There are a variety of ways to determine who the league’s fastest player is, and each method will likely yield a different result.
Certain players simply pass the eye test, as their speed appears to be higher than that of other players. We won’t be using that method because our eyes aren’t perfect and it’s extremely subjective.
What about a game’s fastest times? In game action, there’s a lot going on. Players must run routes, avoid tacklers, and carry or catch a football. We can also look at 40-yard dash times, which require players to run as fast as they can in a straight line. Even so, some players may not be having the best day of their lives. A rush of adrenaline may be felt by another.
There’s no perfect way to figure out who the league’s fastest player is, so we’ll use the data we have to see who comes closest to fitting that description.
Since 2016, NFL Next-Gen Stats has been keeping track of the fastest players in the league when they come into contact with the ball. This method, like any other, is flawed because it does not include defenders chasing down a ball carrier to make a tackle, such as safeties and corners. Nonetheless, it provides a good overall picture of the players who have run the fastest times while attempting to avoid being tackled.
Five of the all-time fastest NFL players
Bob Hayes, WR
Bob Hayes is the fastest player in the history of the National Football League. Because of his lightning-fast speed, he was dubbed “Bullet Bob.” He deserved it after setting an Olympic world record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.06 seconds. Usain Bolt and many others have since broken this record.
In the 4100-meter relay, he won his second gold medal and set a new world record of 39.06 seconds.
Bo Jackson, RB
Jackson’s 4.13 time is the fastest verified NFL workout run ever, despite it being a hand-timed 40 yard dash. Jackson only lasted four seasons in the NFL due to injury, but he averaged over five yards per carry. A man standing over six feet tall and weighing more than 220 pounds was responsible for that speed.
Jackson allegedly ran a 4.12 at the 1986 combine, but he did not attend the event, according to multiple online sources. At Auburn’s pro day, he ran the hand-timed 4.13 sprint and ran through the finish line and out the door, a foreshadowing of what was to come later in his career.
Darrell Green, CB
Darrell Green ran a 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds at the age of 50, according to reports. This is incredible even for those in peak physical condition, but Green did it at the age of 50, which makes it even more incredible.
In the 1983 NFL Draft, Green was selected by the Washington Redskins. During their training camp, he reportedly ran some incredible speeds, according to many sources. In 1986, he clocked a time of 4.09 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Because of his speed, Green is widely regarded as one of the best cornerbacks in NFL history. He was a two-time Super Bowl champion and a seven-time Pro Bowler. But it’s his ability to play at a high level late in his career that sets him apart from the pack.
Tyreek Hill, WR
When Hill gets his hands on the ball, few players make you sit up and take notice like he does. At his pro day following college, he made an impression by running a 4.29 in the 40-yard dash. No player has more receiving touchdowns of 25 yards or more since entering the NFL in 2016, and he’s already halfway to Jerry Rice’s record of 19 50-yard touchdowns.
Only three players in 2020 had a faster speed than Hill’s 44-yard touchdown in Week 14 at 21.91 miles per hour. In addition, he has two of the NFL’s top 50 longest punt return touchdowns.
John Ross, WR
In his three seasons in the NFL, John Ross has only 49 receptions, but he holds the record for the most receptions at the combine.
The Washington product ran the 40-yard dash in 4.2 seconds in 2017. Ross was selected as the No. 9 overall pick in the April draught after tying Donte’ Stallworth’s 15-year-old record.
In his fourth season with the Cincinnati Bengals, Ross hopes to showcase his speed.