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How much bigger are players now?

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 27, 2008

This post is mostly a huge data dump, so I'll hold the commentary until the end. If I was the reader, I'd scan all the tables if I had time, or just head to the bottom for the bottom once the analysis section begins.

How much bigger are players now? Here's a look at QBs entering the league every year:

	QB	QB HT	QBWT	QB BMI
2006	16	75.3	224	27.71
2005	15	75.0	221	27.56
2004	18	75.8	223	27.31
2003	 7	75.3	232	28.76
2002	15	74.6	222	28.03
2001	11	73.8	219	28.21
2000	19	74.4	218	27.70
1999	14	74.2	220	28.05
1998	11	75.1	220	27.45
1997	13	74.8	219	27.49
1996	13	74.7	214	26.95
1995	13	74.7	221	27.82
1994	 8	75.0	223	27.82
1993	 9	74.4	214	27.10
1992	12	75.3	221	27.40
1991	11	75.7	221	27.09
1990	 9	75.3	209	25.85
1989	12	74.4	216	27.46
1988	 8	74.9	213	26.68
1987	55	74.2	205	26.09
1986	13	74.1	202	25.94
1985	13	75.1	208	25.98
1984	15	74.6	207	26.12
1983	15	74.9	207	26.00
1982	 6	74.7	201	25.28
1981	 8	74.0	203	26.08
1980	16	75.1	205	25.59
1979	12	74.3	203	25.77
1978	12	74.7	204	25.71
1977	17	75.1	205	25.58
1976	17	73.8	199	25.77
1975	 9	74.4	202	25.65
1974	20	74.1	204	26.15
1973	 7	74.0	201	25.86
1972	10	73.6	201	26.06
1971	 8	74.5	210	26.58
1970	12	74.7	208	26.26

Running backs?

	RB	RB HT	RBWT	RB BMI
2006	34	70.9	218	30.38
2005	30	71.1	217	30.20
2004	38	71.2	221	30.70
2003	28	70.8	216	30.31
2002	32	70.5	217	30.65
2001	30	68.7	216	32.11
2000	30	70.8	218	30.60
1999	26	71.1	218	30.24
1998	31	71.6	225	30.84
1997	30	71.1	217	30.10
1996	39	71.3	222	30.77
1995	36	70.8	214	30.04
1994	33	70.8	214	30.03
1993	32	71.2	218	30.19
1992	24	71.2	218	30.19
1991	35	71.1	219	30.46
1990	32	71.1	212	29.47
1989	44	71.5	214	29.47
1988	28	71.0	206	28.74
1987	147	71.1	209	29.11
1986	45	71.2	211	29.31
1985	31	71.9	212	28.83
1984	48	71.0	207	28.95
1983	31	71.2	208	28.94
1982	41	71.3	209	28.83
1981	37	71.4	209	28.81
1980	35	71.8	210	28.62
1979	44	72.2	206	27.85
1978	36	71.7	206	28.17
1977	47	71.6	207	28.34
1976	44	72.1	207	28.01
1975	40	72.2	209	28.12
1974	49	72.2	207	27.95
1973	34	71.7	206	28.14
1972	32	72.7	208	27.71
1971	34	72.2	209	28.20
1970	34	72.7	210	27.94

Fullbacks?

	FB	FB HT	FBWT	FB BMI
2006	 2	72.0	248	33.56
2005	 5	73.0	256	33.80
2004	 4	74.0	252	32.32
2003	13	72.4	246	33.04
2002	 8	72.6	244	32.49
2001	 9	72.1	244	32.94
2000	10	72.4	245	32.91
1999	12	73.1	247	32.50
1998	 4	73.0	254	33.44
1997	 3	72.0	249	33.81
1996	 4	73.0	241	31.73
1995	 6	72.3	240	32.27
1994	 4	72.5	242	32.40
1993	 5	72.2	238	32.07
1992	 4	72.8	237	31.48
1991	 2	71.5	226	31.01
1990	 3	72.3	234	31.49
1989	 0	-	-	-
1988	 1	71.0	237	33.05
1987	 2	71.0	225	31.31
1986	 1	71.0	231	32.21
1985	 1	74.0	230	29.53
1984	 0	-	-	-
1983	 2	75.5	237	29.23
1982	 0	-	-	-
1981	 0	-	-	-
1980	 1	76.0	234	28.48
1979	 1	74.0	227	29.14
1978	 0	-	-	-
1977	 1	75.0	226	28.24
1976	 0	-	-	-
1975	 0	-	-	-
1974	 0	-	-	-
1973	 0	-	-	-
1972	 0	-	-	-
1971	 0	-	-	-
1970	 0	-	-	-

