The running backs ran the 40 at the combine yesterday, an occurrence that always gets people excited for the upcoming draft. Speed isn't everything, as we're reminded every year when some fast rookie flops, but all things being equal faster is better than slower. Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor, arguably the top back in the class, turned in the fastest 40 among running backs, with a 4.39.

That time won't automatically get him drafted first in April, but it doesn't hurt his appeal. Since 2000, 14 running backs have run at least a 4.40 at the combine and gone on to be selected in the first two rounds of the draft. A third of those guys were stars: Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden and Saquon Barkley. Several others had their moments: Michael Bennett, C.J. Spiller, Joseph Addai. Jahvid Best and David Wilson saw their careers shortened by injury after flashing potential.

Taylor further stands out because he's 226 pounds, some 20 pounds heavier than most of the other 4.4 guys (Peterson, Barkley and Chris Henry are the only ones within 10 pounds of him). Running that fast at that size is rare; even 4.45 at 220-plus pounds is unusual.

Table below shows all running backs to break a 4.50 at the combine in the last 20 years and go on to be drafted in the first two rounds. Guys who weighed 220-plus pounds are in bold. Taylor just ran the fastest 40 of any of those guys.

2008124Chris JohnsonEast Carolina5.112034.24
200814Darren McFaddenArkansas6.012114.33
2010130Jahvid BestCalifornia5.101994.35
2012261LaMichael JamesOregon5.081944.35
201019C.J. SpillerClemson5.111964.37
2004241Tatum BellOklahoma State5.112124.37
2012132David WilsonVirginia Tech5.102064.38
2001127Michael BennettWisconsin5.092074.38
2012250Isaiah PeadCincinnati5.101974.39
2006260Maurice Jones-DrewUCLA5.072074.39
2020??Jonathan TaylorWisconsin5.102264.39
2006130Joseph AddaiLouisiana State5.112144.40
200717Adrian PetersonOklahoma6.012174.40
201812Saquon BarkleyPenn State6.002334.40
2007250Chris HenryArizona5.112304.40
2000131Trung CanidateArizona5.111934.41
2001123Deuce McAllisterMississippi6.012224.41
2008123Rashard MendenhallIllinois5.102254.41
2008255Ray RiceRutgers5.081994.42
200515Cadillac WilliamsAuburn5.112174.43
200512Ronnie BrownAuburn6.002334.43
2010258Ben TateAuburn5.112204.43
2008122Felix JonesArkansas5.102074.44
2008244Matt ForteTulane6.012174.44
2010112Ryan MathewsFresno State6.002184.45
2004124Steven JacksonOregon State6.012414.45
2007249Kenny IronsAuburn5.112034.45
2009127Donald BrownConnecticut 5.102104.46
2007112Marshawn LynchCalifornia5.112154.46
2018127Rashaad PennySan Diego State5.112204.46
200115LaDainian TomlinsonTexas Christian5.102214.46
2012131Doug MartinBoise State5.092234.46
2008113Jonathan StewartOregon5.102354.46
2005244J.J. ArringtonCalifornia5.092144.46
201614Ezekiel ElliottOhio State6.002254.47
2004243Julius JonesNotre Dame5.102174.47
2020??Cam AkersFlorida State5.102174.47
201718Christian McCaffreyStanford5.112024.48
2002254Maurice MorrisOregon5.112084.48
2020??D'Andre SwiftGeorgia5.082124.48
2017241Dalvin CookFlorida State5.112134.49
2019253Miles SandersPenn State5.112114.49
2014254Bishop SankeyWashington5.092094.49
2011256Shane VereenCalifornia5.102054.49
2018259Derrius GuiceLouisiana State5.112184.49
2010259Montario HardestyTennessee6.002254.49

Included in the table are two other incoming rookies who broke 4.50 yesterday and might be selected in the first two rounds, Georgia's D'Andre Swift and Florida State's Cam Akers. (Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins is another early-round possibility, but he didn't run yesterday due to an ankle injury.)

It will be interesting to see how early Taylor is selected. Kind of a checkered recent history for Wisconsin backs, with Bennett a noteworthy pro and Melvin Gordon a success, but Montee Ball a bust. But with his size-speed combo, he'll likely see his name called in the first two rounds.

--Andy Richardson