Undersized and Underrated

Posted May 8, 2014

Many NFL coaches and scouts have size specifications for each position, and when a prospect doesn’t meet those specifications he is usually downgraded in the evaluation process. While these five prospects fall short of their position-specific size thresholds, they have enough ability to overcome that disadvantage and become the exceptions to these size standards.

LB Chris Borland (Wisconsin)
Size: 5-11, 248 pounds Draft Projection: Rounds 4-5

Borland doesn’t have the size or measurables you want, but neither did London Fletcher or Zach Thomas. Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee doesn’t have the measurables, either, but he’s about as good as you’ll find. Size is not one of Borland’s top two or three traits, but effort, instincts and toughness are. Can you think of any more important traits for a linebacker – particularly an inside linebacker – to have than those three? I can’t, and because he has those three along with great production from his time at Wisconsin, I expect his name to be called early Friday evening (2nd round).

TE Trey Burton (Florida)
Size: 6-2, 224 pounds Draft Projection: Rounds 5-6

You don’t see many NFL tight ends weighing in at 224 pounds. But you also don’t see many players at the University of Florida used as tight end, H-back/wing back, fullback, receiver and quarterback. When all is said and done this weekend and the draft has concluded, Burton figures to have done both. Read the last part of his scouting profile and try to find a NFL offensive coordinator who wouldn’t want Burton on his team: “Versatile and has played every offensive skill position. Football smart -- understands offensive concepts and how the pieces fit together like a former quarterback. Outstanding personal character and will represent a team with class. Is tough and durable and will play through pain. Willing, effective special-teams contributor. Highly competitive team player.”

DT Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh)
Size: 6-1, 285 pounds Draft Projection: Round 1

Donald falls short of size standards for his position, but he more than makes up for it in production and effort, and he should be a top-half of the first round selection on Thursday. Yes, some will question if he has the size to play in the NFL. But the bottom line is he’s an explosive defender, he won the Outland Trophy as the nation's top lineman, he was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and he was a dominant player at this year’s Senior Bowl, which only supports the idea that he can play in the NFL. A scheme versatile defensive lineman, Donald will add grit and toughness to whichever team selects him.

WR Jeremy Gallon (Michigan)
Size: 5-7, 185 pounds Draft Projection: Rounds 5-6

Gallon would be undersized at any position, so his small stature as a receiver may cause some teams to overlook him. But teams that faced Michigan the past several seasons certainly didn’t have a hard time noticing him. Gallon was the Wolverines leading receiver the past two seasons and he was a difference-making kickoff and punt returner when given the opportunity. He may not have the size to be a lead receiver and he lacks burst to be an elite kickoff returner in the NFL, but he has the hands, route-running ability and toughness to be a slot receiver and the quickness and instincts to be a punt returner.

QB Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois)
Size: 6-0, 217 pounds Draft Projection: Rounds 6-7

The first player in FBS history to rush for more than 1,500 yards and throw for 3,000 yards in the same season. A Heisman Trophy finalist. His conference’s offensive player of the year. And a 24-4 record as a starter. Given those credentials, you’d think this prospect would be invited to Radio City Music Hall so he could hear his name called in person on draft day. But I guess playing in the MAC and being undersized will trump those credentials. Lynch is out to prove it shouldn’t, at least not as much as his sixth-to-seven-round projection indicates. Agile, competitive, tough and versatile, Lynch has the tools to make a NFL roster, whether it’s as a reserve quarterback, a running back, a safety and/or a special teams contributor. He’s the kind of kid you don’t bet against, and the kind of player you would much rather play with than play against.