Note: I think a fair number of full backs in the '70s were just classified as running backs when they entered the draft, so I'm not sure how useful that table is. But fullbacks, like running backs, seem to be getting shorter and bigger.

Wide Receivers?


WR WR HT WRWT WR BMI
2006 48 72.7 201 26.76
2005 42 73.0 200 26.32
2004 42 72.9 201 26.61
2003 53 72.7 199 26.52
2002 47 72.4 198 26.50
2001 42 72.5 196 26.26
2000 43 72.8 200 26.58
1999 48 72.3 197 26.44
1998 33 72.5 194 25.97
1997 34 71.7 190 25.95
1996 43 71.8 190 25.97
1995 37 72.3 194 26.05
1994 37 71.8 191 26.07
1993 39 72.3 190 25.57
1992 33 71.5 187 25.77
1991 38 72.4 191 25.57
1990 38 71.1 188 26.08
1989 40 71.0 184 25.67
1988 29 71.3 185 25.59
1987 143 71.4 184 25.38
1986 45 71.3 181 25.06
1985 41 71.7 186 25.44
1984 31 72.3 191 25.61
1983 36 72.3 184 24.75
1982 32 72.0 184 24.88
1981 29 72.2 187 25.25
1980 28 71.5 188 25.92
1979 29 72.8 189 25.13
1978 44 72.3 185 24.83
1977 22 71.5 186 25.59
1976 42 71.8 183 25.00
1975 21 72.6 190 25.26
1974 32 72.3 187 25.09
1973 34 72.7 192 25.56
1972 23 73.1 191 25.16
1971 26 73.1 192 25.27
1970 27 72.9 192 25.35

Tight ends?


TE TE HT TEWT TE BMI
2006 21 76.3 253 30.50
2005 19 76.3 255 30.77
2004 24 76.4 258 31.14
2003 22 76.6 260 31.10
2002 28 75.8 256 31.32
2001 23 75.4 256 31.67
2000 27 75.7 252 30.90
1999 26 76.0 257 31.25
1998 17 75.9 257 31.38
1997 21 76.5 257 30.82
1996 23 75.9 256 31.28
1995 25 75.6 255 31.31
1994 23 75.8 253 30.98
1993 22 75.8 254 31.16
1992 20 75.4 251 31.01
1991 13 75.6 247 30.35
1990 19 74.6 243 30.72
1989 15 75.9 249 30.44
1988 17 75.7 248 30.42
1987 79 75.6 240 29.50
1986 22 75.7 238 29.23
1985 15 75.6 237 29.17
1984 23 75.4 236 29.14
1983 25 75.4 236 29.17
1982 17 76.0 236 28.70
1981 17 76.3 235 28.39
1980 13 75.6 236 29.07
1979 17 75.8 231 28.30
1978 18 75.7 234 28.70
1977 14 75.9 230 28.03
1976 9 75.4 231 28.56
1975 13 75.6 230 28.22
1974 17 75.3 226 28.00
1973 13 74.9 230 28.82
1972 11 75.5 225 27.80
1971 6 75.2 226 28.14
1970 13 75.0 227 28.35

Offensive Tackles?


