North Texas Daily

Column: Fine’s height shouldn’t be a deterrent to NFL scouts

Column: Fine’s height shouldn’t be a deterrent to NFL scouts

Column: Fine’s height shouldn’t be a deterrent to NFL scouts
September 03
18:58 2019

His entire life, questions about senior quarterback Mason Fine’s height have followed him.

“Is he tall enough to play college football?”

“Is he tall enough to play professional football?”

Fine answered the first of those questions in a decisive manner when he signed on to play Division I football with North Texas.

After dominating high school football in Oklahoma, the two-star recruit joined the Mean Green and played as a true freshman in the first game of the season against Southern Methodist in 2016. He made his first career start the following week against Bethune-Cookman. In his freshman season, the Peggs, Oklahoma native tallied 155 completions for 1,572 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions.

He was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team and has flourished under head coach Seth Littrell since then. Fine’s list of accomplishments extends beyond what he accomplished his freshman year.

Yet, with program records and conference records set, the question still follows him. This is Fine’s senior season and his last chance to show NFL scouts that he has the talent and physical ability to play at the next level. So far, he’s done a good job. In the first game against Abilene Christian, Fine put on a showcase:  383 passing yards, four touchdowns and one interception on 75.7 percent passing.

The “ideal height” for an NFL quarterback is between 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-5. However, several quarterbacks have found success outside of this range: Doug Flutie, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and Fran Tarkenton. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (who stands at 5-foot-10) was selected No. 1 overall in this year’s NFL Draft.

A major incentive for a quarterback to be 6-foot-2 and taller is due to the average height of an NFL offensive lineman being 6-foot-5. For the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the average height of the starting offensive lineman blocking for Fine has been 75.6 inches or roughly 6-foot-4.

Despite being almost five inches shorter than the men in front of him, Fine’s production hasn’t taken a hit. Fine isn’t the first “short” quarterback to find success playing with teammates taller than him. In Murray’s 2018 Heisman-winning season, his offensive line consisted of a 6-foot-5 left tackle, 6-foot-4 left guard, 6-foot-3 center, 6-foot-5 right guard and 6-foot-5 right tackle. Despite being six inches shorter than the average height of his offensive line, Murray was able to put up 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns.

In an NFL that has switched its focus to mobile quarterbacks, having a play-caller under 6-foot-2 is more advantageous than one who is taller than 6-foot-5. From 1997-2016, quarterbacks under 6-foot-2 posted a higher passer rating (82.82) than quarterbacks that were above 6-foot-5 (78.41), according to a study ran by Rich Exner. Scouts favor taller quarterbacks, as only four quarterbacks under 6-foot-2 have been drafted in the first round since 1997, according to the same study.

Shorter quarterbacks can maneuver the pocket in a smoother manner. For example, picture Wilson (5-foot-11) and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (6-foot-2) moving around a collapsed pocket. Now do it with Brock Osweiler (6-foot-7). See the difference?

Fine has mirrored this concept. In 2018, the offensive line situation at North Texas was nothing short of a dumpster fire: little experience, injuries and poor performance. Fine’s rushing numbers weren’t anything amazing (20 yards and two touchdowns), but his ability to extend the play is what saved the Mean Green in several circumstances. Going further back to his freshman year, Fine had an 80-yard touchdown run, setting a program record.

Gone are the days of the prototypical quarterback: 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, a cannon for an arm and no outside-the-pocket presence. The style of play that’s popular in the NFL has changed and there’s no physical reason for Mason Fine to go unsigned in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Featured Image: Senior quarterback Mason Fine scans the field before the snap at the game against Abeline Christian at Apogee Stadium on Aug. 31, 2019. Image by Jordan Collard

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Zachary Cottam

Zachary Cottam

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