The 40-yard dash may not be the most important drill at the 2023 NFL Combine, but it’s the one that has captured the imagination of fans as the event has become increasingly popular.
The beauty of the 40-yard dash is that it’s simple. The players just have to run in a straight line for 40 yards as fast as they can. That produces a clear-cut measure of a player’s straight-line speed.
Those measurements have become synonymous with speed across the NFL. Any fan can walk up to another and say that a player is a “4.3 guy” and immediately, they will know what that means.
That’s part of why there is always so much intrigue around the 40-yard dash. There’s nothing fans love more than speed, as the fastest players often end up being the most explosive playmakers at the NFL level.
NFL COMBINE ODDS: Will anyone break John Ross’ 40-yard-dash record?
Who will be the fastest players at the 2023 NFL Combine? There are no shoo-ins to earn the top spot this year. That said, plenty of candidates can challenge for the 40-yard-dash record and set their draft stock ablaze. Here’s a breakdown of the nine most notable speedsters.
Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M
Achane well could end up being the 40-yard-dash champion at the 2023 NFL Combine. He checks a lot of the boxes that usually lead to success in this drill.
During the 2022 season, Achane logged a maximum speed of 22.2 mph, per Reel Analytics. A few players surpassed that speed, but Achane’s uniquely quick acceleration is a weapon that will show well during the 40. It’s also why he was a strong kick returner, racking up 30.7 yards per return and two touchdowns on 20 career returns.
What’s also noteworthy is that Achane is a track star. He logged a 10.14 time in the 100-meter dash with the Aggies — his personal non-wind-aided best — and finished a 200-meter race in 20.2 seconds. That sprinter speed should translate well to the 40 and give him a chance to dip below 4.3 seconds.
Mamma, there goes that man 😮💨
— Texas A&M Track & Field/Cross Country (@aggietfxc) February 12, 2022
Indeed, Achane should be one of the fastest players in this year’s class, and that may help him raise his draft stock. He logged 1,102 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 196 carries for the Aggies last season. He could be an explosive NFL player despite his 5-9, 185-pound frame.
DJ Turner II, CB, Michigan
Turner may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think about the Michigan defense, but he is fast. The Athletic reports that Turner logged a 23.07 mph speed during the 2021 season and posted a 4.28 40 from a two-point stance in his workouts.
Turner also showed game-breaking speed in 2022. Not many players would be able to run down Penn State’s Sean Clifford with this much open field ahead of him.
DJ Turner is certainly fast pic.twitter.com/UN8QjFqbYG
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) February 23, 2023
If Turner flashes that kind of speed in Indianapolis, it may be hard for even the likes of Achane to beat him. Don’t be surprised if Turner is the fastest man standing after the first two days of the combine once all the defensive players have gone.
Keaton Mitchell, RB, East Carolina
Mitchell isn’t a household name, but the 5-9, 188-pound back starred at East Carolina. He logged 1,452 yards and 14 touchdowns on 201 carries for the Pirates and consistently showcased game-breaking speed that will help him challenge for the 40-yard-dash crown.
During his final season at ECU, Mitchell reached a maximum speed of 22.6 mph. That was one of the fastest times among the running backs who are at the NFL Combine, and it marked the second consecutive year he reached that speed in a game.
#CFB‘s Top 5 Fastest Ball Carriers from Week 2
— Reel Analytics (@RAanalytics) September 12, 2022
Mitchell should, therefore, push Achane for the best 40 time. Will Achane’s track training give him an advantage over the similarly sized Mitchell?
Derius Davis, WR, TCU
Of course, running backs aren’t the only players who will challenge for best 40-yard-dash at the 2023 NFL Combine. Receivers will be in the mix as well, and Davis will be one of them.
Davis logged one of the fastest plays in college football during the 2022 season. He reached a maximum speed of 23.47 mph on a touchdown against SMU.
He’s HIM 🤫@yodere11 is the fastest and most explosive player in college football. Topped off at an insane 23.47 mph on this touchdown 😳 ( via @statsports )#GoFrogs #DFWBig12Team pic.twitter.com/uaNrWJL3V7
— TCU Football (@TCUFootball) September 27, 2022
While much of the focus will be on teammate Quentin Johnston, Davis could get mid-round consideration if he can blaze the fastest 40. He has excellent return ability (15.0-yard average, five touchdowns on 44 career punt returns).
Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
Gibbs may not run the fastest 40 time overall, but he figures to be the fastest player who could go in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Gibbs has gotten plenty of late-round buzz after totaling 1,370 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns on 195 touches in his lone season at Alabama. The former Georgia Tech back seamlessly inserted himself into the Crimson Tide offense and provided explosiveness out of the backfield.
According to Reel Analytics, Gibbs reached a maximum speed of 22.3 mph during the 2022 season. That’s one of the fastest times among players who are expected to attend the NFL Combine. Iif Gibbs runs, he should be among the fastest backs and could crack 4.3 in the 40.
Tyler Scott, WR, Cincinnati
Scott is yet another player who checks in at about 185 pounds, but he is listed at 5-11. He has a legitimate chance to break the 4.3 mark: Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported that Scott posted a 4.29 during preseason workouts in 2022.
That lines up with what Scott has shown on tape. He is a great deep threat, with 16.5 yards per reception and 14 touchdowns on 87 career catches at Cincinnati.
If you miss out on Jalin Hyatt in the first round, Cincy WR Tyler Scott is the man you want on Day 2
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) February 26, 2023
Expect him to challenge for the top receiver time at the combine.
Trey Palmer, WR, Nebraska
Palmer was the fastest player at the 2023 Senior Bowl. Don’t take our word for it; hear it from Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy.
Palmer logged a maximum speed of 21.15 mph at the Senior Bowl, per Nagy. That, plus a 10.4 time in the 100-meter dash, led Nagy to predict that Palmer could break 4.3 at the combine.
Nebraska WR Trey Palmer was fastest offensive player in Mobile this year at 21.15 mph per @ZebraTechnology. Not surprising considering he ran 10.4 100m in HS.
Checkout crazy instant gear off this hesitation double-move.💨
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) February 17, 2023
Palmer will face stiff competition for the title, but he averaged 14.7 yards per touch during his lone season at Nebraska and showed the game-breaking speed needed to at least contend for a place in the top five.
Andrei Iosivas, WR, Princeton
Like Achane, Iosivas is a track athlete. He also matched Achane’s top speed last season, per Reel Analytics.
The 6-3, 205-pound Iosivas is more of a long strider. He has calculated that his 60-yard dash would translate to a “4.2-something 40,” per The Athletic, though he noted that was on a track, so he might be a bit slower than that on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf.
Still, Iosivas will have a chance to blaze a fast time. At the very least, cracking 4.4 — or even getting toward the mid- to low 4.3s — would help raise the Ivy League star’s stock considerably.
Tre Tucker, WR, Cincinnati
Here’s another 185-pound receiver from Cincinnati. Tucker may not be the same type of big-play threat as Scott, but he averaged 24.9 yards and scored two touchdowns on kick returns during his career. He also caught 111 passes for 1,426 yards and eight touchdowns.
More importantly, Tucker blazed a 4.29 40 before the 2022 season, per The Athletic. It’s often easier for smaller players to clock fast 40 times, so if Tucker isn’t quite as heavy as his 185-pound listing, he might be able to shave a hundredth or so off his best time.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see both Tucker and Scott contend for top 40 time at the combine. Cincinnati will surely take a prolonged victory lap if that happens.