T T HT TWT T BMI
2006 30 77.8 314 36.50
2005 22 77.7 320 37.29
2004 27 77.2 318 37.48
2003 20 77.7 315 36.70
2002 25 77.2 316 37.19
2001 21 77.2 322 37.99
2000 17 77.4 322 37.78
1999 20 77.3 309 36.37
1998 19 77.7 311 36.23
1997 23 77.2 314 37.03
1996 16 78.0 322 37.18
1995 25 77.6 311 36.21
1994 14 77.4 310 36.38
1993 20 77.5 316 36.93
1992 18 77.5 304 35.56
1991 16 77.3 301 35.48
1990 11 78.0 295 34.08
1989 18 77.6 295 34.39
1988 14 77.5 294 34.42
1987 78 76.8 282 33.55
1986 23 77.3 288 33.82
1985 17 77.6 284 33.21
1984 17 77.0 281 33.28
1983 26 77.8 278 32.21
1982 18 77.1 275 32.54
1981 17 78.1 282 32.44
1980 19 77.2 274 32.27
1979 13 76.6 268 32.09
1978 21 76.8 267 31.85
1977 16 76.9 262 31.13
1976 18 76.7 263 31.48
1975 17 76.9 262 31.13
1974 20 76.6 258 30.98
1973 13 76.5 257 30.95
1972 12 76.3 258 31.11
1971 17 76.8 259 30.93
1970 10 76.9 260 30.92

Guards?


G G HT GWT G BMI
2006 20 75.5 323 39.92
2005 18 75.9 316 38.55
2004 24 75.8 307 37.65
2003 21 75.9 314 38.36
2002 26 75.7 312 38.33
2001 18 75.9 316 38.48
2000 16 75.8 310 37.93
1999 20 76.0 316 38.46
1998 19 75.8 311 38.09
1997 21 75.6 312 38.38
1996 23 76.4 307 36.94
1995 22 75.9 300 36.55
1994 20 75.7 307 37.63
1993 22 76.3 308 37.19
1992 12 76.0 298 36.29
1991 16 75.6 294 36.15
1990 20 75.5 301 37.07
1989 15 76.6 289 34.61
1988 13 75.9 285 34.81
1987 94 75.3 277 34.26
1986 25 76.0 284 34.61
1985 17 75.8 277 33.87
1984 17 75.5 270 33.36
1983 9 75.9 272 33.20
1982 24 75.9 273 33.34
1981 16 76.1 269 32.63
1980 17 75.4 264 32.58
1979 17 75.7 261 32.06
1978 14 75.0 260 32.48
1977 16 75.5 258 31.77
1976 24 75.5 258 31.76
1975 14 75.3 256 31.76
1974 21 75.1 253 31.53
1973 12 75.0 253 31.58
1972 16 75.0 253 31.57
1971 13 75.0 250 31.23
1970 15 74.9 254 31.92

Centers?


C C HT CWT C BMI
2006 10 75.2 299 37.13
2005 13 75.7 301 36.88
2004 10 76.1 291 35.31
2003 11 74.7 284 35.72
2002 13 75.4 298 36.91
2001 11 74.7 286 35.95
2000 12 74.4 285 36.20
1999 8 74.8 292 36.74
1998 16 75.7 298 36.56
1997 10 75.2 299 37.11
1996 11 75.0 292 36.44
1995 10 75.0 296 37.01
1994 8 74.9 280 35.06
1993 9 75.2 290 36.06
1992 7 75.1 285 35.54
1991 5 76.2 283 34.26
1990 5 75.2 293 36.45
1989 7 75.4 292 36.12
1988 7 75.9 279 34.10
1987 56 75.3 268 33.22
1986 11 75.4 278 34.47
1985 11 75.8 277 33.92
1984 10 75.7 264 32.33
1983 12 75.8 274 33.46
1982 8 75.0 263 32.88
1981 2 76.0 260 31.64
1980 14 75.1 258 32.17
1979 8 74.8 247 31.04
1978 11 75.0 255 31.88
1977 7 75.6 250 30.83
1976 11 74.6 252 31.82
1975 11 74.3 245 31.23
1974 9 75.4 247 30.53
1973 10 75.3 246 30.51
1972 7 75.0 252 31.53
1971 9 75.4 250 30.89
1970 10 74.8 245 30.77

Defensive ends?


