The Jacksonville Jaguars fielded the NFL’s biggest defense in 2021, and then they added Travon Walker, a plus-sized edge rusher, with the first-overall pick in the draft. Will Walker and the Jaguars still be the biggest team in the land, or will other changes in personnel drop them down to a lighter weight class?
Earlier this week, we looked at snap-weighted size across the National Football League, measuring each team’s height, weight and body mass index, accounting not just for which players were on the roster, but how often each of those players were actually on the field. We have found that most of the variance comes in weight, and so that’s mostly what we’ll be discussing here, but we have also included height and BMI in the tables if you want to see who the tallest, shortest, thickest, or skinniest teams are.
We have made a few changes to our methodology this year when running these numbers. First, when we list players by unit, we’re only going to measure offensive players by offensive snaps and defenders by defensive snaps, throwing out special teams plays and cameo appearances on the other side of the ball. Second, we’re no longer dumping defenders into the obsolete position groups of defensive line, linebacker and defensive back; instead we will use the more granular and accurate categories of interior linemen, edge rusher, linebacker, safety and corner.
For example, here are the Jaguars’ snap-weighted weight numbers and league ranking for each of those five positions. We’re also listing the share of defensive snaps played by each position, for reasons we shall explain shortly.
|JAX Defense SWW and Snap% by Position, 2021|
Led by 220-pound Rayshawn Jenkins, the Jaguars had the biggest safeties in the league — and those safeties played a lot of snaps, especially compared to their average-sized cornerbacks. (Jacksonville was one of seven teams that gave more defensive snaps to safeties than to corners.) They were also in the top five in snap-weighted weight (SWW) at both linebacker and edge rusher. As for interior linemen? Well, that’s a little complicated.
On the whole, Jacksonville’s linemen were tiny, especially for a 3-4 defense. Their top lineman, Malcom Brown, weighed 320 pounds, but the next three linemen by snaps played — Dawuane Smoot, Roy Robertson-Harris, and Adam Gotsis — were all under 300 pounds. What they lacked in individual size, however, they made up for in numbers — only the L.A. Rams devoted a higher percentage of defensive snaps to their interior linemen. So while Jacksonville’s linemen were small for their position, they were still bigger than the linebackers and defensive backs who were getting snaps for other teams. When you multiply 297.0 pounds in SWW by 2,800 snaps, you get over 847,000 snap-pounds by interior linemen, good enough to rank sixth in the league.
Of course, the goal in the NFL is to have the best defense, not the biggest, and Jacksonville finished next-to-last in defensive DVOA. And so general manager Trent Baalke made a number of changes in both coaches (bringing in new head coach Doug Pederson and defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell) and players. Up front, the Jaguars drafted Travon Walker and added Folorunso Fatukasi, formerly of the Jets, in free agency. The 318-pound Fatukasi will step into the starting lineup alongside Brown and Robertson-Harris. (Pederson has said that the Jaguars will stick with a 3-4 base.) Walker went first overall in large part because he had great combine numbers for a 272-pound man. The Jags had a revolving door at edge rusher across from Josh Allen; Walker is bigger than K’Lavon Chaisson or Lerentee McCray but smaller than Taven Bryan or Jihad Ward, so size-wise he should be a wash. (Performance-wise, he should be a big upgrade.)
There are fewer changes in the secondary. Jenkins and Andrew Wingard are back at safety; Shaquill Griffin and Tyson Campbell are back at corner. The newcomer of note is Darious Williams, signed away from the Rams in free agency. Williams only weighs 187 pounds, smaller than most of Jacksonville’s slot corners in 2021.
That covers the front line and the backfield. As for the second level, Jacksonville blew up everything at linebacker. Myles Jack and Damien Wilson both went over 240 pounds, but both are gone now. In their place are free-agent signee Foyesade Oluokun, who weighs only 215 pounds, and Devin Lloyd the 235-pounder they drafted 27th overall. The wild card here is Chad Muma, the Wyoming linebacker the Jaguars surprisingly took in the third round. At 242 pounds, he’ll boost Jacksonville’s SWW if he can somehow get onto the field.
On the whole, of course, Jags fans won’t care if the defense is bigger or smaller. They just want the defense to be better. Which is likely to happen — it’s not as if they could get much worse.
Why should every football article start with offensive players? Since we’re already on the subject with Jacksonville, let’s look at snap-weighted size for defensive players, starting with the big boys up front.
