Senquez "Too Small" Golson

Ed "Too Tall" Jones got a nickname for himself proving scouts wrong who said he was too tall for a DE (or LB maybe, he played for the Cowboys so who cares what position he played?). Senquez Golson has the opposite problem, and it seems likely that the title "too small" has been attached to his name so closely that it will continue to stick there, either literally or ironically. A lot of opinions have been expressed regarding Golson's size, so I dug a little deeper to find out the truth.

"Senquez Golson is too short to play cornerback in the NFL"

To get a little deeper into this, I looked up the top CB's last season in terms of passes defensed. The correlation between passes defensed and CB-goodness is admittedly a loose one, but it's a simple and fairly reliable way to measure CB skill. Looking at the height of the top 32 CB's in passes defensed, you come up with a normal bell curve with 8 corners 5'10 or under, 9 corners 6'1 or over, and 15 at 5'11 or 6'0. The same follows for the CB's 33-64 in passes defensed: 10 corners 5'10 or under, 8 corners 6'1 or over, and 14 at 5'11 or 6'0. If you equate that with the league's starting corners (let me reiterate this is Not the case, but close enough for our purposes, and way simpler than looking up the depth charts for every team) that makes 18 "short guys," 17 "tall guys," and 29 corners in the majority group of 5'11 or 6'0. The ratio there is 18/64 or almost 1 out of 4 of the top CB's in passes defensed are 5'10 or shorter. That seems to suggest that being 5'9 is not that much of an obstacle to overcome to be a solid CB in this league.

What about his chances of being a great CB? You can look at recent ProBowl appearances, which are largely a popularity contest but still have some significance, and you see a smaller but non-trivial number. The height distribution in recent ProBowl corners is weighted toward the tall fellas who are represented almost as frequently as the standard-height corners (12 to 14), but that leaves 6 appearances by shorter CB's or a ratio of almost 1 in 5 Pro Bowl CB's being 5'10 or less. That means on average there is "slightly more than one" CB 5'10 or under in the Pro Bowl each year. That would seem to scuttle the "too short" problem, but that's not the only issue with Golson, or even the real issue with Golson.

"Golson Doesn't Have the Skills to Be Successful at His Height"

Technically, Nobody is too short. Master Yoda is only knee high to today's WR's but would be an example CB because of his exceptional vertical jump and ability to use Jedi mind control to convince receivers their job is to tackle the QB. Height is just one asset for CB's and a lack of it can be compensated for with other skills. A more realistic example of this is Darrell Green, or more recent pro bowlers like Brandon Flowers, Brent Grimes, Tim Jennings, and Alterraun Verner who range from 5'8 to 5'10. If there is an argument against Golson involving height, it should technically be expressed "he lacks the abilities to compensate for his lack of height." He is not literally too small because it is theoretically and observably possible for CB's his size to be extremely successful.

Golson's 33'' vertical has been brought up in this regard, but while that isn't the kind of number that would seem to make up for his lack of height all by itself, neither is it an additional impediment. Pro Bowl small corners Brent Grimes, Brandon Flowers, Alterraun Verner, and Chris Harris Jr also posted verticals of 33'' (or less) in pre-draft workouts. Golson's 4.46 forty time isn't blazing fast either, but is just as fast as Grimes, Flowers, Verner (all of whom were over 4.50), Harris, William Gay, and E.J. Gaines (who had a solid rookie year last year, and ran a 4.51). Golson's agility numbers (4.20 and 6.81) were also comfortably within the range set by these players (and a lot better than taller corners).

More importantly, Golson's tape is excellent and scouting reports glow with praise for his fluid and efficient lower body technique, explosive closing burst, outstanding awareness and ball skills, solid physique and tackling ability, etc. The only negatives on him are that he freelances a little too often, leaving his zone, relies on his athleticism a little too much, and isn't great at bump and run. You could put his scouting profile next to any ProBowl short corner and he would look as good or better. It's worth noting that this is something all these successful corners have in common; some are athletic phenoms and some are actually slow for the position, but they all are above average in ball skills, smarts, fluidity and burst, and play bigger than they are - including Golson. It's tough to find any reason to suggest he lacks the abilities that have allowed other corners his size to make it the NFL. This would tend to imply that he was worth the 2nd round selection the Steelers spent on him, but let's go into that a little deeper as well.

