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The Wide Receiver Height Argument Needs To Be Left For Dead


Right before the NFL draft, the same old schtick about player heights will come up. It's not even just height. It's hand size, weight, and every other cockamamie measurable they can come up with.

When it comes to wide receivers, height ends up being the one the talking heads focus on most. It makes sense in theory; a taller wide receiver will have an a physical advantage over a shorter defender. That much is logical. Unfortunately, that's about where that analysis ends.

Let's take a look at why this stance is lazy and outdated, shall we?

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Taller Isn't Better

Wide Receiver A is listed at 6′ 2″ and weighs 220 lbs. Wide Receiver B comes in at 5′ 10″ and 186 lbs. On paper, Wide Receiver A is the guy you'd want right? He's bigger, has more body weight, and you can reasonably conclude that he'll have an advantage. Well folks, Receiver A is Cordarrelle Patterson and Receiver B is Antonio Brown. Care to change your mind? I know that's an extreme example since Patterson hasn't amounted to much while Antonio is literally the best WR in the game but it's still a meaningful anecdote.

There are plenty others to consider too. Odell Beckham Jr. is 5' 11." Julio Jones is 6' 2." It's reasonable to argue one is better than the other but the truth of the matter is it's close despite the three inch height difference. The fact is, height really isn't that much of a factor in determining how good an NFL player is. I'm sure someone reading this will throw Mike Evans or A.J. Green at me and claim I'm wrong but I can go on and on about receivers who are shorter than the 6' 2" benchmark.

All 5' 9" of Steve Smith just retired and he's a surefire Hall of Famer. T.Y. Hilton, who is the same height as Smith, led the league in receiving yards this past season with 1,448. And Julian Edelman is no NBA center at 5' 10" either; he finished third in receptions and fourth in targets in 2016.  It's a short list but it's an important one. There are just way too many other things to consider rather than how tall a pass-catcher is.

Kris Durham, listed as 6' 7" is the tallest wide receiver in the league yet no one in their right mind would call him a Pro Bowl wideout. He doesn't even make the fantasy football radar. Both DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson are over six feet tall and their quarterbacks brought down their stats considerably. So yea, all of this is to say that height might play a role in figuring out whether or not a guy is going to be any good but it's nothing more than draft day chatter.

You can find examples of great NFL players of all shapes and sizes at every single position. Drew Brees and Russell Wilson are considered short quarterbacks. Devonta Freeman and Darren Sproles are pretty small running backs. Athletes are athletes regardless of what shape they come in. Some sports do require height like the aforementioned basketball reference but football isn't one of them. (Some even need shorter participants like horse racing.)

I will say, however, that there is one key area where height does become a factor and that's in the end zone. A taller wide receiver can just flat out get higher than a defender in a tight space. That's why so many tight ends are basketball players these days. It's like going up for a key rebound toward the end of the game. So height plays a factor there - can't dispute that, it's simple logic. But that doesn't account for scheme, quarterback ability, level of competition, how well the ball was thrown, penalties, weather, was there a squirrel running onto the field? etc. I'm being silly here but it's intentional. It's a silly crutch argument that scouts and the NFL want you to talk about when there's nothing else football-related to discuss in February and March.

When draft day rolls around, keep your ears perked up for how many times you hear the height chatter. I guarantee it's more over-exaggerated than I'm doing it justice. Even if I were to say it matters, it's certainly not close to the top of the list. As far as fantasy is concerned, this isn't even something that should be in your consideration when drafting players. You're looking for guys who put up numbers, not guys who can get you the cheap cereal on the top shelf at Key Food. Give me the more talented, faster, smarter, and better route running receiver than a taller one 10 times out of 10.

Tune in next week when we debunk the ridiculousness that is quarterback hand size translating to success or lack thereof on the field. I am totally, completely, one hundred percent kidding about that. Bet you still fell for it, though.