4th & Inches: The Incredible Shrinking College Football Player

[Editor's Note:  This is a guest post by Ricobert1.  If you are interested in penning a front page article that maybe is just too long for a fanpost, let me know.  I'll even help with it.]

Recruits and potential draft picks often have their futures riding on their measurables. A poor 40 time at a camp or combine can mean the difference in getting a scholarship, falling draft spots, or even outright missing the draft and potential guaranteed money.

Likewise, the phrase "lacking ideal height" gets thrown around in draft circles as a bubonic plague. For all the talent and skill, Everette Brown is undersized (height and weight) compared to other defensive ends taken in the 2009 draft, which may very well explain his slippage into the 2nd round. Having said that, I think too much emphasis is placed on measurables: You can't measure heart, tenacity, and the capacity to build and improve with a tape measure, stopwatch, or scale. Yet we can't help but sneak a peak and say, "Hey, this guy is a little small to play T in the NFL," or, "6'7", 295 lbs. at DE? Yes please!"

Which brings us to the crux of this venture. Everyone has long suspected and even noticed the slight reductions in height from College to NFL. I decided I wanted to see if FSU is guilty of potentially tweaking/overreporting heights. I've taken the liberty of comparing height listings under Scouts, Inc. and the FSU 2008 football media guide below:

FSU Senior Shrinkage

Player Scouts, Inc. Height FSU Media Guide Height Differential Height
G Carr 77.5 78 +0.5
T Verdell 74.38 75 +0.62
E Brown 73.5 76 +2.50
D Weatherford 73.38 75 +1.62
N Moffett 72.5 73 +0.5
G Gano 72.38 73 +0.62
R Goodman* 72.25 73 -0.25
J Surratt 72.13 73 +0.87
D Nicholson 71.75 74 +2.25
P Griffin 71.5 74 +2.50
D McClure 70.13 71 +0.87
T Carter 68.75 69 +0.25
A Smith 68.5 69 +0.50
M Garvin 68 68 +0

* Medically redshirted as a Senior
Magnitude values of 0.5 or less can be forgiven for rounding (green). Graham Gano is a marginal case, but still notable as it technically would round down to 72". McClure and Surratt also benefit from a bank error in their favor. But Weatherford, Nicholson, Brown, and Griffin magically shrank from FSU's field to the NFL field! Even after accounting for the rounding, Brown, Griffin, and Nicholson all benefit a good 2".

Maybe they were measured while they were in their cleats? Ok, but shouldn't all of them demonstrate the same adjustment accordingly? Griffin, Brown, and Nicholson shrank 2"; why didn't Weatherford shrink the same amount? Why didn't Garvin get listed at 69" instead of 68"? This is rather indicting evidence that there is a negative disparity between college-listed heights and the Scouts, Inc. measured heights (which we're assuming are made either at the combine or respective school's pro days and are thus "correct").

After examining FSU, I decided to look at all of the 1st round picks from the 2009 NFL draft. Perhaps we'll see the same trend? Are some schools more honorable than others? Is the weight of draft position compressing our beloved pre-pro's?

1st Round Draftees – College to NFL Shrinkage

Player Scouts, Inc. Height School School Media Guide Height Differential Height
M Stafford 74.25 UGA 75 +0.75
J Smith 77 Baylor 77 +0
T Jackson 76.13 LSU 77 +0.87
A Curry 73.63 Wake 75 +1.37
M Sanchez 74.13 USC 75 +0.87
A Smith 76 Bama 76 +0
D Heyward-Bey 72.63 Maryland 74 +1.37
E Monroe 77.13 UVA 78 +0.87
BJ Raji 73.5 BC 73 -0.5
M Crabtree 73.38 TT 75 +1.62
A Maybin 75.75 PSU 76 +0.25
K Moreno 70.63 UGA 71 +0.37
B Orakpo 75 Texas 76 +1.00
M Jenkins* 72.13 OSU 73 +0.87
B Cushing 74.88 USC 75 +0.12
L English 74.38 N ILL 75 +0.62
J Freeman 77.75 KSU 78 +0.25
R Ayers 75.13 Tenn 75 -0.13
J Maclin 72.13 Mizzou 73 +0.87
B Pettigrew 77.38 Ok St 78 +0.62
A Mack 75.88 Cal 77 +1.12
P Harvin 71.13 UF 71 -0.13
M Oher 76.5 Miss 77 +0.5
P Jerry 73.75 Miss 74 +0.25
V Davis 71.13 ILL 72 +0.87
C Matthews 75.13 USC 75 -0.13
D Brown 70.25 UConn 70 -0.25
E Wood 75.88 Louis 76 +0.12
H Nicks 72.75 UNC 73 +0.25
K Britt 74.88 Rutgers 76 +1.12
C Wells* 73 OSU 73 +0
E Hood 74.88 Mizzou 76 +1.12
E Brown 73.5 FSU 76 +2.50

* Media guide out of print; heights courtesy of http://www.theozone.net/football/2008/roster.htm and http://www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com/SportSelect.dbml SPSID=87746&SPID=10408&DB_OEM_ID=17300&Q_SEASON=2008 
Again we account for rounding. We see that FSU's Brown is the most egregious. Crabtree benefits apparently from tall cleats and far-sighted GAs, as well. Mizzou takes the award amongst the first rounders by granting an inch each to Maclin and Hood. 17 of the 32 1st round picks were granted a temporary growth spurt during their undergraduate days.

To be honest, you can't blame colleges for wanting to promote their own. It's good for the player which means good business (instant publicity and future money-making potential in the player as an alum/donor) for the university.

This could be expanded for all draft picks; perhaps for all available comparable data. (But I don't have the time/energy to do that) But it's interesting to see that over half of the 1st round picks were listed at least 1" taller than their respective media guide listings. I know kids can and do grow in college, but I guess I'll just continue taking off (at least) an inch off of these player measurements.

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