Speed kills, and can’t be faked. That’s why, in recent years, some of the fastest quarterbacks have opted to pass over the opportunity to put their speed to the test in the 40-yard dash. Liberty’s Malik Willis is just the latest to skip the timed run, joining Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson, who area generally regarded as the two most athletic and fastest quarterbacks in the NFL right now.
The last burner to run the 40-yard dash was Justin Fields, the 2021 11th overall pick out of Ohio St., who last year ran a 4.44, which occurred at his Pro Day (the Combine was cancelled last year due to COVID-19, so he didn’t have a choice).
There was plenty of speed on display at the quarterback position at the Combine this year, with Desmond Ridder posting the fastest time of 4.49. E.J. Perry and Kenny Pickett also posted sub-4.7-second 40-yard dash times. Willis almost undoubtedly would have topped the charts, but he knows he has nothing to prove with his straight-line speed.
“I’m fast. If I ran the 40, it would’ve been nice, but there was no point. I would’ve just proved that I’m fast, and if you already think I’m fast, and I run fast, I didn’t really do anything”, he told reporters during his Tuesday Pro Day workout about why he chose not to include the 40 as part of his exercises. “But, I’m fast”.
“Nobody thought I should run it, though”, he added, which is valid, given the precedent set by Jackson and Murray, and how they have shown at the professional level that their game-tape speed didn’t need a number put to it. “They were like, ‘Whatever’. I ran it a few times training, but I felt good about it. My dad wanted me to run, though He was like, ‘Shock the world! Shock the world!’”.
Still, Willis was eventually asked what he thought he would time if he did run. At first he was reluctant to answer, saying he wasn’t going to tell reporters that kind of information, but he did ultimately relinquish and put a figure to it. “Probably like, high 4.3s. Low 4.4s”.
But as is the point of this article, you don’t need a number to see his speed and athleticism. What time he runs in a 40-yard dash isn’t going to tell you anything about his game that the tape doesn’t tell you. He has nothing to gain by establishing a number on his 40 time because his arm has already solidified his first-round status.
And in case you’re wondering, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a history of not really caring about 40 times. In fact, they often half-jokingly mention that they root for bad 40 times for prospects they’re high on, in the hopes that they’ll fall to them in the draft, because they got what they needed in their evaluation of his speed from the game tape.