INDIANAPOLIS – Bryce Young smiled and spoke his truth. The former Alabama star accepts that he is far from the so-called prototype NFL quarterback when it comes to certain measurables, yet he also gives off the vibe that it’s somebody else’s problem.
“Yeah, I’ve been this size, respectfully, my whole life,” Young told reporters on Friday morning at the NFL’s scouting combine.
Quick, somebody get a tape measure and a scale.
Young, whose resume includes a Heisman Trophy, a 23-4 record as a starter while toiling in college football’s most competitive conference and 80 TD passes, was listed last season at 6-0 and 194 pounds.
And there are some NFL scouts who suspect the listed weight was a stretch.
“I know who I am,” Young said. “I know what I can do. For me, it’s fair. Everyone can speculate and ask whatever questions are necessary. I’m going to control what I can control.”
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Buzz about Young’s weight (more than his height) fuels an intriguing subplot on the runway to the NFL draft. He’s in the mix to be the No. 1 pick overall, which isn’t a stretch when considering his excellence at the game’s most premium position. Although the Chicago Bears, holding the top pick, have a young, explosive quarterback in Justin Fields, they have declared that they are open to bids in a year when four of the top 10 picks are projected to be quarterbacks.
It also stands to reason that whatever quarterback-needy team goes all-in on Young – most notably the Houston Texans, picking second, and the Indianapolis Colts, owning the fourth pick at the moment – will have resisted any urge to get tripped up by the measurables.
The official weigh-in will come on Saturday morning, with Young maintaining that he has put on a few pounds in recent weeks. “I’ve been around the 200-pound range,” he said.
How much does it matter? Two of the biggest busts in NFL draft history – JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf – were huge, strapping quarterbacks but proved to be so lacking in intangibles. Drew Brees, on the other hand, produced a Hall of Fame-credentialed career while measuring 6-0 and 209 pounds. Russell Wilson is listed at 5-11, 215. Kyler Murray is 5-10, 207.
“They come in all shapes and sizes,” Colts GM Chris Ballard said this week, when asked to identify the qualities he seeks in a quarterback.
Not coincidentally, Ballard began his reply by asking, “One that wins?”
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Still, given the physical nature of football and the tendency of NFL teams to go so deep with their pre-draft analysis, the questions about Young’s size will likely persist for a while to some degree. After all, not all 200-pounders are created equally when it comes to durability.
Somewhere, somebody is probably asking whether the sprained AC joint that Young suffered last season (and is completely healed now, he maintained) was related to his lighter frame. Then again, we’ve seen many 300-pounders go down in a heap due to a variety of injuries. It’s football. Risk is inherent.
If size is the only knock for a quarterback who was deemed the best player in college football in 2021 and has otherwise survived, Young is way ahead of the curve.
Let Frank Reich, the new Carolina Panthers coach and former quarterback, provide a snapshot assessment of the latest NFL-bound QB groomed by Nick Saban.
“Highly intelligent, very fast processor, very poised,” Reich said. “You know, playmaker. He checks a lot of boxes. No moment’s too big for him. … Seems like a great young man. Very impressive.”
When pressed about the size question, Reich name-dropped Brees and Wilson. Young, he added, has earned this lofty status that projects him at the top of the draft.
“Size aside, I think he’s the most skilled guy, the most technically sound and the most fun to watch,” NFL analyst Steve Mariucci told USA TODAY Sports.
Maybe the position – in a game where the players are increasingly becoming quicker and faster – will continue to evolve to the point where such size questions don’t even exist. Lack of height can be a nuisance for shorter quarterbacks throwing from the pocket with tall, long-armed pass rushers blocking the passing windows. Murray, for instance, seems to have had too many passes deflected at the line of scrimmage.
Yet, as Mariucci pointed out, Young’s chances to succeed in the NFL are a lot better than they would have been a generation ago. It’s a different game, given all of the offensive concepts that spread the field and defined the college game for years are now an NFL standard, too.
“The way they play, with the shotguns, the RPOs and the zone reads,” Mariucci said, “that allows a guy like that to flourish.”
Young won’t throw at the combine, instead opting to wait until Alabama’s pro day, but he came to town prepared to address the elephant-in-the-room question when meeting with teams. Someone asked Young how he answers questions from teams about his size.
“I speak my truth,” he said.
He sounded more eager, though, to have two-way exchanges that have nothing to do with size.
“I make sure I explain how I play the game, how I see the game, my process, how I’m able to get through things,” he said. “Obviously, there’s definitely a film. It’s just talking ball, X’s and O’s. I’ve been around so many great football minds in these meetings. It’s being able to talk about myself and see how they run their offense and being able to learn from that.”
That’s an essential message in itself. Whatever the buzz about size matters, he gives the impression that it just rolls off like he’s breaking containment on a rollout.
The biggest misconception about his game? But, he did not take the bait and make it about size.
“To be honest, I don’t really know too much that’s out there,” he insisted. “I’m grateful for everyone’s opinion, for the media. I’m not really on social media that much, not really watching too much about me. I respect everyone’s opinion, but I focus on what I can control. I take the advice and the direction of the people I trust, and the people at the next level.”
And if it all pans out at the next level, Young might ultimately be viewed in another sense as an NFL heavyweight.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bryce Young’s weight, height shouldn’t matter to NFL teams