Has the NFL Combine’s 40 yard dash gotten faster ?

Last week on one of my favourite podcasts, ESPN’s Football Today, Matt Williamson & Kevin Weidl discussed the standout prospects from the NFL Combine. A lot of the conversation was around how the 40 yard dash times have improved year on year due to better training technique and specific training for the combine activities.

I wanted to see for myself and found Combine results for all participants going back to 1999 at nflcombineresults.com including last week’s 2013 results. This data set has key data for all 4,283 participants during this period and is a gold mine for analysis. The data needed a bit of cleaning up to get it into a data frame but if you’d like a copy then leave a comment or message via twitter (@minimalrblog) – I haven’t spent the time to work out how to use github to share datasets.

I compared the 40 yard dash times of 1999 and 2013 and initally didn’t see real improvements as the 5 best times were:

Name College Position Draft Year 40 Yard Time
Rondel Menendez Eastern Kentucky WR 1999 4.24
Marquise Goodwin Texas WR 2013 4.27
Champ Bailey Georgia CB 1999 4.28
Jay Hinton Morgan State (MD) RB 1999 4.29
Karsten Bailey Auburn WR 1999 4.33

The Combine class of 1999 had 6 of the best 10 times. However looking at the quartiles and plotting the 2 distributions showed a real improvement over the 14 years – while the fastest runners didn’t get faster, the rest of the field did benefit from improved training and technique.

Draft Year Fastest Time 1st Quartile Median 3rd Quartile Slowest Time
1999 4.24 4.61 4.78 5.09 5.84
2013 4.27 4.55 4.71 4.99 5.65

g40YardDash01

The overlapping distribution was generated using the ggplot2 library.

library(ggplot2)
CombineData19992013 <- data.frame(CombineData[CombineData$Year == 1999 | CombineData$Year == 2013,])
ggplot(CombineData19992013, aes(X40Yard., fill = Year)) + geom_density(alpha = 0.2)

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5 thoughts on “Has the NFL Combine’s 40 yard dash gotten faster ?

    • Hi Fred,

      Yes it’s on my list of things to do but will have to wait until later in the week. Thanks for the comment.

      Ray

  1. Thanks for sharing this, great data set! I noticed that the improvement was quite position-specific: the defensive ends, tight ends, and wide receivers seemed to get faster, but most of the other positions were unchanged, and the centers and fullbacks actually got slower. I wonder whether that might indicate a shift in play style (more pass-catching tight ends?) more than improved training and technique?

    • Thanks Dan. I suspect it’s a combination of both especially with the move to pass oriented offenses at the college level.

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