The 12 Shortest Linebackers in the NFL (2024)

In a league often dominated by towering figures, the shortest linebackers in the NFL stand as a testament to skill and determination transcending physical stature. From an extensive analysis of over 230 linebackers on the 2023 Week 1 rosters, twelve exceptional players have emerged, each standing under six feet tall.

These athletes challenge the conventional image of the linebacker position, traditionally associated with larger, taller players, by demonstrating that agility, speed, and tactical intelligence can be just as impactful as height.

This article will explore the careers and unique talents of these twelve shortest linebackers. Despite their relatively smaller stature, they bring immense value to their teams through their quick reflexes, ability to navigate through tight spaces, and exceptional coverage skills.

Shortest LBs in the NFL

Ivan Pace Jr5’10”Minnesota Vikings
Drake Thomas5’11”Seattle Seahawks
David Long5’11”Miami Dolphins
Dee Winters5’11”San Francisco 49ers
Grant Stuard5’11”Indianapolis Colts
Quincy Williams5’11”New York Jets
Nakobe Dean5’11”Philadelphia Eagles
Malcolm Rodriguez5’11”Detroit Lions
Devin Bush5’11”Seattle Seahawks
Mark Robinson5’11”Pittsburgh Steelers
Nick Bolton5’11”Kansas City Chiefs
Denzel Perryman5’11”Houston Texans

In the NFL, the prototypical linebacker typically stands just over 6’2″. This average height is often considered ideal for balancing the demands of the role, which include a mix of speed, agility, and physicality.

However, as the twelve under-six-foot linebackers demonstrate, there’s more to the position than just meeting these physical benchmarks.

Their presence in the league underscores a broader perspective, where skill, technique, and football IQ play a crucial role, showing that success at the linebacker position is not solely dictated by height.

Ivan Pace Jr.

  • Height: 5’10”
  • Team: Minnesota Vikings

Ivan Pace Jr., at 5’10”, is a dynamic linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings and the shortest linebacker in the NFL. Known for his exceptional athleticism and instinctive play, Pace Jr. made a significant impact in college football at Miami University and the University of Cincinnati.

His ability to read plays quickly and react with speed makes him an asset in both run defense and pass coverage. Despite being shorter than the average NFL linebacker, Pace Jr.’s tenacity and skill set enable him to be a formidable presence on the field.

Drake Thomas

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Team: Seattle Seahawks

Drake Thomas stands at 5’11” and plays for the Seattle Seahawks. He distinguished himself at North Carolina State University with his aggressive and intelligent style of play. Thomas’s college career was marked by his knack for making key tackles and his ability to disrupt offensive plays.

His size, while smaller for a linebacker, is compensated by his quickness and ability to navigate through traffic on the field, making him a valuable addition to the Seahawks’ defensive unit.

David Long

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Team: Miami Dolphins

David Long is a linebacker for the Miami Dolphins. Prior to joining the Dolphins, he played for the Tennessee Titans, where he was known for his speed and coverage skills.

Drafted in the sixth round in 2019 out of West Virginia University, Long quickly made a name for himself as a versatile and dependable linebacker. His ability to cover large areas of the field and make crucial tackles, despite his smaller stature, has proven valuable in defending against both the run and pass.

Dee Winters

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Team: San Francisco 49ers

Dee Winters is a part of the San Francisco 49ers’ linebacker corps. Coming from Texas Christian University (TCU), Winters is known for his explosive speed and agility. These attributes, combined with his strong tackling ability, make him a threat to opposing offenses.

Winters leverages his compact size to move quickly across the field, providing valuable support in both pass coverage and run defense.

Grant Stuard

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Team: Indianapolis Colts

Grant Stuard plays for the Indianapolis Colts. Known for his high energy and relentless pursuit, Stuard was the final pick of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, earning the title of “Mr. Irrelevant.”

His play at the University of Houston showcased his tackling ability and leadership on defense. Despite his shorter stature, Stuard’s tenacity and work ethic on the field have made him a standout player, especially on special teams.

Quincy Williams

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Team: New York Jets

Quincy Williams, another 5’11” linebacker, plays for the New York Jets. Originally drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third round in 2019 from Murray State University, Williams is known for his physicality and aggressive style of play.

His compact frame and athleticism enable him to be a force in run defense and pass coverage. Williams’s ability to deliver hard hits and his speed in closing down ball carriers have made him a key contributor to the Jets’ defensive schemes.

Nakobe Dean

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Team: Philadelphia Eagles

Nakobe Dean, standing at 5’11”, brings exceptional talent to the Philadelphia Eagles. A standout at the University of Georgia, Dean was instrumental in their national championship run, known for his speed, instincts, and leadership on defense.

Drafted in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, he has quickly demonstrated his ability to excel at the professional level.

Dean’s combination of athleticism and football IQ allows him to effectively cover ground and make impactful plays, proving that size isn’t a limitation to being a top-tier linebacker in the NFL.

Malcolm Rodriguez

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Team: Detroit Lions

Malcolm Rodriguez is a key member of the Detroit Lions’ linebacker group. A sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft from Oklahoma State University, Rodriguez is known for his tackling prowess and agility.

In college, he was a highly productive player, recognized for his ability to quickly diagnose plays and disrupt the offense. His agility and quickness compensate for his shorter stature, allowing him to effectively maneuver in tight spaces and make crucial tackles.

Devin Bush

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Team: Seattle Seahawks

Devin Bush, another 5’11” linebacker, plays for the Seattle Seahawks. Drafted 10th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2019 NFL Draft from the University of Michigan, Bush quickly made a name for himself with his speed and playmaking ability.

His aggressive style of play and ability to cover both the run and pass make him a versatile defender. Despite being smaller than the average linebacker, Bush’s athleticism and instincts allow him to be a significant contributor to the Seahawks’ defense.

Mark Robinson

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Team: Pittsburgh Steelers

Mark Robinson is part of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker corps. Drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft from the University of Mississippi, Robinson has shown promise with his physical play and tackling ability.

He transitioned from running back to linebacker in college, showcasing his versatility and adaptability. Robinson’s quickness and strength are key assets, allowing him to effectively engage with larger opponents and make crucial defensive plays.

Nick Bolton

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Team: Kansas City Chiefs

Nick Bolton is a dynamic linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs. Selected in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft from the University of Missouri, Bolton is known for his hard-hitting style and ability to read offenses.

He quickly established himself as a key component of the Chiefs’ defense, recognized for his tackling skills and coverage ability. Bolton’s agility and speed enable him to excel in various defensive roles, making him a valuable asset despite his relatively smaller size for the position.

Denzel Perryman

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Team: Houston Texans

Denzel Perryman plays for the Houston Texans. A second-round pick in 2015 by the San Diego Chargers from the University of Miami, Perryman has built a reputation for his physicality and tackling ability.

He has been a consistent performer throughout his career, known for his aggressive approach to stopping the run and his knack for making key tackles.

Perryman’s experience and football intelligence allow him to effectively position himself on the field, making him a formidable presence in the Texans’ linebacker unit.

Final Thoughts

These twelve linebackers, all standing under six feet tall, are redefining the linebacker position in the NFL with their exceptional play. Players like Nakobe Dean, Malcolm Rodriguez, and Devin Bush, among others, demonstrate that success at linebacker is not solely dependent on height.

Instead, it’s their agility, speed, instincts, and understanding of the game that enables them to excel. Their ability to read plays quickly, maneuver through tight spaces, and make decisive tackles showcases the evolving nature of the position.

By proving that skill and technique can compensate for a lack of height, they serve as an inspiration for aspiring athletes who may not fit the traditional physical mold.

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