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Who Cares About the 40 Yard Dash?

I've been preoccupied with the 40 yard dash lately. Why should the time at that distance be so important? The Dallas Morning News has a nice history of the 40 yard dash. Paul Brown started using it to see which players could get down field the fastest to cover an average 40 yard punt, but former Dallas executive Gil Brandt expanded its uses:

"Our biggest thing was we had to get accurate information into the computer, so the more information you got the better results you got," former Cowboys personnel director Gil Brandt said. "So we had a chart made up that if a player was X height and ran a 4.45 he'd get 40-plus points. If a player was X height and ran a 4.6, he might get 10-plus points. To me, what the [40] does is it becomes something of a tiebreaker or it's something that alerts you to a player that can be pretty good."
It is also giving teams a negative alert, that maybe a great college player looked better in college than he actually is.

The article goes on to mention a few of the great NFL players who had bad 40 times. I've read that maybe the players should wear pads while running the 40. Maybe they shouldn't run in a straight line because no one runs in a perfectly straight line down the field during a game. However, it really doesn't matter because it is just a tool. Players aren't ranked on the draft board from the lowest 40 time up, but it is hard to put a number on things on other important factors like work ethic, intelligence, and determination. Plus it snaps teams out of their daze if they get too focused on one player. Maybe USC's WR Dwayne Jarrett will be just as good in the NFL as in college, but maybe LSU's WR Craig Davis is just as good and would have produced Jarrett-type college stats if he was given the same opportunity as him.