Interesting results here from the AFC North: Cincinnati, who won the division, had the biggest linemen in the league; Pittsburgh and Cleveland, who did not, finish at the bottom.
|Snap-Weighted Size, IDL, 2021|
The Bengals got 400-plus snaps each from D.J. Reader and Josh Tupou, a pair of linemen who tip the scales at 340-plus. The Panthers didn’t have anyone quite that big, but each of their top three tackles — DaQuan Jones, Derrick Brown, and Bravvion Roy — each topped 330. In Seattle, top tackle Poona Ford “only” weighed 310 pounds, but Al Woods weighs 330, and Bryan Mone is even bigger at 345.
And then we have the Steelers, who had six interior linemen play at least 200 defensive snaps, and none weighed more than the 300-pound Chris Wormley. It was a similar situation in Cleveland, where the Browns had five tackles play at least 100 defensive snaps, with Jordan Elliott the biggest at 303 pounds. And since we have already discussed the Jaguars, we’ll skip them and point out that Denver’s top two tackles were 281-pound Dre’Mont Jones and 290-pound Shelby Harris. Harris went to Seattle in the Russell Wilson trade, so the Seahawks figure to be smaller along the line in 2022.
None of the top three teams in SWW here made the playoffs, but two of the bottom three did.
|Snap-Weighted Size, ER, 2021|
The Saints like to attack with size off the perimeter. Each of their top five edge rushers weigh more than the average for their position; three of them (Cameron Jordan, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Jalyn Holmes) are in the 280s. In New York, the Jets’ top four edge rushers (John Franklin-Myers, Shaq Lawson, Ronald Blair, and Kyle Phillips each weigh at least 270 pounds. Seattle got a lot of use from smaller players in Darrell Taylor and Benson Mayowa, but also fielded a trio of 270-plus-pounders in Rasheem Green, Kerry Hyder, and Carlos Dunlap.
The smallest team was, once again, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Four of their edge rushers played at least 200 defensive snaps, and the biggest was T.J. Watt at 252 pounds. The Panthers were very big in the middle of the line, but much smaller on the outside — top edge rusher Haason Reddick weighed only 235 pounds. The Rams won the Super Bowl with some undersized edge rushers, which you can do when those edge rushers are Leonard Floyd (240 pounds) and Von Miller (250).
Find someone who loves you the way Bill Belichick loves giant linebackers.
|Snap-Weighted Size, LB, 2021|
You’re probably familiar with 260-pound Dont’a Hightower, but Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jamie Collins, Jahlani Tavai and Harvey Langi were all over 250 pounds as well, giving New England five linebackers who were each heavier than the SWW of any other team. This won’t be true in 2022, however — Hightower is unsigned, and the Patriots traded for 233-pound Mack Wilson to take his place. The gap between New England and everyone else was enormous — second-place Denver was closer to San Francisco in 29th place than it was to the Patriots — but we’ll point out that the Broncos were led by 240-pound Baron Browning and 255-pound Alexander Johnson. And the Giants in fourth place behind Jacksonville were led by 235-pound Tae Crowder, but he was backed up by Reggie Ragland and Benardrick McKinney, who each go over 250 pounds.
The Atlanta Falcons had the smallest linebackers in the league — not just the aforementioned Foyesade Oluokun, but also getting over 1,000 defensive snaps from 227-pound Deion Jones. The Chargers’ top linebacker was Kyzir White, who was Oluokun-sized at 216 pounds. The Panthers used four players at linebacker last year; none was bigger than Shaq Thompson at 230 pounds. It appears Carolina was either very big or very small at every position last year, including…
I hope you like reading about the Jaguars and Panthers, because they’re the leaders at the top of the table here.
|Snap-Weighted Size, S, 2021|
At 220 pounds, Rayshawn Jenkins was the big man in Jacksonville’s backfield, but Andrew Wingard, Rudy Ford and Andre Cisco were also each over the positional average of 203.7 pounds. The Panthers used a half-dozen different safeties last year and each of them weighed 200 pounds or more, led by the 220-pound Jeremy Chinn. The Tennessee Titans also had a half-dozen 200-pounders, most notably 212-pound Kevin Byard.
For contrast, we have the Arizona Cardinals. Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson played over 2,000 defensive snaps between them, and they weighed 195 and 190 pounds respectively. It’s a similar story in Buffalo, where the Bills got over 2,000 defensive snaps from Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, who were also both in the 190s. The Broncos got over 1,000 snaps from 202-pound Justin Simmons, but also got nearly 900 snaps from Kareem Jackson at only 183 pounds.
