How Fast Do NFL Players Run? (Average By Position) | Professionals HQ (2024)

How Fast Do NFL Players Run? (Average By Position) | Professionals HQ (1)

Picture this: the stadium roars with excitement, the clock is ticking down, and the wide receiver breaks free, sprinting towards the end zone. In these thrilling moments, speed can be the ultimate game-changer. As a sports data enthusiast, nothing gets my adrenaline pumping more than diving into the numbers behind the incredible athleticism of NFL players.

In this article, we’ll explore the breakneck pace of these gridiron gladiators, focusing on the question: how fast do NFL players run?

After collecting numerous data and doing some math, here is the summary:

The average 40-yard dash from the fastest players in the 2023 NFL Combine is 4.58 seconds, while the average ball carries from 2022 is 21.52 mph.

The 40-yard dash data was pulled from the 2023 NFL Combine, and the average ball-carrying speed from Nextgenstats. After collecting the data, we calculated the average numbers.

Now let’s see why speed is so crucial in this sport and analyze the average speed among various positions.

Average NFL Player Speed

Speed has always been a crucial element in football, dictating the outcome of countless games throughout the sport’s history. From wide receivers blazing past defenders to running backs sprinting through gaps in the line, the NFL has long been a showcase for raw athleticism.

But with advancements in sports science and technology, our understanding of speed and its impact on the game has dramatically evolved.

We’ve compiled the average 40-yard dash times for various NFL positions, offering a glimpse into the speed of players across the field and emphasizing the importance of speed for each role:


Average 40-yard dash: 4.59s

Quarterbacks require agility and quickness to evade defenders and extend plays. Though not the fastest players, their speed can be critical in creating offensive opportunities.

Running Back

Average 40-yard dash: 4.43s

Running backs need explosive speed to burst through gaps in the line and outrun defenders. A faster running back can greatly impact a team’s rushing game.

Wide Receiver

Average 40-yard dash: 4.38s

Wide receivers rely on top-end speed to create separation from defenders and complete big-play receptions. Speed is crucial for this position, as it directly affects their ability to make catches downfield.

Tight End

Average 40-yard dash: 4.62s

Tight ends, while not as fast as wide receivers, still need speed to exploit mismatches in the defense. Their size and speed make them valuable targets in the passing game.

Offensive Lineman

Average 40-yard dash: 5.00s

Although not known for their speed, offensive linemen benefit from quickness and agility to execute blocks and protect the quarterback. Speed can be an asset in pulling and reaching defenders.

Defensive End

Average 40-yard dash: 4.49s

Defensive ends need speed to close in on the quarterback or running back quickly. Their ability to rapidly penetrate the backfield can disrupt the opposing team’s offensive rhythm.

Defensive Tackle

Average 40-yard dash: 4.9s

While not as fast as defensive ends, defensive tackles use their speed to generate pressure up the middle and collapse the pocket, forcing quarterbacks to make hurried decisions.


Average 40-yard dash: 4.48s

Linebackers must have the speed to cover large field areas, chase down ball carriers, and drop into coverage. Their versatility relies heavily on their ability to react quickly and move.


Average 40-yard dash: 4.35s

Cornerbacks are often the fastest players on the field, as they need top speed to stay with speedy wide receivers and limit big plays. Their ability to cover large areas of the field is crucial in defending the passing game.

Here is the summary table:

PositionAverage 40-yard dashAverage Ball Carrying Speed
Running Back4.43s21.6 mph
Wide Receiver4.38s21.57 mph
Tight End4.62s
Offensive Lineman5.00s
Defensive End4.49s
Defensive Tackle4.9s
Cornerback4.35s21.39 mph

Here is a nice visualization.

How Fast Do NFL Players Run? (Average By Position) | Professionals HQ (2)

40-Yard Vs Ball Carrying Speed

As we’ve seen, speed is a crucial factor in the NFL, with the 40-yard dash and ball-carrying speed being two key indicators of a player’s speed on the field. However, when it comes to determining which of these metrics is more important, the answer isn’t straightforward.

The 40-yard dash is like a race, where players run as fast as they can in a straight line without any obstacles. This metric is often used during scouting combines to evaluate a player’s breakaway potential and ability to outrun opponents.

Ball carrying speed is a bit different. It’s about how fast a player can run while holding the football during a real game. This includes dodging other players, changing direction, and making decisions on the fly. It’s a more accurate measure of a player’s speed in actual game situations.

So, which one is more important? It’s not an easy question to answer.

Both the 40-yard dash and ball-carrying speed are important because they help us understand different aspects of a player’s speed. However, what matters most can change depending on the player’s position and the team’s needs.

For example, players who catch the ball (like wide receivers) or who need to run fast to cover the field (like cornerbacks) might care more about their 40-yard dash times. On the other hand, players like linemen might care more about being strong, quick, and agile than just being super fast in a straight line.

In the end, both the 40-yard dash and ball-carrying speed are important, but their importance depends on the player’s position and what the team is looking for.

To get a full picture of a player’s speed, it’s best to consider both measurements and other factors like agility, acceleration, and how well they can read the game.

Recommended: How Fast Do NFL Players Throw The Ball? (176 Velocity Tests)

NFL vs Soccer – Who is faster?

After thoroughly analyzing soccer players’ speed, comparing their abilities with those of NFL players is interesting. Although comparing speed between the two sports isn’t a direct apples-to-apples comparison due to the different demands of each sport, we can still draw some intriguing parallels.

In our previous soccer speed analysis, we observed that soccer players have impressive stamina and endurance, allowing them to maintain their speed over longer distances during a 90-minute match. Top soccer players can achieve sprint speeds of up to 22-23 mph in-game, although these top speeds are not sustained for long periods.

When we look at NFL players, we find that their speed tends to focus on explosive, short bursts. Particularly in skill positions like wide receivers and cornerbacks, NFL players often boast outstanding 40-yard dash times, demonstrating their raw, straight-line speed. Some of the fastest NFL athletes can finish the 40-yard dash in around 4.3 seconds or even faster.

Considering our previous analysis of soccer players’ speed, it becomes clear that while the top speeds of elite soccer and NFL players might be similar, the context and demands of the sports are different.

NFL players excel in short bursts of speed, while soccer players display greater endurance and sustained speed across longer distances.

Finally, you have to ask yourself, how are NFL players so big and fast?

The answer is actually pretty simple.

How Fast Do NFL Players Run? (Average By Position) | Professionals HQ (2024)


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