"The Steelers Reached for Golson in the Second Round"

Besides Steelers fans, a number of talking heads have weighed in that the Steelers reached for Golson, who probably would've been available in the 3rd round. But what does history say?

In 2014 - Jason Verrett (5'10) was taken at round 1 pick 25(despite his college injury history), and Lamarcus Joyner (5'8) with the 9th pick of the second round. Dexter McDougle 5'10 was taken with 16th pick of the 3rd.

In 2013 - Robert Alford (5'10) was taken at 2:28, Leon McFadden(5'10) at 3:6, and Tyran Matthieu (5'9) 3:7

In 2012 - Janoris Jenkins (5'10 and character concerns) was taken at 2:7, Josh Robinson (5'10 and a small school prospect) at 3:3

In 2011 - Marcus Gilchrist (5'10) was taken at 2:18

In 2010 - Three short CB's were taken in the first round, Kareem Jackson (5'10) at 1:20, Devin McCourty (5'10) at 1:27, and Kyle Wilson (5'10) 1:29. In the second round, Javier Arenas (5'9) was taken at pick 18.

So going back five years, the best short CB in the draft has never been available in the third round and has often been taken in the first round. In the past 5 years, 9 short CB's have gone in the 2nd round or higher. Last year, which was regarded as exceptionally deep at CB, saw a prospect shorter than Golson go earlier in the 2nd. Typically, by the time the Steelers pick in the 3rd, they would expect that at least the top 2 short CB prospects will have been taken. This year, Indianopolis took 5'10 D'joun Smith (the small school version of Golson) at the top of the 3rd, nine picks after the Steelers grabbed Golson. If the Steelers reached for Golson, the Colts reached more for Smith, and either way Golson wasn't going to fall to the Steelers in the 3rd with Indy willing to pull the trigger on a small corner at 3:1.

Golson is a guy who would've been a sure fire 1st rounder if not for his height, and the precedent is that with height considerations those otherwise 1st round locks become 1st - 2nd round question marks. The Steelers pick of Golson is actually the latest the top short CB has been picked in the last 5 years, with the exception of (ProBowler) Robert Alford who lasted 6 picks later in 2013 and started an immediate run on short corners. So if anything, the Steelers would've been justified in moving up to get Golson, as Colbert said they were attempting. Finally, just because we have to...

"Golson Doesn't Match Up Against the AJ Green's of the League"

Let's be fair, even if we'd landed Jalen Collins, or for that matter Trae Waynes, we still wouldn't have a player who matches up well against AJ Green. Nobody matches up well against AJ Green; that's why he's AJ Green. You can draft a 6'2 or 6'3 CB and he won't match up with AJ Green because he can't run with him (there's a reason there are way more 5'11 CB's than 6'2 CB's). We got a player that matches up well with Steve Smith Sr, Emmanuel Sanders, Julian Edelman, Odell Beckham Jr, T.Y. Hilton, Golden Tate, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, and Randall Cobb, and that's okay with me. And he will probably be okay against taller receivers also, because at the end of the day being 2 inches shorter than the average CB means there is a 2 or 3 inch smaller window, and that's actually not big enough for a QB to hit reliably, besides the fact that being small but in position is better than being tall and out of position any day.

So Relax

Golson may not make it, but he doesn't face insurmountable obstacles to success and the Steelers actually knew what they were doing when they picked. In fact, I love the direction we're going with this pick and subsequent ones this draft. We need CB who are playmakers more than we need extra tacklers (or drafting a guy primarily for his ability in rare jump ball situations). It fits the rule changes. It fits our offensive ability (anyone know why NE had so many interceptions, even before Revis? Teams that are behind throw more passes than is good for them). It fits our division; Dalton, "Browns QB," and Flacco will all make mistakes that we can take advantage of (by all means heave and pray, Joe, heave and pray - bwahaahhahahahahaha!!). Golson may or not make it, but he's not too short to make it, he doesn't lack the skills to make it, and the Steelers were smart to grab him when they did.

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