Before we get into the biggest teams here, I’d just like to congratulate Donte Jackson, Keith Taylor, A.J. Bouye and the rest of Carolina’s cornerbacks for helping the Panthers land in the middle of the pack somewhere.
|Snap-Weighted Size, CB, 2021|
We should also congratulate the Houston Texans, who managed to finish first in something by being the only defense whose corners had an SWW of 200 pounds or more. And that’s with 191-pound Terrance Mitchell skewing the average low, but Desmond King, Tavierre Thomas, Lonnie Johnson and Vernon Hargreaves were all north of 200. Atlanta’s top two corners were 204-pound Fabian Moreau and 195-pound A.J. Terrell. Tampa Bay might have finished in first here with better health. Their top two corners — Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis — each weighed 206 pounds on the nose, but neither played even 700 snaps, and their backups were significantly smaller.
And speaking of significantly smaller defensive backs, it’s the Cardinals and Bills again! This time we see Buffalo at the bottom of the table, as none of their top four corners (Levi Wallace, Taron Johnson, Tre’Davious White, and Dane Jackson) weighed more than 192 pounds. It’s even more extreme in Arizona, where Byron Murphy played 967 snaps at 190 pounds — and he was the biggest corner on the Cardinals roster! The Eagles were another team without a single 200-pound cornerback; Steven Nelson was their biggest at 194 pounds.
We won’t waste your time here. If you’re reading Football Outsiders, you’re already aware that Ben Roethlisberger and Justin Herbert are big, and that Kirk Cousins and Kyler Murray are small.
|Snap-Weighted Size, QB, 2021|
With Ben Roethlisberger retired and Cam Newton and Joe Flacco relegated to backups at this point in their careers, this should be a four-horse race for the foreseeable future. Dak Prescott is listed at 238 pounds, with Herbert, Josh Allen and Carson Wentz each at 237, so whomever stays heathiest among that quartet will likely lead his team to the top of the rankings here.
We’ll also add that while Lamar Jackson is on the smaller side at 212 pounds, Baltimore’s SWW is dragged down because they got 373 offensive snaps from 196-pound Tyler Huntley.
The following table lists snap-weighted size statistics for running backs only, not fullbacks. We’ll get to the big fellas shortly.
|Snap-Weighted Size, RB, 2021|
The Steelers finish in first place again; their offense was very big as long as you only look at players who had the ball in their hands (foreshadowing!). This is mostly due to 232-pound Najee Harris, who saw over 80% of Pittsburgh’s running back snaps, but Benny Snell and Kalen Ballage were each over 220 pounds as well. The Giants saw a nearly even split between 219-pound Devontae Booker and 233-pound Saquon Barkley, with 234-pound Elijhaa Penny the third back. And of course you’re familiar with 247-pound Derrick Henry in Tennessee, but when he was injured, 236-pound D’Onta Foreman was among those who tried to replace him.
The Dolphins and 49ers were basically tied for the smallest running backs in the league. Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, the top two backs in Miami, were both under 200 pounds. Elijah Mitchell was 200 pounds on the nose in San Francisco, where he was backed up by 194-pound Jeff Wilson. The Chargers’ top two backs (Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson) weighed 200 pounds even.
We did not include fullbacks in that table because they’re a dying breed. Only 18 teams used a fullback on their offense last year, only 11 used them for more than 100 snaps, and none of them got any more snaps than the 610 Kyle Juszczyk saw in San Francisco. For the record, here are the size numbers for the big fellas, along with the number of snaps played. Note that the average snaps at the bottom of this table is the average for these 18 teams; if you add in 14 zeroes to account for the teams that never used a fullback, the average drops to almost exactly 100 snaps per team.
|Snap-Weighted Size, FB, 2021|
If you dump running backs and fullbacks into one bucket, then Baltimore finishes in first place by a wide margin (Patrick Ricard is a very large man), followed by the Steelers, Giants, Titans and Patriots. Juszczyk lifts the 49ers to 23rd place with the bottom five now going Dolphins-Chargers-Eagles-Bills-Jets.
Our essay in Part I covered the Colts’ big receivers in detail, but they’re not the only ones who like whales out wide. Green Bay’s receivers were even bigger than Indy’s, and the Chargers and Titans also stood out from (and above) the pack.
|Snap-Weighted Size, WR, 2021|
Eight different Packers wideouts played at least one offensive snap in 2020. The smallest was 195-pound Randall Cobb, who played fewer than 400 snaps; all of the others weighed at least 206 pounds, with Allen Lazard the biggest at 227. All five of the Chargers’ top wideouts went 210 pounds or more, with Mike Williams the biggest at 218. And while injuries ravaged the Titans’ receiver corps — none of them played even 700 offensive snaps — they had some monsters. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Cody Hollister and Racey McMath each weighed at least 215 pounds.