DE DE HT DEWT DE BMI
2006 29 76.0 263 32.06
2005 30 75.7 275 33.79
2004 29 76.0 274 33.32
2003 27 75.3 275 34.07
2002 31 75.9 275 33.54
2001 32 76.0 278 33.83
2000 26 76.0 281 34.18
1999 30 75.9 276 33.73
1998 29 76.1 277 33.58
1997 23 76.2 281 34.06
1996 29 76.0 277 33.62
1995 23 76.0 274 33.35
1994 28 76.3 277 33.51
1993 28 76.4 277 33.33
1992 18 76.1 280 33.99
1991 18 76.1 272 33.11
1990 28 76.3 270 32.62
1989 27 76.6 272 32.56
1988 21 76.0 270 32.88
1987 98 76.1 264 32.02
1986 30 76.2 269 32.48
1985 20 76.2 268 32.44
1984 21 76.4 266 31.97
1983 21 76.3 265 32.00
1982 26 76.2 261 31.62
1981 23 76.4 258 31.05
1980 17 76.5 257 30.95
1979 22 76.7 252 30.13
1978 22 77.0 254 30.10
1977 14 76.0 253 30.78
1976 19 76.1 255 30.98
1975 13 76.4 243 29.32
1974 21 76.4 252 30.42
1973 11 76.7 253 30.18
1972 15 76.2 250 30.28
1971 28 76.1 249 30.23
1970 17 76.2 250 30.20

Defensive tackles?


DT DT HT DTWT DT BMI
2006 26 74.8 306 38.52
2005 23 74.8 305 38.40
2004 34 75.2 303 37.67
2003 28 74.7 306 38.51
2002 22 75.4 301 37.18
2001 34 74.7 306 38.57
2000 20 75.1 302 37.66
1999 24 75.0 301 37.64
1998 15 74.9 300 37.62
1997 25 75.6 303 37.27
1996 25 75.5 302 37.25
1995 23 75.6 296 36.40
1994 17 75.1 294 36.74
1993 10 74.6 307 38.81
1992 20 75.8 296 36.26
1991 22 75.1 293 36.53
1990 10 75.1 293 36.50
1989 8 77.0 278 32.92
1988 7 75.3 275 34.13
1987 36 75.0 270 33.73
1986 6 76.2 268 32.52
1985 10 75.9 266 32.51
1984 3 74.7 261 32.95
1983 5 75.8 275 33.70
1982 1 75.0 277 34.62
1981 5 76.4 268 32.23
1980 7 75.7 263 32.20
1979 6 75.7 258 31.62
1978 12 75.8 256 31.24
1977 12 76.3 264 31.86
1976 15 76.1 256 31.13
1975 11 76.6 259 31.05
1974 18 76.1 254 30.88
1973 17 76.4 255 30.73
1972 18 76.1 254 30.84
1971 15 76.9 263 31.20
1970 22 75.7 256 31.45

Nose tackles?


NT NT HT NTWT NT BMI
2006 1 77.0 301 35.69
2005 0 - - -
2004 2 74.5 311 39.33
2003 0 - - -
2002 0 - - -
2001 2 75.0 308 38.43
2000 1 75.0 295 36.87
1999 1 72.0 310 42.04
1998 0 - - -
1997 1 76.0 280 34.08
1996 1 72.0 275 37.29
1995 2 74.5 308 38.95
1994 2 75.0 271 33.81
1993 3 74.3 282 35.92
1992 5 74.8 291 36.59
1991 6 74.8 297 37.26
1990 7 74.0 281 36.02
1989 7 74.0 281 36.04
1988 3 74.0 271 34.83
1987 41 74.7 272 34.28
1986 9 75.7 278 34.08
1985 7 76.0 276 33.56
1984 18 75.6 268 32.91
1983 12 75.3 271 33.60
1982 13 74.9 263 32.95
1981 12 75.1 260 32.47
1980 10 74.8 257 32.24
1979 12 75.0 258 32.30
1978 6 75.2 260 32.39
1977 4 75.3 256 31.81
1976 2 75.5 261 32.13
1975 4 73.0 254 33.51
1974 0 - - -
1973 2 75.0 249 31.06
1972 0 - - -
1971 0 - - -
1970 0 - - -

Note that the majority of the nose tackles came into play in the '80s, back when the 3-4 was much more popular. Of course, the distinction between NT and DT can be quite small, just like when classifying a player as a FB or RB.

