Over half of NFL combine participants are significantly shorter than listed on their college rosters

Entering the NFL combine, all eyes were on Kyler Murray. The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback was listed at 5-10 by Oklahoma, but many people wondered what his actual height would be when measured at the NFL combine.

Murray's listed height turned out to be legit, potentially paving the way to being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft.

Other measurements aren't so legitimate, however. On a yearly basis, NFL prospects end up being significantly shorter than what they were listed by their universities. With all 337 prospects at this year's combine measured, we aimed to find out just how many were considerably shorter than the heights their schools listed them at during the 2018 season.

We approached it sort of like a high school science experiment. We had a hypothesis that players at certain positions where height is valued — like quarterback, receiver, cornerback, offensive and defensive line — would, on the whole, not be as tall as listed. In many cases, that turned out to be fairly true. A lot of schools like to round up.

Based on the measurements obtained at the combine by Yahoo Sports NFL writer Charles Robinson, some schools round up to the nearest inch. Some rounded up even more.

All 337 NFL prospects are in the PDF below with their listed heights and weights and their heights and weights as measured at the NFL combine. A player with an asterisk in front of his name had a difference of a half-inch or more between his listed height and his actual height. There are 169 asterisks among the 337 entries, meaning more than 50 percent of the combine participants are at least a half-inch shorter than how they were presented on their school’s roster.

We did not pay much attention to weight. Weight totals for football players fluctuate often.

SPECIALISTS

Total discrepancies: 2/7 (28.6 percent)

Biggest discrepancy: LSU kicker Cole Tracy, Stanford punter Jake Bailey

Conclusions: Of the kickers, punters and long snappers, only LSU’s Cole Tracy and Stanford’s Jake Bailey had major differences. The height of both players was rounded up 5/8 of an inch — Tracy from 5-10 3/8 to 5-11 and Bailey from 6-1 3/8 to 6-2. Height is not overly important at these positions.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Total discrepancies: 23/57 (40.4 percent)

Biggest discrepancy: Minnesota OT Donnell Greene - Bio: 6-7, 320, Combine: 6-5 2/8, 335

Conclusions: More than some other positions, we looked to see if there were any significant weight differences with offensive linemen. Plenty of players jumped or dropped in the range of 10-15 pounds, but nothing was overly eye-catching. Devon Johnson, a tackle from Ferris State, had the biggest change. He was listed at 310 pounds on his school’s roster before weighing in at 338 in Indianapolis.

There were plenty of height differences, but 19 of the 23 discrepancies found were fewer than an inch. Four players — Minnesota’s Donnell Greene, Memphis’ Trevon Tate, Ohio State’s Michael Jordan and Indiana’s Brandon Knight — were found to be more than an inch shorter than their listed heights. Greene had the biggest difference. Listed at 6-7 by Minnesota, Greene measured in at 6-5 2/8 at the combine.

What does this tell us? The taller you are as an offensive lineman, the more weight you can comfortably — and athletically — carry around. A taller player has a bigger wingspan, too. At its essence, playing offensive line is about efficiently using size and strength. Footwork and technique play a big factor as well, but those things can be taught. You can’t coach size.

RUNNING BACKS

Total discrepancies: 18/28 (64.3 percent)

Biggest discrepancy: Washington State RB James Williams - Bio: 6-0, 205, Combine: 5-9 1/2, 197

Conclusions: Over the years, it seems like less emphasis has been placed on height at the running back position. But at the same time, nobody wants to be perceived as short — especially James Williams. The Washington State standout was listed at 6-0 when he’s actually 5-9 1/2. That’s a difference of 2.5 inches.

Maybe that’s why such a significant portion of running back prospects were found to be shorter than listed on their collegiate bios. Sometimes “tall” running backs run too upright, making it harder to weave through traffic in the hole. But being “short” can be a knock, too.

TIGHT ENDS

Total discrepancies: 10/21 (47.6 percent)

Biggest discrepancy: LSU TE Foster Moreau - Bio: 6-6, 256, Combine: 6-4 ⅛, 253

Conclusions: Most of these discrepancies were pretty minor, but there were two from the SEC that stood out. One player most fans know, Alabama’s Irv Smith, was actually more than an inch and a half shorter (6-2 3/8) than his roster listing (6-4). Coming off a season with 44 catches for 710 yards and seven touchdowns, Smith is a coveted prospect. He’s one of the more athletic tight ends in the class. And he can do more than just catch passes. But will his height scare teams at all? You don’t see many elite tight ends who are shorter than 6-foot-3. It’s a position that has some real value in the red zone, where the biggest pass-catchers are relied upon.

Smith’s difference was the second biggest behind LSU’s Foster Moreau. Moreau, listed at 6-6, is actually 6-4 1/8. Moreau had a nice showing in Indianapolis, so it’d be a surprise if the height difference affects his draft stock.

Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. (82) runs against Georgia defensive back Tyson Campbell (3) during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. turned out to be nearly two inches shorter than his listed height. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

QUARTERBACKS

Total discrepancies: 3/17 (17.6 percent)

Biggest discrepancy: Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State - Bio: 6-2, 220, Combine: 6-0 ⅞, 225

Conclusions: This position group was surprising. There has long been a prototype for pro quarterbacks, but players like Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and Baker Mayfield, all of whom stand 6-0 or shorter, have bucked that trend. Kyler Murray’s measurement drew a ton of attention, with 5-10 becoming an arbitrary benchmark of sorts. Murray was thought to be 5-9, but did come in at just over 5-10. His weight increase — from 195 to 207 — was also of significance to evaluators who were worried about durability. Many of those concerns seem to have been put to rest.

There were three quarterbacks who were shorter than listed: North Dakota State’s Easton Stick, Washington State’s Gardner Minshew and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham. Minshew, after being listed at 6-2 by WSU, was actually a shade under 6-1. Minshew is viewed as a mid-to-late round prospect after a standout season under Mike Leach.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Total discrepancies: 21/48 (43.8 percent)

Biggest discrepancy: Greg Dortch, WR, Wake Forest - Bio: 5-9, 170, Combine: 5-7 ⅛, 173

Conclusions: This is a position we expected to have some significant numbers. It takes more than height to be a great receiver, but the ability to high-point a ball for a big play — even when a defensive back has perfect positioning — can’t be valued. So when players like Ole Miss’ DK Metcalf (6-3 ⅜) and Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler (6-5 ⅜) light up the combine, it makes evaluators drool. That’s why players in that height range seemed to want to come off as taller than they actually are.

That applied to the shiftier, smaller receivers who likely project more in a slot role. Two of those players — Greg Dortch and Andy Isabella — were actually more than an inch shorter than listed. Dortch, listed at 5-9 by Wake Forest, measured in at a touch above 5-7. Isabella, who had one of the best 40-yard dash times (4.31), ended up being 5-8 6/8, not 5-10 as UMass listed.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Total discrepancies: 23/52 (44.2 percent)

Biggest discrepancy: Miami DT Gerald Willis - Bio: 6-4, 300, Combine: 6-1 6/8, 302

Conclusions: Another position where size matters. Size and wingspan are crucial for defensive line play, whether you’re rushing the passer or clogging the middle in the run game. Nearly half of the players at this year’s combine were listed at least a half-inch taller, with seven players being more than an inch shorter than listed, including projected first-rounder Ed Oliver, who was measured at just under 6-2.

Two players were actually more than two inches shorter than listed: Clemson’s Austin Bryant and Miami’s Gerald Willis. Bryant, a stalwart on two national championship teams, was listed at 6-6, but measured in at 6-3 ⅞. Willis had the biggest difference. The Miami standout, listed at 6-4, is actually 6-1 6/8.

Houston Cougars defensive tackle Ed Oliver does the Cougar Paw with his teammates and the Bayou Bucket trophy after defeating Rice in a NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Houston Cougars defensive tackle Ed Oliver measured in at just under 6-foot-2. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

LINEBACKERS

Total discrepancies: 22/42 (52.4)

Biggest discrepancy: Houston LB Emeke Egbule - Bio: 6-4, 240, Combine: 6-2, 245

Conclusions: Linebacker play is a little different than it used to be. A lot players — both outside linebackers and defensive ends — get lumped into a category called “edge,” where they predominantly rush the passer, sometimes from a 3-4 front. There aren’t as many middle linebackers who specialize in stuffing the run. NFL teams value versatility and the ability be a three-down linebacker — suitable in both stopping the run, running from sideline to sideline and covering backs and tight ends in the pass game.

Does height play a role? Of course, but some of this year’s top prospects at the position are on the shorter side. Of note: three of the seven linebackers who measured in at under 6-0 were listed accurately on their bios. That includes Devin Bush (5-11, 234) out of Michigan, a projected first-rounder.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Total discrepancies: 33/65 (50.8 percent)

Biggest discrepancy: Marshall safety Malik Gant - Bio: 6-2, 200, Combine: 5-11 ⅝, 209

Conclusions: When you’re consistently going up against massive receivers and tight ends, size and strength are a major part of the equation. It’s not the end-all, be-all. Defensive back coaches stress technique as much or more than coaches for any other position, but having that extra inch or two to knock away a pass always helps. Perhaps that’s why 13 combine participants were more than an inch shorter than listed, more than any other position.

There were even three players who had two-plus inch discrepancies: Central Michigan’s Xavier Crawford (Bio: 6-1, Combine: 5-10 ⅞), Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin (Bio: 6-2, Combine: 5-11 6/8) and Marshall safety Malik Gant (Bio: 6-2, Combine: 5-11 ⅝).

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