The Bears, on the other hand, had one big receiver (220-pound Allen Robinson) and a bunch of Smurfs — Darnell Mooney, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin and Jakeem Grant were all 180 pounds or less. In Buffalo, four of the Bills’ top five receivers (Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley, and Isaiah McKenzie) weighed 191 pounds or less. Philadelphia’s top four wideouts (DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, Jalen Reagor, and Greg Ward) were each under the 200-pound line. At just 170 pounds, Smith was the league’s smallest wideout with over 300 offensive snaps. The trade of 226-pound A.J. Brown from Tennessee to Philadelphia will radically affect the numbers for both teams next season.
Again, we talked about the Colts earlier this week, so let’s turn to the AFC North and discuss the Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens instead.
|Snap-Weighted Size, TE, 2021|
All four of Pittsburgh’s tight ends weighed at least 250 pounds, led by the 265-pound Zach Gentry. The Bengals only really used two tight ends all season; C.J. Uzomah (260 pounds) and Drew Sample (258) saw 94% of Cincinnati’s tight end snaps. The Ravens used a lot more, five in all, from 263-pound Eric Tomlinson to 249-pound Josh Oliver.
The Chargers had very big receivers, but very small tight ends — Jared Cook, Donald Parham, Stephen Anderson, and Tre’ McKitty each weighed 246 pounds or less. The Jaguars’ tight ends were a mess — none of them saw even 400 offensive snaps — which may be why they gave significant playing time to both Dan Arnold and Jacob Hollister even though neither weighed even 240 pounds. San Francisco didn’t have anyone that small, but they didn’t have anyone big, either. George Kittle was the largest they had at precisely one-eighth of a ton.
The average offensive lineman weighed about 315 pounds in 2021. The Chicago Bears used 10 different offensive linemen, and every one of them weighed more than that.
|Snap-Weighted Size, OL, 2021|
Particularly large Chicago linemen included Sam Mustipher (332 pounds), Larry Borom (333) and Germain Ifedi (344). The Chiefs only had one regular lineman that big, but he was very big: 363-pound Orlando Brown. The Eagles had a mix of smaller linemen (Jason Kelce and Jack Driscoll are both under 300 pounds) and giants (333-pound Landon Dickerson, 334-pound Nate Herbig, 365-pound Jordan Mailata).
The Steelers had the NFL’s biggest players at quarterback and running back, and they were second at tight end and in the top 10 at wide receiver, but they had the league’s smallest offensive line. However, this largely looks like a clerical error; Moore is listed at a tight end-like 258 pounds at NFL.com and other sources, but 315 pounds on the Steelers website. Appearances can be deceiving, but Moore certainly doesn’t look that much smaller than his teammates. Either way, Trai Turner, Kendrick Green, John Leglue and Joe Haeg were all 315 pounds or under as well. In Tennessee, the Titans didn’t have a single lineman bigger than Rodger Saffold at 325 pounds, while Arizona’s largest lineman of note was 319-pound Josh Jones.
You thought we were done, but no, the public demands MOAR TABLES. We actually prepared two tables for this section — one showing kickers, punters and long snappers, and the other showing all other special teamers — but the latter was largely redundant with the overall numbers we ran in Part I earlier this week. Teams that are big overall usually have big coverage teams, too.
|Snap-Weighted Size, K/P/LS, 2021|
The Rams’ kickers were enormous — placekicker Matt Gay (232 pounds) and punter Johnny Hekker (241) were nearly as large as their long snapper (Matthew Orzech, 245)! Hekker is now in Carolina, but the two men competing for his spot — veteran Riley Dixon and UDFA Cameron Dicker — are both over 215 pounds, so L.A. could threaten for the top spot again next year. This is the second year in a row that the Super Bowl champions had really big kickers — the 2020 Bucs had a 240-pound punter and a 218-pound placekicker. This may be a more important category than any of us would have guessed.
That would be bad news for the Buffalo Bills, a team with serious Super Bowl aspirations and minuscule special teamers. Tyler Bass, all 183 pounds of him, will be back to kick field goals. Matt Haack, Buffalo’s 205-pound punter, is still on the roster, but he will need to fight off sixth-round draftee Matt Araiza to keep his job. That won’t keep Buffalo out of the bottom of this table, though — at 200 pounds, he’s even smaller than Haack.