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Seahawks' Russell Wilson: A Deep Analysis of Height, QBs, the NFL Draft, and Bucking the Trend part II


This is Part Two. First read Part One if you haven't or you'll miss introductions and all of that fun stuff!

We resume where we left off and get to the 2006-2009 Drafts plus a look at how short quarterbacks have fared in the NFL, how first round quarterbacks have fared in comparison to every other round combined, and just why Russell Wilson will have to overcome very long odds to be a great NFL quarterback.

Let's start with the 2006 Draft by height...

2006 Draft

Vince Young 1 6'5"
Matt Leinart* 1 6'5"
Jay Cutler 1 6'3"
Kellen Clemens 2 6'2"
Tarvaris Jackson 2 6'2"
Charlie Whitehurst 3 6'4"
Brodie Croyle 3 6'2"
Brad Smith 4 6'2"
Ingle Martin 5 6'2"
Omar Jacobs 5 6'4"
Reggie McNeal 6 6'2"
Bruce Gradkowski 6 6'1"
D.J. Shockley 7 6'0"


The 6'3" Jay Cutler has turned into the best QB from this draft by far. Young and Leinart have plenty of issues and neither will probably be an above-average starter in this league, but the rest of the ordering probably goes: Young then Jackson then Leinart. Tarvaris Jackson, the third best QB in a draft! (That's actually not abnormal. These franchise guys are hard to find, ya know.)

The 6' Shockley never played in the NFL but to be fair, never did the 6'4" Jacobs. The 6'1" Gradkowski got drafted after a record-setting career at Toledo and has proven to be one of the better backup QBs in the league.

2007 Draft

JaMarcus Russell 1 6'6"
Brady Quinn 1 6'4"
Kevin Kolb 2 6'3"
John Beck 2 6'2"
Drew Stanton 2 6'3"
Trent Edwards 3 6'4"
Isaiah Stanbeck 4 6'3"
Jeff Rowe 5 6'5"
Troy Smith* 5 6'0"
Jordan Palmer 6 6'5"
Tyler Thigpen 7 6'3"


Welp, being 6'6" isn't everything. JaMarcus Russell will go down as one of the laziest and care-free players in NFL history. Russell busted for a number of reasons but was selected mainly for his incredible advantage in the size department. How did he use those advantages? He didn't. Russell was often cited for showing up late, not working hard, and putting on weight. Even after he had been banished and unwanted in the NFL, it seemed like he thought that everyone was against him and that he hadn't done anything wrong. Mike Williams owned up to doing exactly the same thing that Russell has done and he's back in the NFL. Will Russell ever take responsibility?

The short guy here is Troy Smith and how good is Troy Smith? He's been trying to make it as a starter, he's been given opportunities as a starter, but he's not consistent enough to really be a starter. He is a third-string QB and better suited for another position.


College Players of the Era

Notables 2006-2007
Tyler Palko -6'1"
Blake Mitchell -6'2"
Adam Tafralis -6'1"
Matt Grothe -6'0"
Brandon Cox -6'2"
Zac Taylor -6'2"
Nate Longshore -6'3"
Paul Smith -6'1"
Caleb Hanie -6'2"
Ben Mauk -6'1"
Todd Boeckman -6'5"
Bernard Morris -6'4"
Taylor Tharp -6'1"


Not very many tall guys here. I just want to note that I'm picking college football stat leaders and guys from my memory that did not go drafted. There is NO bias here. I go through the leaders, I see a name that wasn't drafted, I look up his height, and I post it.

Morris and Boeckman are big guys that went undrafted. They each signed UDFA deals but didn't stick with a team. Hanie caught on with the Bears but as we saw this year, he is absolutely turrible.

Palko had a very good career at Pitt and isn't the worst backup QB you could ask for.

