When John Ross ran his 40-yard dash in just 4.22 seconds and broke the NFL Scouting Combine record, you could say he ran his way into the top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft when the Bengals used the ninth-overall selection on him just weeks later.
However, the previous record holder has his doubts about whether or not Ross actually beat his time.
Former Titans running back Chris Johnson originally set the record that Ross beat back in 2008 when he ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.24 seconds. Similar to Ross, Johnson’s draft stock rose accordingly and he eventually became a first-round pick as well.
Johnson was recently interviewed on Bleacher Report’s Simms and Lefkoe: The Show about a number of things, but when it came to Ross beating his record, Johnson wasn’t sold.
.@ChrisJohnson28 thinks it was rigged when John Ross broke his 4.24 40 time: “The combine was getting boring”— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 3, 2019
Full interview on @SimmsAndLefkoe: The Show https://t.co/899lIK3acY pic.twitter.com/lV4LZmaVpC
You can catch the rest of the interview here.
Johnson brought up a couple arguments to defend why he believes his record should stand.
The first one being the side-by-side cam between Ross and Johnson, which NFL Network stated several times after Ross allegedly broke it that they weren’t able to pull off. That was because Johnson ran his 40-yard dash in the Colts old stadium, where they didn’t have a good camera angle of Johnson’s run. They did manage to have Ross run compared to Johnson’s time by illustrating it with a line here. You have to wonder how accurate that is, if so, Johnson has a point as his line pretty much passes the finish before Ross.
Here is NFL Network’s broadcast of Ross running the 40-yard dash and the rest of their coverage of Ross breaking the record. Even when they play Ross side-by-side with Dri Archer, who ran a 4.26 it looks like Ross barely beats him by a hair. Certainly not enough to say he ran a 4.22.
That point is stronger than Johnson questioning how long it took to get the official time, as it can often take awhile to get the official times for the group of players who ran that day.
The idea that the NFL had Ross break the record in order to make the combine more interesting is a weird concept, but Johnson has a point to doubt whether Ross broke his record based off the evidence provided. It would be odd to say fans flocked to watch the 2018 combine just because Ross broke the record the previous year, but it is hard to say why they would say Ross broke the record if he didn’t.
Ultimately, we can’t say for sure that Ross didn’t break it. We are arguing over hundredths of a second after all, and we should be more inclined to believe the official times, as it would be weird for the NFL to be caught faking times at their gathering of prospects to help teams decide who to draft.
Ross’ draft stock probably wouldn’t have altered that much had his time been a 4.22 or a 4.25. The Bengals are probably more concerned about finding a head coach who can design an offense that can get Ross the ball in more advantageous situations rather than just being an excellent red zone target in his third year.
Johnson still has his 2,000 yard rushing season, which seems to be a mark that no one will hit for quite some time. And whether or not Ross did break this record, Bengals fans are more concerned with his continued development entering his third year than his distinction of being the fastest player ever.