Linebackers?


LB LB HT LBWT LB BMI
2006 46 73.6 237 30.72
2005 46 73.9 240 30.96
2004 58 73.9 237 30.45
2003 50 73.4 239 31.18
2002 49 73.8 239 30.94
2001 49 73.3 240 31.33
2000 52 73.5 240 31.24
1999 43 73.7 244 31.57
1998 45 73.7 240 31.06
1997 51 73.6 241 31.32
1996 44 73.7 238 30.83
1995 48 73.8 241 31.10
1994 38 74.1 241 30.92
1993 51 73.8 240 30.92
1992 36 73.8 240 30.91
1991 31 73.9 238 30.69
1990 43 74.0 239 30.64
1989 39 74.3 240 30.56
1988 42 74.1 236 30.28
1987 210 74.0 231 29.67
1986 48 74.0 235 30.18
1985 33 74.5 236 29.93
1984 57 74.3 230 29.29
1983 46 74.3 232 29.49
1982 44 74.3 229 29.18
1981 47 74.1 229 29.33
1980 46 74.2 228 29.10
1979 50 74.1 228 29.25
1978 42 74.2 227 28.95
1977 41 74.3 224 28.61
1976 46 74.0 226 28.98
1975 36 74.1 225 28.75
1974 40 74.2 227 29.04
1973 37 74.4 226 28.75
1972 34 74.1 226 28.92
1971 28 74.4 226 28.73
1970 39 74.3 227 28.94

Defensive backs?


DB DB HT DBWT DB BMI
2006 71 71.7 196 26.79
2005 82 71.6 197 27.03
2004 74 71.6 195 26.76
2003 64 71.6 199 27.22
2002 79 71.6 198 27.14
2001 70 71.4 198 27.29
2000 70 71.6 197 27.09
1999 61 71.2 197 27.30
1998 63 71.6 195 26.77
1997 70 71.3 196 27.10
1996 60 71.2 196 27.15
1995 61 71.4 197 27.14
1994 52 71.5 192 26.34
1993 58 71.7 195 26.64
1992 49 71.3 193 26.73
1991 49 71.2 191 26.54
1990 49 71.0 191 26.71
1989 60 71.6 193 26.40
1988 52 71.3 193 26.63
1987 231 71.7 191 26.10
1986 55 71.7 192 26.19
1985 58 71.7 190 25.95
1984 62 71.8 192 26.14
1983 54 71.8 191 26.01
1982 45 71.5 187 25.71
1981 54 71.9 191 25.93
1980 51 72.2 189 25.48
1979 48 71.7 188 25.70
1978 43 71.9 189 25.77
1977 43 71.9 188 25.61
1976 46 72.5 189 25.23
1975 37 72.2 190 25.65
1974 43 72.3 189 25.38
1973 35 72.6 190 25.33
1972 40 72.4 190 25.48
1971 47 72.4 190 25.46
1970 43 71.9 185 25.10

Punters?


