The NFL’s Underwear Olympics has always had a tangential connection to actual football. Bench press reps are the equivalent of Strong Man competitions, but until linemen are pulling trucks, they don’t move the needle. Besides, the best combine bench press numbers typically are posted by the lineman with the shortest arm lengths, which is the opposite of what scouts look for.
The 40-yard dash is the main event. Every day during the combine, that’s when the bass drops. Rich Eisen busts out the Simulcam, $1 million rewards are given out for the fastest time, and social media goes berserk. Football is played in short bursts, and that one inch of separation should play a role in whether you have a touchdown or a six-yard gain.
This year’s combine demonstrated how becoming the fastest prospect has turned the combine into Formula One for humans. According to NFL Research, this year’s average 40 times of 4.71 was the fastest in league history. Record-31 players ran a sub-4.4, and those record times weren’t concentrated on a few select position groups. Running backs, wide receivers, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs eclipsed their fastest averages.
The 31 players who ran the 40 in under 4.4 seconds was nearly five times the number of players who ran it in 2017. The quantum leap in 40 times is off the charts, and it’s exciting stuff.
It is also a mirage, like watching a Michael Bay marathon. Once the adrenaline rush wears off, reality will set in. Low-budget, moderately-paced Anthony Hopkins flicks win all the hardware during award season.