Ever heard of Richard Sligh or Jack Emanuel “Soapy” Shapiro? Sligh would be listed as the tallest man to ever play in the NFL while Shapiro was the shortest. At seven feet, Sligh was selected by the Oakland Raiders in 1967. He would play only one year and was a reserve player in Super Bowl II. Shapiro’s career dates back even further. At five feet, Shapiro played professional football in 1929. Although the NFL wasn’t technically alive yet, the Guinness Book of Records listed him as the shortest man on record in NFL history in 1999. Although both these players didn’t have a huge impact on the game, their names will live on as long as football is around. The NFL is extremely meticulous about a person’s body. They painstakingly comb throw every inch and detail of a potential player body. It’s one of the main reason why there’s an NFL combine. If you’re too tall or short, then making it in the NFL decreases dramatically. However, there are the exceptions and you’re about to read them.
Many of these players might be cut by the time you read this. They could also blow up and be a fantastic contributor to their respective team. This is why the NFL has a preseason, to weed out those who can’t make the cut. Enjoy.
15. Tallest: Dennis Kelly – 6’8″
The Illinois native stands at 6 feet 8 inches tall. He would attend Purdue and be selected in the fifth-round in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. The towering offensive tackle would stay with the team for three seasons before moving onto the Tennessee Titans. He would sign a $3.05 million extension with the team in the offseason after appearing in all 16 games.
He isn’t a starter, but Kelly is the type of depth you want on your roster. Not only can he play tackle but he’s also used as an extra tight end in Jumbo packages. With his versatility to play both tackle positions, Kelly could become a starter if the offensive line gets hit with the injury bug this season.
14. Shortest: C.J. Anderson – 5’8″
At 5 feet 8 inches, C.J. Anderson could have a break out year this season. He would be signed as an undrafted free agent by the Denver Broncos in 2013. Anderson has worked his tail off to become the number one running back on the team. Last season was a disappointment for him because he would only play in seven games due to a torn meniscus.
Coach Vance Joseph says Anderson is in the best shape of his career but he does have some competition at his position. The Broncos signed Jamaal Charles in the offseason and hope the former All-Pro could make a resurgence in his career. It’s going to be interesting which back becomes the lead, but most think it’s Anderson’s spot to lose.
13. Tallest: Margus Hunt – 6’8″
Known as “The Estonian Giant”, Margus Hunt is 6 feet 8 inches tall. Born in Karksi-Buia, Estonia, Hunt was inspired to be an Olympian in the throwing events such as the discus and the shot and hammer throw. He would leave his country to train at Southern Methodist University in 2007. The track and field coach of the school, Dave Wollman, thought he could earn a scholarship due to his size and strength, and the next thing you know, he was playing defense for the football team.
Hunt would be selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He would spend three years with the team before coming to the Indianapolis Colts this offseason. He isn’t a starter, but his size makes him a valuable asset on special teams.
12. Shortest: Terron Ward – 5’7″
The California native is only 5 feet 7 inches tall, however, that hasn’t stopped him from making it in the NFL. As the brother of fantastic Denver Broncos’ safety, T.J. Ward, he knows what it takes to be successful in the league. After attending Oregon State, Ward would go undrafted in 2015. The Atlanta Falcons would offer him a contract and he’s been on the team ever since.
His first year with the team, Ward would play in 13 games and collected one touchdown. Last season, he would improve his statistics in many categories but only played in just five games. Today, Ward is listed third on the depth chart at running back, and if an injury does happen, expect him to step up and contribute. If things don’t work out with the Falcons, maybe he can join his brother in Denver.
11. Tallest: Calais Campbell – 6’8″
Calais Campbell is a defensive tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars but played most of his career with the Arizona Cardinals. At 6 feet 8 inches, Calais would be selected by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft. As a multi-sport athlete for Miami University, Campbell was considered a great prospect for the league.
He would help the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl his rookie year and he would be a force for the team for years to come. All his hard work earned him a four-year, $60 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team wants to use him at defensive end and definitely could have double-digit sacks this season. If he doesn’t, he could be one of the bigger flops from the free agency market this year.
10. Shortest: Tommylee Lewis – 5’7″
The Florida native would attend Northern Illinois and go undrafted in 2016. At 5 feet 7 inches, Lewis has to rely on his speed to make it as a wide receiver in the league. He would get a huge referral from legendary coach, Bill Parcells, and would be signed by the New Orleans Saints. Apparently, Lewis’ high school coach is really good friends with Parcells.
Since then, he has become a return specialist but also has been on the field as a wide receiver. Although he only had seven receptions and 76 receiving yards, he did collect a touchdown. Lewis is battling to stay on the team this year and could get more targets due to the departure of wide receiver Brandin Cooks in the offseason.
9. Tallest: Alejandro Villanueva – 6’8″
Villanueva is a feel good story for the NFL. At 6 feet 8 inches tall, Villanueva would graduate from the United States Military Academy. This tough S.O.B. would serve multiple tours in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He would be awarded a Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for saving wounded soldiers.