P P HT PWT P BMI
2006 4 73.3 222 29.05
2005 8 74.3 211 26.94
2004 7 73.6 205 26.61
2003 3 74.3 220 27.99
2002 8 74.1 215 27.46
2001 5 73.0 199 26.30
2000 5 74.2 212 27.12
1999 5 73.4 213 27.79
1998 5 73.0 216 28.55
1997 6 73.5 208 27.02
1996 3 72.7 196 26.14
1995 5 73.4 215 28.03
1994 4 74.3 206 26.20
1993 3 73.7 215 27.89
1992 2 73.0 198 26.05
1991 6 73.3 205 26.78
1990 4 73.5 215 27.91
1989 3 74.7 215 27.15
1988 3 74.7 212 26.69
1987 24 73.3 200 26.20
1986 6 71.3 184 25.35
1985 10 73.7 208 26.89
1984 5 73.8 202 26.07
1983 6 73.2 211 27.69
1982 7 73.4 191 24.88
1981 9 72.9 196 25.98
1980 3 71.0 186 25.99
1979 9 73.9 200 25.77
1978 6 72.8 194 25.67
1977 7 72.4 197 26.40
1976 4 73.5 201 26.09
1975 5 73.2 206 26.97
1974 9 71.9 188 25.51
1973 4 72.5 202 26.95
1972 2 75.5 205 25.28
1971 4 73.0 187 24.64
1970 4 74.8 205 25.79

Kickers?


K K HT KWT K BMI
2006 1 74.0 200 25.68
2005 9 72.3 197 26.47
2004 5 73.2 200 26.27
2003 4 73.3 203 26.63
2002 8 72.5 215 28.71
2001 7 71.4 197 27.12
2000 8 71.3 205 28.32
1999 8 71.0 193 26.97
1998 4 74.0 206 26.45
1997 5 71.8 200 27.25
1996 4 72.5 208 27.85
1995 6 72.7 197 26.23
1994 4 72.0 184 24.88
1993 4 71.5 193 26.54
1992 3 72.0 197 26.72
1991 5 72.2 191 25.76
1990 3 71.7 198 27.15
1989 4 71.8 189 25.84
1988 6 71.5 190 26.13
1987 31 70.8 185 26.01
1986 2 71.0 183 25.52
1985 8 69.9 189 27.27
1984 5 70.2 180 25.62
1983 6 70.3 175 24.89
1982 9 71.9 190 25.88
1981 6 70.2 171 24.39
1980 2 72.0 187 25.36
1979 6 69.8 180 25.92
1978 7 72.4 192 25.75
1977 7 71.9 187 25.48
1976 5 70.2 181 25.85
1975 5 70.8 185 25.92
1974 6 71.5 184 25.33
1973 5 71.0 200 27.95
1972 5 71.6 187 25.64
1971 8 71.9 198 27.00
1970 4 70.5 191 27.02

Analysis

Let's break the years down into six groups, and ignore the 1987 strike season. The numbers reflect every player to enter the NFL in a particular season.

Offensive player heights:


QB RB FB WR TE T G C
1970-1975 74.2 72.3 - 72.8 75.2 76.7 75.0 75.0
1976-1981 74.5 71.8 75.0 72.0 75.8 77.1 75.5 75.2
1982-1986 74.7 71.3 73.5 71.9 75.6 77.4 75.8 75.5
1988-1993 75.0 71.2 72.0 71.6 75.5 77.6 76.0 75.5
1994-2000 74.7 71.1 72.6 72.2 75.9 77.5 75.9 75.0
2001-2006 75.0 70.5 72.7 72.7 76.1 77.5 75.8 75.3

Quarterbacks haven't gotten much taller as time went on. The average QB has been between 6'2 and 6'3 for all of modern football. This might be less surprising when you consider later that defensive lineman have gotten shorter over the years. Running backs and fullbacks have continued to shrink, as you might expect. A low center of gravity is extremely important for running backs -- the top five rushers of all time are all under six feet tall.

Curiously, wide receivers haven't gotten any taller. They even got shorter in the '80s, but the average WR entering the league now is the same height as 40 years ago. Tight ends, tackles and guards have steadily gotten taller, but not by much. All three positions saw small increases but each modern group gained less than a full inch from it's 1970's predecessor. Centers, interestingly enough, have remained pretty much the same height.

