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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Everybody knows the main event at the NFL Combine is the 40-yard dash.

It’s when you finally get to see how fast, or slow, a player can run.

And those four-plus seconds can affect a player’s draft stock drastically.

This is bad news for Joe Haden.

People were expecting him to clock the best time for a cornerback at the combine. Instead, he ran a 4.57 and his top-10 status is now in jeopardy.

It seems every year one of the best players is negatively affected by his 40 time, and this year the big name is Haden.

Haden has always looked fast in person and was one of the best players at his position the last two years, but his poor showing at the Combine is likely to cause scouts to start worrying about his ability to play at the next level. “If you are sure he has been timed enough and you are sure the times are legitimate, you know a 4.6 cornerback can’t cover a 4.4, 4.45 receiver, especially with him running backwards 68 percent of his time in coverage, so if he can’t run forward faster than that, you just say, ‘He’s a nice kid. I really like him. He’s a good kid. Maybe he can play something else for us,’” said Ron Marciniak, who was an NFL scout for 26 years before retiring recently.

While it seems dumb that two slow 40-yard dashes could affect his status that much, tape can lie.

Haden looks fast and I’m sure he will run better than 4.57 at Florida’s Pro Day on March 17, but it’s hard to tell on tape how fast he is.

You don’t know how fast the people opposite of Haden were.

So for now, the only thing to judge just how fast Haden can run is his times at the Combine. Luckily for him, the 40 is not the only thing that is going to be taken into consideration.

“To me, the 40-yard dash is a very important factor, but it is just that –  a factor,” Marciniak said. “There are 10 factors, at least, for every football player.”

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But now, those other factors that scouts and coaches are evaluating are going to have to be even better because they are going to be looking at him even closer to make sure Haden is still worth drafting with a high pick.

While the coaches are paying more attention to his game film to find any other flaws in his game, Haden has the next two weeks to prepare himself to run the best 40-yard dash of his life.

“Pro Day and the Combine is the fastest that player runs the rest of his life,” Marciniak said. “Anyone who runs in the Combine will never run that fast again. They take three-and-a-half months to practice with track coaches and condition their body five days a week to ready for two or three 40-yard dashes.”

If Haden can improve his time, he should easily re-establish himself as a top-10 pick unless the two weeks give scouts time to find another problem.

Haden’s slow time made things harder on himself and exemplifies why the 40-yard dash is the headliner at the Combine.

It takes just 4.57 seconds to hurt a player’s draft stock.

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