2008 Draft

Matt Ryan 1 6'5"
Joe Flacco 1 6'6"
Brian Brohm 2 6'2"
Chad Henne 2 6'3"
Kevin O'Connell 2 6'5"
John David Booty 5 6'3"
Dennis Dixon 5 6'3"
Josh Johnson 5 6'2"
Erik Ainge 5 6'5"
Colt Brennan 6 6'3"
Andre Woodson 6 6'4"
Matt Flynn 7 6'2"
Alex Brink 7 6'2"


Once again, unlike a class picture, tall guys in the front. Not a single drafted QB under 6'2" in this draft. Matt Ryan is very good, Flacco is okay. Henne, Josh Johnson, and Dixon have their moments.

Oh, and then there is that Matt Flynn guy. Favre, Rodgers, Flynn... The last Packers QB to start a game that wasn't 6'2" was Mike Tomczak (6'1") in 1991.

2009 Draft

Matthew Stafford 1 6'2"
Mark Sanchez 1 6'2"
Josh Freeman 1 6'6"
Pat White 2 6'0"
Stephen McGee 4 6'3"
Rhett Bomar 5 6'2"
Nate Davis 5 6'2"
Tom Brandstater 6 6'5"
Mike Teel 6 6'3"
Keith Null 6 6'4"
Curtis Painter 6 6'4"


Finally, I have to mention the 2009 draft for it's oddities. The #1 pick being 6'2" for instance. Stafford is the shortest #1 overall pick since Vick in 2001. Not only that, but Sanchez was the next QB off the board, also at 6'2". To recap that: 1st Round QB's under 6'3" since 2000: Vick, Grossman, Ramsey, Rodgers, Sanchez, Stafford.

(That's out of 26 QBs selected.)

Compare that to QB's over 6'3" to be selected in the first round since 2000 and you'll have 15 names.

Pat White in the 2nd round turned out to be one of the worst second round picks in recent memory. I think he's still trying to play baseball. And Pat White was one of the best college football players that I've ever seen.

College Players of the Era

Notables 2008-2009
Graham Harrell -6'2"
Bobby Reid -6'3"
Chase Holbrook -6'5"
Chris Turner -6'4"
Todd Reesing -5'11"
David Johnson -6'3"
Chase Clement -6'1"
Adam DiMechele -6'0"
Trevor Vittatoe -6'2"
Darryl Clark -6'2"
Jevan Snead -6'3"


A couple of tall outliers here from what we've learned about QBs over 6'3" but again some really great college careers for players under 6'2". Todd Reesing led Kansas to two Bowl wins and had 90 career touchdown passes, 11,194 yards, 33 INT, a 144.60 efficiency rating, 1,046 yards rushing and 15 TDs. He's also under 6' tall.

Some Overall Numbers

Average Height of a QB by Round from 2000-2009

Average Height of a First Round QB (26 Players): 75.76" or roughly a quarter inch under 6'4"

Average Height of a Second Round QB (12): 74" or 6'2" (Note on Drew Brees. He was the 32nd overall pick meaning that in a current draft he would be in the first round but this was the year before the Texans existed so he is still a "2nd Round Pick.")

Average Height of a Third Round QB (12): 75.75" basically the same as a 1st Rounder.

Average Height of a Fourth Round QB (12): 74.25" or just over 6'2".

Average Height of a Fifth Round QB (21): 74.85" or just under 6'3"

Average Height of a Sixth Round QB (26): 75.11" or just over 6'3"

Average Height of a Seventh Round QB (21): 74.285" or just over 6'2"

Interesting to note: Since 2000, there have been 13 QB's at 6'5" or 6'6" drafted after the first round and 11 QB's at 6'5" or 6'6" drafted in the first round alone. So two more QB's in all the other rounds combined compared to the first. Think about how much larger that pool is. Well, it means that 42.3% of first round QBs are 6'5" or taller compared to 12.5% in rounds 2-7.

And as far as the numbers are concerned, when people say that you can get Tom Brady or Matt Hasselbeck late and don't need to draft a QB in the first round, remember where Brady and Hasselbeck came from. There have been 26 quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 2000 and 104 quarterbacks drafted in every other round. Oh, and Tony Romo was undrafted? Can you even begin to fathom how large of a pool that is?

