Saturday, March 23, 2013

Comparing high school and NFL 40 yard dash times: A horrifying revelation

Rali Ivanova
Patrick Vint from SB Nation compares the 40 times of NFL prospects at the NFL Combine . . . to the 40 times of those same players when they were in high school.  News flash: players and coaches lie whenever possible.


  1. I don't doubt they're lying but how does 21/22 year olds running slower than 17/18 year olds prove it? Isn't that the normal case, particularly for kids packing on 20+ pounds of weight to play football.

    1. Well, a lot of these high schoolers don't have very good training. Some of these "speedsters" go to college and immediately look slower than a bunch of the college players, who supposedly time slower than the 18-year-olds. On top of that, a lot of these skill guys don't pack on a ton of weight (they go from 170 to 180 or 190 to 200). It's not like you have 160-pounders ballooning up to 235-pound linebackers. Furthermore, if you look at world-class sprinters, they're usually pretty muscular; additional muscle doesn't seem to hurt guys like Justin Gatlin or Ben Johnson, so I don't know why it would hurt college football players.

    2. Football players don't train to run 40 yard dashes, they train to play football. I agree a track athlete, who trains specifically for the task, will run faster after 4 years of work towards it - but that's not what football players are focused on. Track athletes are muscular but they're lean. They aren't doing remotely the same sorts of weight training to build mass and strength.

      Again - they're obviously lying about track speeds, but most college football players SHOULD get slower. They're focused on other things and gaining weight (20-30 pounds is still significant, especially if you're talking about a 160 pound kid.)

    3. Football players DO train to run the 40. They train in high school, college, and in preparation for the Draft. They're getting stronger the entire time, and high schoolers' bodies aren't mature enough at 17 or 18 to be in peak physical condition. I agree that a 260 pound high school lineman might be faster than his future 320 pound self, but most of these kids don't have such dramatic weight gains. These high school 40 times are huge, huge lies, and this is pretty good proof.

  2. I disagree. I don't know why you keep bringing up 60 pound gains when I'm talking about the more typical 20-30 pound gains. Linemen, obviously, are going to be slower but LBs, RBs, WRs, etc. - they'll be slower too.

    There's no way Denard Robinson or Fitz Toussaint can run as fast as they did when they were 17 and the same will be true for Jehu Chesson, another track kid. Football isn't track - to someone who has spent the last 2 years criticizing Denard Robinson (including saying he looks slower) that should be obvious.

    The HS 40 times are lies - that much we agree on. But NFL draft numbers don't prove that. It's just a cheap way to support an assumption that everyone already has.

    1. One example (Denard Robinson) does not make your assertion true. And regardless, he ran a 4.43 at the NFL Combine. There's no solid evidence that he ran slower than that in high school. So he might actually have become faster. Track speed (40 times) is different than football speed, as you well know. Maybe Denard looked slower because he was dinged up, maybe he was wearing extra rib padding that weighed him down, maybe he was more leery of taking hits, etc. Comparing his high school track times to his freshman football speed to his senior football speed to his NFL Draft Combine track time is not very productive, because they're all different things.

    2. Yeah, I'm going to have to agree with Thunder on this. These 40 times are not even close to being true. You bring up that football isn't track, which is wierd because we teach our players to sprint just like we teach our sprinters. The art of sprinting is sprinting know matter what sport you are playing. Also, have you ever taken a kid with poor sprinting form and had them work on it? They get faster pretty quick, add in a college strength program and you are going to see gains. I've had kids gain 30+ pounds and take .2 of a second off their 40, using laser timing. Sprinting is about applying maximum force to the ground as efficently as possible.

    3. @Anonymous

      Read again - never said the times were legit. Said the opposite - they're fake, just like heights and weights are faked whenever it matters - that's not what I'm arguing.

      Football players don't train to sprint the same way track kids do. (e.g., off a starting block.) Track kids don't run through tackling dummies or with pads... It's like arguing place-kickers and punters are training to play soccer. Both involve kicking, yeah, and the skills and physical traits may overlap to some extent, but they're not the same sport and practicing in one doesn't help much (if at all) with the other.

      I don't doubt that some kids (kids who aren't in shape or have bad form or some other issue) can improve with track coaching (or else why would there be coaches in the sport) - but that's not the focus of a football program.


      I brought up Denard and Fitz as examples of guys who didn't gain 60 pounds - they gained 15 or 20 (at least...weight gets lied about also). That 15-20 pound range is typical weight gain for a kid who is 5'10 or so and is going to have a similar impact as 25-30 pounds does to a taller kid.

      Also mentioned those 2 because they were track kids who look slower than they did as underclassmen. No, I can't prove that, but you can look up their 100 yard dash times and if there is a NFL combine equivalent (not to my knowledge) that would be instructive to our little debate.

      Let me phrase it another way - were you faster when you were 17 or 22? You aren't an athlete, I know, but do you know anyone who WAS faster at 22? I'd guess it's extremely uncommon for anyone isn't working towards that aim. Gymnasts peak at 16. Fast twitch-fiber begins degrading at 20. Swimmers peak at 21. Track athletes peak at 23, but they're offsetting whatever pure physical decline they may or may not be having by working on perfecting form/techniques specific to the sport, specific muscles, nutrition, etc. Generally, the more mental the sport the later the peak occurs. The more it's based on pure athleticism, the earlier it occurs (within limits, obviously).

      How would speed measure for someone who isn't training at 17 vs 21 -- my guess: controlling for weight/conditioning your typical 17 year old would be faster in a straight line than your typical 22 year old. Now add in a 20 pound (football weight) gain and it's likely (very likely) you're going to be slower. Maybe not everyone, but most kids in good shape will be faster at 17/18 than 21/22.

  3. @Lanknows

    There is one problem with your premise (maybe more than one, but one that is very glaring) and that is that most sprinters reach their peak long after the age of 22. How many world class sprinters do you think have their best times at the age of 17-18? Do you think none of them gain weight between high school and the end of college while still improving on their speed?

    Thunder is right, the guys who play positions where speed is actually very important aren't going to lose seconds off their forty time because they increased their weight by 10 pounds. At worst they won't slow down and at best they improve on their times.