While he was not the fastest receiver tested at the 2014 NFL combine, Clemson's Sammy Watkins cemented his status as the draft's elite talent at the position by sizzling through the 40-yard dash Sunday, registering a pair of sub-4.40 times.
Watkins was unofficially clocked at 4.34 seconds in his first attempt and followed it up with a 4.37 second encore. NFL.com later provided an updated "official" time of 4.43 seconds for Watkins.
The blazing times provide statistical evidence of the explosiveness that helped him rack up 27 touchdowns in three seasons with the Tigers. The 6-foot-1, 211-pound wideout is expected to be a top-10 pick and could earn interest as high as No. 2 overall to the St. Louis Rams.
Watkins' first try was the fastest recorded 40-yard dash of the afternoon but a number of wideouts beat his time in the first session. The fastest times were turned in by Oregon State's Brandin Cooks and Pittsburgh State's Jon Brown, each of whom were unofficially timed at 4.30 seconds in the event. When the NFL updated the times, Cooks was given credit for running the 40 yards in 4.33 seconds, fastest among all receivers tested with Brown coming in just one hundredth of a second slower.
Cooks and Brown were the only two wideouts to register sub-4.40 second times in 2013. Five receivers broke the mark at the Combine a year ago.
As noted by Frank Cooney, the timing of the 40-yard dash is a surprisingly complicated process shrouded in secrecy.
The NFL has not updated all of their 40-yard dash times with "official" results. Other earlier workouts of note were turned in by Southern Cal's Marqise Lee (4.44 seconds) and Mississippi's Donte Moncrief (4.35), each of whose athleticism is clear on tape.
Surprising times were turned in by Alabama's Kevin Norwood (4.39) and Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews (4.40). Norwood flashed explosiveness with the Crimson Tide but perhaps due in part to Alabama's ball-control offense, he didn't post eye-popping numbers over his career, finishing with a career-high 38 receptions for 568 yards and seven scores in 2013.
Matthews, on the other hand, has been extremely productive, leaving the Commodores as the SEC's all-time leader with 262 catches for 3,759 yards over his career. While his production speaks for itself, Matthews was viewed as more of a technician rather than an elite athlete so Sunday's workout is a pleasant surprise. It could be taken as an example of manufactured speed, however, as Matthews did not appear this explosive on the field in the games I've watched on tape or when scouting him in person at the Senior Bowl.
2014 NFL combine results: 40-Yard Dash (Wide Receivers)
*(u) Denotes unofficial
Brandin Cooks, Oregon St. - 4.33 (4.30 u)
John Brown, Pittsburg St. (KS) - 4.34 (4.30 u)
Donte Moncrief, Mississippi - 4.40 (4.35 u)
Paul Richardson, Colorado 4.40 - (4.35 u)
Martavis Bryant, Clemson - 4.42 (4.34 u)
Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley St. - 4.42 (4.30 u)
Odell Beckham, LSU 4.43 (4.31 u)
Sammy Watkins, Clemson - 4.43 (4.34 u)
Albert Wilson, Georgia State - 4.43 (4.35 u)
Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma - 4.44 (4.41 u)
Bruce Ellington, South Carolina - 4.45 (4.31 u)
Quincy Enunwa, Nebraska - 4.45 (4.40 u)
Mike Campanaro, Wake Forest - 4.46 (4.44 u)
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt - 4.46 (4.40 u)
Tevin Reese, Baylor - 4.46 (4.40 u)
L'Damian Washington, Missouri 4.46 (4.43 u)
Robert Herron, Wyoming 4.48 (4.45 u)
T.J. Jones, Notre Dame 4.48 (4.40 u)
Kevin Norwood, Alabama - 4.48 (4.39 u)
Jeremy Gallon, Michigan - 4.49 (4.42 u)
Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin - 4.50 (4.44 u)
Damian Copeland, Louisville - 4.50 (4.40 u)
Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina - 4.50 (4.47 u)
Corey Brown, Ohio St. - 4.51 (4.37 u)
Shaq Evans, UCLA 4.51 (4.50 u)
Josh Huff, Oregon - 4.51 (4.45 u)
Bennie Fowler, Michigan St. - 4.52 (4.48 u)
Marqise Lee, USC - 4.52 (4.44 u)
Mike Evans, Texas A&M - 4.53 (4.47 u)
Allen Hurns, Miami - 4.55 (4.53 u)
Devin Street, Pittsburgh - 4.55 (4.47 u)
Davante Adams, Fresno St. - 4.56 (4.50 u)
Brandon Coleman, Rutgers - 4.56 (4.50 u)
Austin Franklin, New Mexico St. - 4.56 (4.53 u)
Isaiah Burse, Fresno St. - 4.58 (4.50 u)
Marcus Lucas, Missouri - 4.60 (4.52 u)
Allen Robinson, Penn St. - 4.60 (4.56 u)
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida St. - 4.61 (4.53 u)
Willie Snead, Ball St. - 4.62 (4.60 u)
Walt Powell, Murray St. - 4.63 (4.59 u)
Ryan Grant, Tulane - 4.64 (4.59 u)
Cody Hoffman, BYU - 4.65 (4.53 u)
Josh Stewart, Oklahoma St. - 4.69 (4.61 u)
Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt 4.73 (4.60 u)
Jarvis Landry, LSU 4.75 (4.65 u) - Skipped second run due to calf injury.