The odds get extremely low when you search for quarterbacks after the first round.

Where Have Starters Typically Been Drafted?

First Round QBs That Had a Start in 2011: Vick, Rodgers, Stafford, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Roethlisberger, Rivers, Ryan, Flacco, Freeman, Grossman, Sanchez, Cutler, Alex Smith, Jason Campbell, Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Boller.

Second Round QBs that Started in 2011: Brees, Tarvaris Jackson, Kolb, Henne.

Third Round QBs that Started in 2011: Schaub.

Fourth Round QBs that Started in 2011: Seneca Wallace, Luke McCown, Orton.

Fifth Round QBs that Started in 2011: Josh Johnson, A.J. Feeley, Orlovsky.

Sixth Round QBs that Started in 2011: Gradkowski, Brady, Painter.

Seventh Round QBs that Started in 2011: Fitzpatrick, Flynn, Cassel.

Add in the 2010 Draft: Bradford, Tebow, McCoy, Skelton, Kafka. (That's both 1st Round picks, a third and a fourth.)

Add in the 2011 Draft: Newton, Gabbert, Ponder, Dalton, Yates. (That's 3 out of 4 1st round picks, a 2nd, and a 5th.)

The majority of successful quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round. This is indisputable. People like to dispute it but it's true. And the pool of quarterbacks in the first is much smaller than all of the rest. Consider that pool of 2000-2009 and think about the percentages. Of starters in 2011 to be drafted in the first round its 18 out of 26 drafted players in the 1st or a whopping 69%.

Of players drafted after the first round (and I'll add in Tony Romo for fun) it's 18 out of 105 players for a total of 17.1%.

Your odds of having drafted a starter go up dramatically when you draft him in the first round and it's not even close, keeping in mind that a very high percentage of the tall quarterbacks are drafted in the first round.

Top Seasons by a QB

I went ahead and used Pro-Football-Reference to try and find some numbers on some of the best seasons by a QB.

Criteria: Seasons of >8 YPA and minimum of 400 Pass Attempts.

Sorting by Y/A, Aaron Rodgers just had the highest YPA, min. 400 pass attempts, at 9.25.

After him are in order: Lynn Dickey, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Sonny Jurgenson, Kurt Warner, Philip Rivers, Kurt warner, Randall Cunningham, and Steve Young.

Young, Warner, and Rodgers are all 6'2". Sonny Jurgenson, one of the all-time greats, was 5'11". Other notable shorties are Joe Theismann (6'0"), Johnny Unitas (6'1") and of course Drew Brees. The interesting thing about Brees is that his BMI of 28.3 is behind only Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, Rodgers, and Roethlisberger. He has a higher BMI than Manning, Romo, Young, Brady, Marino, Jim Kelly, and Rivers, to name a few.

Russell Wilson has a BMI (If I did this correctly) of 28.4. Higher than Brees.

Final Thoughts:

What's undeniable? That the NFL seriously considers height when it comes to quarterbacks. Height even seems to take precedent over college success, experience, going to a big name school, and many other aspects of being a signal-caller. Went to four bowl games and set records? Sorry, you're 6'0".

Never started a college game but you're 6'5"? Let's take a 7th round flier on this guy!

Consider that there have been a number of 6'0" college QBs with great success but only a small fraction of those get drafted. And I don't buy for a second that it's because NFL GMs won't give them a chance simply because there is a "misnomer" about how you need height to be successful as a QB in the NFL. No, you don't need it, as Brees has proven, but you have to be really special to overcome it. And NFL GMs don't often ignore what's in their best interest. A few bad GMs? Sure. But there are not 32 bad NFL GMs.

Also, Drew Brees is one of the most special quarterbacks to ever play the game, a record-setter, and a generational athlete and quarterback that you won't see come along very often. Just when you consider his height relative to his success you can basically say that you might only see one "Drew Brees" in your lifetime. What does that say for Russell Wilson?

