From Darrell Green to Bo Jackson to Deion Sanders, there's always debate regarding who owns the NFL combine's fastest-ever 40-yard dash time. The picture has been much clearer in recent years, though.
Here's a look at the fastest 40 time run each year dating back to 2005. And note that RB Chris Johnson is the only one of the seven players listed who was not drafted by nor eventually played for the Oakland Raiders.
2005: CB Fabian Washington, 4.29 seconds (first round, Oakland Raiders)
2008: RB Chris Johnson, 4.24 (first round, Tennessee Titans)
2009: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, 4.30 (first round, Raiders)
2010: WR Jacoby Ford, 4.28 (fourth round, Raiders)
2011: CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, 4.37 (third round, Raiders)
Handicapping the 2012 field
Florida RB Jeff Demps was invited to the combine and would have been the heavy favorite to win this year's fastest-40 competition had he showed up, but he's currently running with the Florida track team in preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympic trials. Demps likely would have been somewhere in the 4.2-second range, but his absence leaves the competition to a handful of others who will be somewhere in the 4.3s.
Chris Rainey was a teammate of Demps at Florida and is the only contender listed at a running back, although he was something of a RB/WR hybrid, while Arkansas is represented by a pair of speedy wideouts. Jarius Wright was more productive than Razorbacks teammate Joe Adams, but Adams shows more explosiveness on the field and could very well be taken ahead of Wright regardless of 40 time or college stats.
Other offensive players to watch include a Miami wideout who showed some explosiveness both on offense and in the return game and a Fresno State receiver who was slowed by injury but showed big-play ability when on the field.
Three of the past seven fastest-40 runners have been cornerbacks, and the two who appear fastest on tape this year are Cal Poly's Asa Jackson and Georgia's Brandon Boykin. Anyone who saw Jackson's 100-yard return touchdown against San Diego State knows his game-breaking ability, while Boykin is a potential second-rounder who can cover slot receivers, return kicks and even contribute some on offense.
Here are the eight players who are most likely to take home this year's crown.
Arkansas WR Jarius Wright (5-foot-9⅝, 176; Grade: 71)
Florida RB Chris Rainey (5-8⅜, 178; 62)
Miami WR Travis Benjamin (5-9¾, 164; 38)
Fresno State WR Devon Wylie (5-9⅛, 186; 54)
NC State WR T.J. Graham (5-11⅜, 182; 73)
Cal Poly CB Asa Jackson (5-9⅞, 193; 70)
Georgia CB Brandon Boykin (5-9¼, 183; 82)
Baylor WR Kendall Wright (5-10⅛, 194; 91)
Arkansas WR Joe Adams (5-10.5, 174; 77)
Connecticut WR Kashiif Moore (5-91, 172; 30) flew under the radar on a team that went 5-7 in 2011, but he averaged nearly 15 yards per catch and reportedly ran in the 4.3s for NFL scouts last spring. He's a fringe prospect, but if Moore is among the top speedsters in Indianapolis, he'll certainly help his cause.
Big-name long shot
You didn't hear Miami RB Lamar Miller (5-11, 214; 88) complain about it, but he played through a shoulder injury for much of the season, one that required postseason surgery. He's reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehab and is planning on running the 40 and participating in most drills at the combine. At the very least, Miller will compete for the title of fastest running back in Indy.