Bryce Young and the QB Size Dilemma
This is the 2021 Iron Bowl. With less than two minutes left in the game, Alabama is no. 3rd team in the country – seven behind Auburn without a ranking. Their powerful offense scored only three points in the entire game. Sophomore quarterback Bryce Young, who started in his first Iron Bowl, lost the entire game – he was fired seven times and thrown with a pick.
With 1:32 left on the clock, Young and the Alabama offense get one final drive, a drive that starts at the Alabama 3-yard line. After two unfinished, here’s the third-and-10. Young retreats in his end zone, Auburn’s shot puts immediate pressure on his knees. He reaches into his pocket, pumps up, oscillates behind the line of scrimmage and throws on the run. 22 yard win. First down.
Alabama advances to Auburn 28 after Young’s conversion from fourth and seventh to tight end Jalil Billingsley. On another third and tenth—this time with 24 seconds left—Young hits his back leg and performs a high arcing throw that lands right over Ja’Kori Brooks’ shoulders, in a place where only Brooks and Brooks could do it. Touchdown.
This touchdown sent the game into overtime. This eventually went into the fourth overtime and Alabama emerged victorious, 24–22.
It was a defining game in what would eventually become Bryce Young’s Heisman season – his first year as a Tide player. They lost to Georgia in the national championship that year, but not before Young had over 4,800 passing yards and 47 passing touchdowns with plays like the above; in 2022, as a junior, he would have added another 3,300 and 32 in just 12 games before announcing the NFL Draft.
For some NFL teams, Young will not be drafted this year. For all his production, incredible film, winning pedigree and football personality, the elephant in the room is both big and small: Young may be too small for the league.
It is important to characterize how small Young is compared to league standards. Although Young has not yet been officially measured at an NFL camp — his height and weight will be recorded and reported sometime Saturday morning — we know that Young was listed in Alabama at 6 feet, 194 pounds..
We also know that these numbers are almost certainly false. College teams often oversize even for players who don’t need extra effort, so standard measurements are taken on the combine. Weight is easy to manage – Young, who won’t be training during either athletic tests or throwing exercises, has likely been eating like he’s never eaten before in the past few weeks and will be carrying the extra water weight on the scale with effort. put on a few more pounds. But you can’t fool the height – and Yang is not 6 feet. ESPN Draft Analyst Todd McShay reported that the scout Young weighs 195 pounds and is about 5 feet 10 and a half inches tall..
If this all sounds completely ridiculous, don’t worry, it is. Funny, but not useless. While it may seem like there is no functional difference between being 6′ and 5’10, it just speaks to the insecurities caused by the dating app. For football, Young’s growth is of great importance.
After the AFL and NFL merged in 1970 172 quarterbacks started in at least 50 games.– only 11 of them were 6 feet tall or shorter. These players include Kyler Murray, Michael Vick, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees. It’s not a bad company, but remember, it’s the quarterbacks who strike, as they have racked up 50 or more starts in their careers. If instead we look only at quarterbacks drafted since 1970, only 30 of the 522 quarterbacks selected (5.7 percent) were 6 feet or shorter..
If we look at just the choice in the first three rounds? Seven of 241 quarterbacks. And if we only look at round 1? Three of 127: Vic, Murray and Johnny Manzil.
Height is only half of the equation for Young. Here are all the first round quarterbacks with a graphic of height (in inches) and weight.
That dot on the left is Murray, who is just over 5ft 10in, but most notably, Murray also weighed 207lbs, well above his expected weight based on this trendline. If we assume Young fits McShay’s expected size – 195 pounds at 5’10 ½ – that’s where he’ll end up on this first-round quarterback chart.
It’s quite a secluded area, but it doesn’t look too bad. But many of the others under 200 pounds in this table were compiled long for a long time. If we only look at first-round quarterbacks in the 2000s, we can see that Young is likely to be the only quarterback drafted in the first round who weighs less than 200 pounds.
While the short quarterback group certainly has its respectable players, the short quarterback group and light quarterbacks don’t, mostly because there aren’t any players at all. Since 1970, only eight quarterbacks (out of 302) have been drafted under 200 pounds. Last year, South Dakota State QB Chris Oladokun finished eighth; before him, Pat White was last drafted in the second round in 2009 by the Miami Dolphins. White is also the only one of the eight to make it to the sixth round. Looking back at our first-round quarterbacks, we see that only one of them weighs less than 210 pounds: Murray. At 210 pounds are Manzil, Vic, Cade McNown, Joey Harrington and Rick Meerer. Not exactly an elite company.
Young isn’t just small – he’s the smallest quarterback prospect we’ve ever seen, and by far the smallest quarterback prospect ever considered at the top of the first round. For a talented player like Young, picking him in the first round means making him stand out from day one in the face of expected builds for NFL players.
Just because a player has to be exceptional to be successful doesn’t mean he won’t be. Here’s the thing about outliers: they exist. We can look at some of these successful underdogs — Breeze, Wilson, Murray, Vic — to create narratives for Young’s positive outcomes. We can see what it might be like, and in doing so, perhaps convince ourselves that Young is overcoming the odds.
Immediately we find some common connections. Three of the four—Wilson, Murray, and Vic—were very mobile quarterbacks. Arguably the least dangerous runner of the three, Wilson has made at least 90 carries in five of his first six seasons as a pro. His 4,966 yards is the third most by a quarterback in league history (Vick’s first). In yards per game, Vic is fourth, Murray is eighth, and Wilson is 23rd..
Young is a fast athlete with good fluency, but he is not a quality runner. While Young’s mobility will help him in the NFL, it’s hard to see Young become such an effective runner that he can follow the path blazed by Vic or Murray. His weight makes this possibility doubly unlikely: since Young doesn’t have as many body armor due to mass or volume, NFL teams will consider Young more prone to injury when hit. It makes sense: the big guys hurt the smaller guys when they hit them.
So, Young won’t go the running quarterback route—that leaves Breeze’s path. Here we run into another problem, and that problem is that Drew Brees… well, he’s Drew Brees. Even among successful short quarterbacks, Brees stands out; he is an outcast among emissions. Other undersized quarterbacks struggle to throw the ball into center field as they either can’t see behind the big hitters in front of them or can’t successfully deliver the ball through all those bodies – that was never the case with Brees. who remains one of the most accurate quarterbacks the league has ever seen (second career completion percentage all-time).
Brees’ accuracy has long been attributed to the grip afforded by his oddly huge hands (10.25 inches, a number that Young will almost certainly not match), as as well as his obsession with consistent mechanics. This robotic approach is not the style Yang takes, and rightly so. With his mobility and play instinct, and the terrain of a quarterback that moves quickly towards off-platform shots and adjusted arm angles, Young shouldn’t play with Brees’ mechanical obsession and perfection.
The problem is obvious. All successful short quarterbacks are some of the most amazing and incredible stories we have in quarterbacks. We haven’t even touched on Wilson’s absurd moonshot accuracy, which has long been a hallmark of his passing game; or the truly unique electricity of Vic’s swift ability; or the fact that while Murray has started over 50 games and signed a huge second contract, it may be too far off to call him a success story for short quarterbacks as the best overall pick.
To succeed, Yang must compensate for his smaller and leaner physique with truly superior skills in other areas. And there is an argument for that. Return to the 2021 Iron Bowl or any Young’s films over the past two seasons, and you’ll see one of the most level-headed quarterbacks college football has ever offered. Behind an Alabama line that failed pass defense and in 2022 was throwing well below Tide standard at receiving bodies, Young has regularly deflated with feel and quickness; And…