Offensive player weights:

		QB	RB	FB	WR	TE	T	G	C
1970-1975	204.4	208.2	 -	190.6	227.3	259.1	253.1	247.6
1976-1981	203.2	207.4	229.0	186.4	232.9	269.2	261.6	253.8
1982-1986	205.1	209.6	232.7	185.1	236.6	281.1	275.2	271.2
1988-1993	215.6	214.4	234.3	187.5	248.7	300.7	295.9	287.2
1994-2000	219.2	218.3	245.4	193.8	255.2	313.9	308.8	291.6
2001-2006	223.3	217.4	248.2	199.1	256.3	317.5	314.7	293.0

Quarterbacks have put on quite a bit of weight, and are now heavier than the average running back. I think this is a case where the QBs had more room to grow -- weight training was probably popular among running backs in the '70s, but quarterbacks were rarely very muscular back then. Now you've got tons of big guys, and if JaMarcus Russell is any sign, that's not coming to an end. Fullbacks have put on a bunch of weight since the late '80s, as now they're really valued for their blocking more than anything. Receivers got a little lighter in the '80s, but still aren't much heavier now than they used to be -- it's a speed position, not a muscle one.

Tight ends, of course, have ballooned. They've gained about thirty pounds, and tight ends often possess the most impressive combination of size and speed. There's a lot of muscle on them. Tackles and guards have each put on sixty pounds, an incredible amount. The size of offensive lineman today is perhaps the biggest difference between the beginning of the modern era and now. Centers gained a lot of weight, but not as much as guards. While interior lineman need to be big bodies to push the pile, the center position may demand a bit more agility and intelligence than brute size.

Offensive player BMIs:

		QB	RB	FB	WR	TE	T	G	C
1970-1975	26.1	28.0	 -	25.3	28.2	31.0	31.6	30.9
1976-1981	25.8	28.3	28.6	25.3	28.5	31.9	32.2	31.6
1982-1986	25.9	29.0	30.3	25.1	29.1	33.0	33.7	33.4
1988-1993	26.9	29.8	31.8	25.7	30.7	35.1	36.0	35.4
1994-2000	27.6	30.4	32.7	26.1	31.1	36.7	37.7	36.4
2001-2006	27.9	30.7	33.0	26.5	31.1	37.2	38.5	36.3

BMI is probably a better tool than just height or weight. While QBs gained more weight than RBs, the running backs and fullbacks saw larger increases in their BMI -- remember, they're getting shorter. The average RB to enter the league is now close to two inches shorter and ten pounds heavier now than he was in 1970. Wide receivers haven't gotten much larger, which may indicate that this will be the size receivers stay at for a long time. Tight ends, unsurprisingly, have seen bigger gains in thickness than QBs, RBs or WRs, although full backs have put on more mass (but are usually quite a bit slower than tight ends).

On the line, all three positions had BMIs right about thirty-one in the early '70s. Now centers have gotten a ton heavier, tackles even bigger, and guards even thicker still. The increase in BMI is incredible for all three positions, as incredible size is now a pre-requisite to being a starting lineman in this league.

Defensive players and kicker's heights:

		DE	DT	NT	LB	DB	P	K
1970-1975	76.3	76.3	74.0	74.2	72.3	73.5	71.2
1976-1981	76.4	76.0	75.1	74.1	72.0	72.8	71.1
1982-1986	76.3	75.5	75.5	74.3	71.7	73.1	70.7
1988-1993	76.3	75.5	74.3	74.0	71.4	73.8	71.8
1994-2000	76.1	75.2	74.1	73.7	71.4	73.5	72.2
2001-2006	75.8	74.9	75.5	73.6	71.6	73.8	72.8

Interesting, both defensive ends and defensive lineman have gotten shorter, and a bit shorter in the DT case. The sample size is very low for modern NT, but they're also about 6-2, just like the average DT. Why? Wait one more table. Linebackers have also gotten shorter -- the Zach Thomases and London Fletchers of the world are showing that you don't need to be 72 inches tall to be a good linebacker. Finally, defensive backs make it a clean sweep -- every position on the defense has gotten shorter, although all except DT have shrunk by less than an inch. While punters have stayed the same height, kickers have actually grown a full inch and a half.

