The size and weight of NFL players just keeps increasing. It’s easy to see how injuries are going to become more frequent as 320 to 360 pound players roam around the field.
At the other end of the spectrum, however, the NFL is seeing an influx of speed merchants, guys who can do a 40-yard dash in 4.40 or under. These guys have always been around, but they are becoming more common. They’ve been mostly receivers, with a few running backs mixed in. This has led to defenses responding with even faster players, mostly at cornerback, some at safety.
The question is: can such thin and lightweight players stay healthy among the giants that mostly inhabit the NFL?
Let’s look at the Green Bay Packers and also take a glance at the rest of the league. The Packers’ lightweights include Makinton Dorleant, 182 (177 in college); Sam Shields (until days ago), 184; Trevor Davis (188 on a 6’1” frame); Herb Waters, 188; Josh Hawkins, 189; Randall Cobb, 192 (but recently closer to 200); Quinten Rollins Jermaine Whitehead, and Jared Abbrederis, 195; Damarious Randall, 196; and Micah Hyde and Demetri Goodson, 197.
Never mind for now whether these players are able to tackle guys like Ezekiel Elliott, Eddie Lacy, or Aaron Ripkowski, or whether they can avoid being pushed around by Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, or Rob Gronkowski. Can they remain largely injury-free?
From smallest to biggest on the above list (Waters and Whitehead are not included due to minimal playing time), here are their 2016 health reports:
It’s a clean sweep. All 10 of the smallest Green Bay players who got more than token playing time were on the weekly injury report. Micah Hyde was the only one among them who missed no games due to injury.
We know the Packers’ defensive backs weren’t any good this past season. But let’s not forget that as a group they were injury-riddled. Maybe drafting sturdier players would lessen that problem.
Some other notable small players around the league include:
This list proves that undersized players can prosper in the NFL. T.Y. Hilton has gone to the Pro Bowl three times. The same is true of DeSean Jackson, who has starred in the league for 10 years. Taylor Gabriel had nine catches for 171 yards in the recent playoffs.
A few other small but very fast NFL players who had great NFL success are: kick returner Desmond Howard, Super Bowl MVP for the 1996 Packers, 188 pounds; Devin Hester, the NFL’s greatest kick returner ever, 190 pounds; and, the great cornerback and kick and punt returner Deion Sanders, 195 pounds.
I grant you that small players should not be automatically excluded from a team’s draft pick charts, but size and weight should be viewed as important factors. The injury reports of 2016 argue strongly that players less than 200 pounds are likely to be injured at high rates, and that those around or under 190 are likely to miss large portions of the season.
Defensive backs for the Packers who have stayed pretty healthy over their careers tend to have sturdy builds: Charles Woodson, 210; Morgan Burnett, 209; Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, 208; Nick Collins, 207; LeRoy Butler, 204. It’s early, but youngsters Marwin Evans, at 211, and LaDarius Gunter, at 201, have so far kept quite healthy, as has Kentrell Brice — who has a good mix of speed (4.44) and size (200 pounds).
The answer appears pretty simple for general manager Ted Thompson: go find and draft another Woodson, Collins, or Butler.
Very interesting. “The 200 lb criterion”. Good stats gathering, Rob.
The answer is not that simple. There are 31 other teams looking for another Woodson, Collins, or Butler and guys like them are few and far between.
Good points but also the shoulder pad company the Packers use is not the best tech apparently.