Well, Wilson has already bucked the trend and he's already proved the doubters wrong by being the highest draft pick for an under 6' QB in at least 15 years. Do you think that when he came to NC State that anybody besides Wilson believed that he would be drafted, let alone in the third round? Would you have even considered it when he transferred to Wisconsin? Wilson keeps proving people wrong and when you look at the game tape and hear him talk, you can understand why.

It's the "amazing" in sports that make sports worth watching. Doing what people don't think should be done is the "amazing." Jeremy Lin isn't supposed to happen. The Broncos aren't supposed to go on a winning streak after they insert Tim Tebow into the starting job. Butler isn't supposed to go to back-to-back NCAA Finals games. Do you think people would look at Tom Brady in the same light if he was a #1 pick instead of a #199? No, you wouldn't, because part of the "amazing" of Brady, the part that gets a one hour special on ESPN, is where he was drafted and how unlikely it was that he'd become a Hall of Fame QB.

Andrew Luck has to overcome the odds against failure and Russell Wilson has to overcome the odds against success, but odds against the likely aren't a death sentence; they're an opportunity to give sports the "amazing."

It appears that Wilson knows the game of football as well as any college QB and he'll have to if he's going to become even a regular starter in the NFL. In order to overcome his one handicap of height, he'll have to heighten every other sense, skill and attribute in his arsenal by reading defenses perfectly, drawing off defenses, opening lanes, making quick decisions in the pocket, and making off-the-cuff moves when his pocket disappears or he has to rollout.

And if he couldn't already do things like that, he wouldn't have just had one of the best seasons by a college QB ever. Again, he's already bucking trends.

Even in the Badgers heartbreaking losses last season, Wilson stepped up and had phenomenal final drives. Even in defeat, Wilson stood out as someone special and as a leader that could make the plays when Wisconsin needed him to. Nobody could ever question Wilson except for that one thing: Height.

However, it is questionable. Is Wilson really going to become the best under 6' QB since Sonny Jurgenson? Will he be more like Doug Flutie, the 5'10" QB that had a career completion percentage of 54.7%?

The list of under 6' QBs to throw for 15 or more TDs in a season is very short:

Jurgenson, Flutie, Eddie LeBaron, Jim Finks, Paul Governali, Bob Berry, Sam Vacanti, Frankie Albert, and Benny Friedman. That's it. Ever. And Flutie is the only one to do it since 1970.

One of the things that I really like about Wilson doesn't even necessarily have to do with Wilson directly. What I like is that despite what history tells us about quarterback height, Pete and John drafted Wilson with the 75th overall pick and gush over his ability and believe in his future. It's not so much that you trust everything that this front office does, or that they'll be right about everything, but it's more to the point that Pete and John absolutely know the odds against a 5'11" QB and yet they had to have Wilson. If they see a star, then I can certainly put that in the positive column for Wilson. Despite how rare it is for a 5'11" QB to even be drafted, there's clearly a few very special things about Russell Wilson that could make him go against all of the data that I've put forth to you and "buck the trend."

Can Wilson be the guy that changes our perception of everything in the way that Brees has? Is Russell Wilson, if he is going to become a great NFL player, going to be a "once in a generation" QB? The rational side of me says that it's a very small chance of possibility and the irrational side of me says that Wilson is that special. I mean, what's an inch or two? Wilson possesses advanced knowledge of the game and can make all of the throws, right? There's nothing wrong with both believe in Wilson and also understanding the odds that he has to overcome. It makes us fans but also makes us knowledgeable fans and gives us a greater perspective on how special it would be for Wilson to take the NFL by storm.

I'm going to put the rational side of my brain to sleep for awhile and hopefully when it wakes up, Wilson will have changed what "rational" really means. Maybe instead, he'll just show us the "amazing."



I mean, hard work like this deserves at least a few new followers, right?