Defensive players and kicker's weights:

		DE	DT	NT	LB	DB	P	K
1970-1975	249.5	256.9	251.3	226.2	188.8	198.6	191.0
1976-1981	254.9	260.5	258.8	227.0	189.0	195.7	183.0
1982-1986	265.6	269.7	271.0	232.3	190.2	199.0	183.5
1988-1993	273.6	290.3	283.8	238.7	192.7	209.9	193.1
1994-2000	277.6	299.7	289.7	240.8	195.7	209.4	198.9
2001-2006	273.3	304.6	306.3	238.5	197.1	212.0	202.0

Tracking the defensive ends is interesting. They got quite a bit heavier, but then started getting lighter again. From '97-00, the average DE entering the league was right around 280 pounds. That number has been dropping steadily ever since, and in '06 the average new DE was just 263 pounds. Why? DE has become a speed position. The edge rusher is among the rarest and most desirable qualities a team searches for. They're willing to give up size for speed. And why? Because passing has become much, much more effective, and stopping the pass has become even more important to teams than stopping the run. A speed demon on the outside can close out games, and end drives. The Colts have epitomized this, by getting large leads with a terrific passing game, playing on a fast track, and having light, speedy rushers to attack teams in must-throw situations.

Considering the big gains in bulk on the offensive lines, someone has to stand their ground. True to form, the average defensive tackle or nose tackle is now north of 300 pounds. They're forced to eat up blockers now more than ever, in order to let the speedy playmakers roam free on defense. The new DT is shorter and thicker, making him even more difficult to push around.

Linebackers have gotten heavier, but not by much, and all the gains occurred from 1970-1986. The last twenty years, nearly every class of new LBs has been within a pound or two of 240 lbs, an incredible stretch of consistency. I suspect the changes in the passing game -- mainly, how much more effective it has become -- has demanded speedier and more athletic linebackers, versus the slow and strong type. In the secondary, defensive backs have been a few pounds shy of 200 every year for the last decade, but have gained a bit of mass since the early '70s. Kickers and punters both gained over ten pounds.

Defensive players and kicker's BMIs:

		DE	DT	NT	LB	DB	P	K
1970-1975	30.1	31.0	32.3	28.9	25.4	25.9	26.5
1976-1981	30.7	31.7	32.2	29.0	25.6	26.0	25.5
1982-1986	32.1	33.3	33.4	29.6	26.0	26.2	25.8
1988-1993	33.1	35.9	36.1	30.7	26.6	27.1	26.4
1994-2000	33.7	37.2	37.2	31.1	27.0	27.3	26.8
2001-2006	33.4	38.1	37.8	30.9	27.0	27.4	26.8

The BMI of the DEs shot up, but then back down, thanks to the need for quicker defensive ends. The BMIs of the defensive tackles have gone through the roof, though. That increase of 7.1 points was the most of any position, which was necessary to compete with the ever larger guards coming into the league. Linebackers followed the DE path, rising and then fall back down again. What's interesting is to compare the linebacker with the position it covers -- the tight end. TEs have gotten a little taller and a lot heavier, and seen a nice increase in BMI. Linebackers have gotten shorter, and seen a small bump in BMI. Tight ends and linebackers weighed the same in the '70s, but TEs outweigh 'backers by 15-20 pounds now. It's hidden by BMI, though, because of the opposite movements in height.

I think you can analogize linebackers to tight ends like you do cornerbacks to receivers. The receiver is always going to be bigger and stronger, because the defender needs to be better at reading and reacting. Quickness, not size, is most important for the player that doesn't know where the play is going. Defensive backs have gotten slightly bigger and more muscular, but still haven't gained much weight. Like receivers, I doubt we'll see them get much bigger any time soon, as flexibility and hip movement is more important than mass. Kickers BMIs are what they were 40 years ago, but punters have gotten a bit more muscular.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2008 at 12:42 am and is filed under History, Statgeekery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.