slow and methodical has been Peyton Manning's trademark for 15 seasons. He's a lock to be in the Hall of Fame. Michael Vick, owner of the fastest 40 time ever recorded by a quarterback, won't be joining him in Canton.

In the combine's history, eighteen players have run a 40-time of 4.3 or better. Only five of them have gone on to the Pro Bowl. That's not a terrible success rate but it's still far from a guarantee.

Other players who have struggled in the 40 and gone on to solid careers include Drew Brees (4.83), Tom Brady (5.23) and Tony Romo (5.01). And those are just the quarterbacks.

Alfred Morris turned in a pitiful (at least by running back standards) 40 in his combine in 2012 (4.67). This year, Morris out-rushed everyone except for Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte and Shady McCoy. Last month, Morris played in the Pro Bowl while Chris Johnson (fastest 40 time in combine history at 4.24) was stuck watching it from his man cave.

That's why fantasy owners have to be cautious when thinking about Dri Archer, the Kent State halfback who just ran a 4.26 40-yard dash. That's sure to intrigue scouts, but I'm still wondering how Archer's body (he's listed at 5-foot-8, 173 pounds) will handle the pounding he's going to get on a weekly basis. That's something we can't learn on an empty football field in the middle of February.

Don't get me wrong, speed is a tremendous tool to have. Randy Moss ran one of the fastest 40s ever (4.25) and parlayed that into a Hall of Fame career. Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey (4.28) is another NFL great who has used speed to dominate his opponents (52 interceptions ranks 26th all-time). But it's not a necessity.

Michael Vick seemed like the perfect fit for Chip Kelly's high-octane attack in Philadelphia this past season. Yet it was Nick Foles, who ran one of the slowest 40s ever for a quarterback at the combine (5.14), who had the most success running the Eagles' offense (27 TD, 2 INT in 13 games).

And who's to say that a slow 40 time will prevent quarterbacks from having high rushing totals in the NFL? Say what you want about Foles' footwork but he rushed for more yards than plenty of other quarterbacks last season (Andy Dalton, E.J. Manuel, Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler to name a few).

As for Bortles and his unimpressive 40 time, he still ran for almost 300 yards last season at Central Florida. Keep in mind, yards are subtracted for sacks in college, so that total was probably closer to 400. That would have ranked seventh among NFL quarterbacks last season.

The combine is a numbers game and I guess the NFL is too. But the real players can't fake it on Sundays.

I can't blame you for watching the combine. It's good TV. But when you look up at those 40 times, take them all with a grain of salt.

I know I will be.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at

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