With the 2023 NFL Draft a little more than a week away, mock draft season has kicked into high gear. And one topic that will not be put down until his name is called: Is Bryce Young too small — and therefore injury prone — to be the No. 1 overall pick?
Based on the latest combined mock draft from ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay — revealed during a SportsCenter draft special on Tuesday night — the answer is no, Young is not too small. McShay explained that while he’d certainly have his share of concerns about drafting Young, he’s simply too good of a football player to pass up in the position.
“Am I going to have some sleepless nights and say some prayers that Bryce Young is going to hold up for 17 games, if I’m general Scott Fitterer and Frank Reich, the head coach? Of course. But all these quarterbacks are suffering injuries. And Bryce Young, outside of the shoulder that cost him one game and some practices this past year, he has been tough. He’s physical. And, to me, this guy is a magician. This guy is Houdini. And I want to draft a guy who’s a difference maker. Who, when things aren’t on schedule, can make a big play out of it. And that’s what Bryce Young does better than any quarterback in this class, and really better than any quarterback in the last couple classes,” McShay said.
As the Young size discourse progressed, a new point has risen to prominence: Bigger, prototypically-sized quarterbacks get hurt and miss plenty of time, too.
ESPN NFL insider Chris Mortensen explained this much, while also offering up that familiarity with Russell Wilson might help Fitterer feel comfortable taking a slight quarterback in Young.
“Well let’s just talk about Scott Fitterer, general manager of the Carolina Panthers. He had a press conference today. He was asked about Bryce Young, obviously. He stated that size does not seem to be a problem here. He was in Seattle when they drafted Russell Wilson, as we know. Now, the body structure is different. Bryce has a more slender body structure than Russell Wilson did when he came out of college and the Seahawks took him. But, he is not injury prone,” Mortensen said. “He’s very pliable, as Tom Brady would like to describe it.”
Mortensen added that he went back through the 2022-23 NFL season and found more than two dozen instances of quarterbacks missing time or being hampered by injury. With the majority being bigger quarterbacks. Of course, the sample is skewed by the general dearth of shorter, smaller quarterbacks — Kyler Murray and Wilson are not the norm, still — but is ultimately illustrative that size is not a guarantee for better health as a quarterback.
And Mortensen noted the newer rules protecting quarterbacks make it possible for Young to not only exist, but thrive, in the modern NFL.
“And yes, I counted up 27 quarterbacks last year who were injured and missed practice, missed game time, debilitated their performance. And 22 of those guys were prototype, NFL size quarterbacks. So, yeah, we can wonder about that, but I think it’s pretty true of everybody in the league,” Mortensen said. With all the quarterback protections, I think this guy has learned how to play at this size and in a way, his size may help him a little bit manipulating around that pocket.”
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