Villanueva played multiple positions for the Army Black Knights but wouldn’t be drafted into the league. He would sign a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014 but was cut. The Pittsburgh Steelers noticed his potential and would sign him to the practice squad. He’s been with the team ever since and is now a starter at left tackle for one of the best franchises in the sport. His hard work earned him a four-year, $24 million extension this offseason.
8. Shortest: Jakeem Grant – 5’7″
At 5 feet 7 inches, Grant would attend Texas Tech as a wide receiver. After a huge senior season, 1,268 yards and ten touchdowns, he would be selected by the Miami Dolphins in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. With the speed to run a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash, Grant would be a corner piece for the team’s special teams unit.
In his rookie year, he would return 567 yards and would score his first touchdown on a beautiful 74-yard punt return. Grant is one tough dude, he suffered a gunshot wound as a child and was stabbed in 2014, so if anyone can stick it out in the NFL, it could be him. Now that Jay Cutler is on the Dolphins, we’re pretty sure Grant is just itching to grab a few receptions.
7. Tallest: Trent Brown – 6’9″
At 6 feet 9 inches tall, Brown was selected in the seventh round by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2014 draft. He would only play in six games in 2015 but would appear in all 16 games last season. Although he isn’t listed as the best tackle in the game, he got a huge rub from Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. “I feel like Trent Brown has a very bright future in the National Football League,” said Miller.
“He knows how to use his arms, knows how to use his wingspan and he has length. So I feel like he’s young and people haven’t really seen him, but I feel like he’s one of the better tackles in the National Football League.” 49ers OL coach, John Benton said Brown lost weight this season and seems to be in good shape.
6. Shortest: Jacquizz Rodgers – 5’6″
At 5 feet 6 inches, he blew out the competition at Oregon State. He would be selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Rodgers would become a consistent half back for the team, missing just one game in four years. In 2015, he would sign a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears.
It turned out to be his worst season ever but he would bounce back with the Tampa Buccaneers the next year. He has found a place in the NFL as a third down back but if Doug Martin goes down with an injury, Rodgers could have the biggest season of his career. The Buccaneers clearly want his services because they offered him a two-year extension over the offseason.
5. Tallest: Cornelius Lucas – 6’9″
Coming out of Kansas State, Lucas would go undrafted in 2014 but would be signed by the Detroit Lions that year. It was a great signing for the team because Lucas is still on the team three years later. At 6 feet 9 inches, Lucas has no problem towering over others. His first two years with the team he would play in 30 games but last season he would become injured and only played in five games.
Lucas has been getting first team reps in practice, however, he has competition with Joe Dahl, Tony Hills, and Corey Robinson. With Matthew Stafford being the focal point of the team, Lucas could be a vital player to keeping his quarterback healthy. If things don’t work out, he could wash out of the league sooner than later.
4. Shortest: Shane Wynn – 5’6″
Standing at 5 feet and 6 inches, Shane Wynn would play four years for the University of Indiana. The Hoosier would play wide receiver and would become an impact player right away. He doesn’t have the size but he has the speed to make himself a deadly weapon on the field. After a solid collegiate career, Wynn would end up undrafted in 2015.
Wynn would bounce around several teams including, the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Los Angeles Chargers, and New Orleans Saints. In 2016, Wynn would sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars and has been a member of the team ever since. He’ll most likely be kept on the practice squad or be released by the end of preseason. Even if he’s cut, he could definitely find another team sooner than later.
3. Tallest: Demar Dotson – 6’9″
The Louisiana native would attend Southern Mississippi before going undrafted in 2009. At 6 feet 9 inches, the Tampa Buccaneers would sign him and he’s been with the team ever since. That speaks volumes for Dotson, who went undrafted in 2009 and is still in the league in 2017. He would work hard and improve his skills at right tackle over the years. He would become a swing tackle and play both left and right for the team.
The Buccaneers offense is a candidate to break out this year but unfortunately, Dotson was injured in a preseason game. He would tweak his groin and had an MRI done during the time this list was written. If he does miss time, it would be a huge blow for the offense.
2. Shortest: Darren Sproles – 5’6″
If you know about fantasy football and the PPR system, then you would know the 5 foot 6 inches Darren Sproles was that sneaky pick that kept your season alive. Sproles would be drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He would spend time with New Orleans Saints before becoming a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Although listed as a half back, Sproles can also be a deadly wide receiver for the team. At 35 years old, it’s incredible he’s still in the NFL. The Eagles believe in Sproles and plan on getting him the ball in open space as much as they can. If you’re struggling to find a late round flier with running backs in PPR, Sproles is the right pick for you.
1. Tallest: Dan Skipper – 6’10”
You ever heard the saying “things are bigger in Texas?” At 6 feet 10 inches, Dan Skipper became the tallest player in the NFL when the Dallas Cowboys signed him as an undrafted free agent this year. Skipper would attend the University of Arkansas and played tackle and special teams for the team. He would break the record for most blocked field goal attempts in a season with three.
His hard work would earn him a spot on the All-SEC team of ESPN, Sporting News, and the Coaches Poll. His towering height might not transfer over to the big leagues but it’s going to be interesting how his career plays out. A spot on the practice squad seems more likely for Skipper but stranger things have happened in the NFL.
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