NFL Draft combine: The 40 Yard Dash
The Spectacle of the NFL Draft combine, and why the Australian Football League should substitute their 20 metre sprint for a 40 yard dash
A few weeks ago the NFL Draft Combine showed some amazing feats of athleticism in events such as the 40 yard dash, vertical jump, bench press.
The 40 yard dash is somewhat of spectacle when you consider the raw size of some of these athletes and how they move across that distance with power and ease, all while keeping in mind these are field athletes with different skill sets from an out and out sprinting athletes (athletics).
In the video you see some athletic qualities from Denzel Ward (Ohio State). http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-combine/0ap3000000919505/Top-CB-in-the-draft-Denzel-Ward-runs-a-4-32-40-yard-dash
Contrast your mind to the Australian Football League and their testing battery for potential draftees out of the state leagues and Underage competitions, where for a measure of max speed we often see the 20 metre sprint (equates to 21.9 yards) and why in our opinion the 40 yard dash is a better test.
With the 20 metre sprint there are 2 split times recorded; 0-10 metres and 11-20 metres this can show acceleration from a stationary position to 10 or 20 metres, whereas the 40 yard dash has 3 split times, 0-10, 11-20, 21-40 yards. We can clearly see on a 40 yard dash if the athlete is able to improve or maintain a top speed (often the athlete will improve their time per split as they are in full stride between 20-40 yards).
I believe that testing the 20 metre sprint is a disadvantage to some athletes, as it is biased to those who start well, but it does not provide the full picture that explains the acceleration over a bigger distance as the 40 yard dash does. Think of how often players sprint a greater distance than 20 metres in a match, it does not show a true acceleration and that change of speed over a rolling start (moving) as the 40 yard dash does.
You can see in the following video that the acceleration factor is a huge benefit for athletes, where by having the ability to cover ground quicker than your direct opponent often leads to a change in momentum of the play or to directly affect the prevention of a score (see tackles number 7, 5, 2 & particularly 1 https://youtu.be/N1VksxiOA5Q or this super effort from Marley WIlliams of North Melbourne https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TjENJ5G7F4)