The analysis you didn’t think you needed, and you were probably right: The NFL GOAT at every height and weight combination

Jason Pauley
4 min readFeb 25, 2024

Eric Bieniemy is the GOAT. Chris Collinsworth is the GOAT. Ed “To Tall” Jones is the GOAT. Mike Glennon is the GOAT. Cameron Heyward is the GOAT. Russell Wilson is the GOAT. Jordan Mailata is the GOAT.

In this edition of off-season fiddle-faddle, I’m exploring the GOAT at every height and weight combination. Each one of the players above are the greatest player since the merger at their specific height and weight. There are only 3 players who are 5’7’’ 205–209 lbs., but Eric Bienemey is the best of them (the other two were RBs who played a combined 10 career games). At another weird combination 6’5’’ and only 190–194 lbs, Chris Collinswirth is the king, beating out three other players: an awkwardly tall DB named Isaac Booth, a punter and a QB named Cliff Olander who backed up Dan Fouts for three years in the late ’70s. That late ’70s Chargers team, by the way, had two GOATs in the QB room with Dan Fouts being the 6’3’’ 200–204 lb. GOAT.

There are 436 GOATs across the ~20,000 players in the NFL since the 1970. “GOAT” really isn’t an accurate term since it implies “All Time” and I’m looking at players since the merger. But “GSTM” just doesn’t have a ring to it, so in the interest of narrative building and simplicity I’m going with the commonly used term of GOAT, but know that this analysis is really the “Greatest Since The Merger”.

AV (Approximate Value) is the metric I used to determine who the GOAT is. It’s flawed…we know. Every stat is flawed. But it’s the easiest stat to pull for something like this and directionally it’s a solid stat to compare across positions. Also, these are the listed heights and weights in Pro Football Reference. I’m sure some reported weights are not what a player actually weighs (William Perry at 325 lbs. for example), but I can’t do anything about that.

I started at the merger because I want to maintain positional integrity somewhat. Football players were funny sizes a long time ago. I don’t want the GOAT 5’10’’ 205-pound player to be some guard named Adolph Bieberstein from the leather helmet days. Even going back to 1970 will have some of these issues but to a lesser degree. It wasn’t uncommon to have offensive linemen in the ’70s with a height and weight of some linebackers today.

So here is the data you’ve been weighting for (dad joke). The GOATs at every height and weight since the merger. The data is color coded by position, to me this is where it gets interesting…seeing how/where the GOATs begin to change by position as the height and weight changes. The second chart shows the counts in a heatmap-ish grid allowing for you to see where the biggest concentrations of players are by viewing the volume through both dimensions at the same time.

The height and weight GOATS

Because I don’t have great data organization skills, this was a process in which I ran 436 individual Stathead queries. The updates to the data were also extremely manual, so there could be errors. Let me know if you see a player color coded at the wrong position.

Here is the height and weight distribution of the nearly 20,000 players who have stepped on the field since 1970.

Distribution of players across height and weight

Also, after looking at this information for a while, the analysis begs for similar heat map views by position, as well as exploring changes over time. If there is enough interest, I’ll work on getting the data aggregated in a way that allows me to peel that layer of the onion as well.

You can see (sort of) three distinct dark blobs.

  • Blob 1: 190 lb. — 210 lb.; 5’10’’ — 6’2’; these are primarily WRs, CBs, and some RBs
  • Blob 2: 220 lb. — 260 lb.; 6’1’’ — 6’5’’; these are mostly linebackers, but also a smattering of 70’s interior OL when some of them were lighter.
  • Blob 3: 300 lb. — 320 lb.; 6’3’’ — 6’ 5’’; mostly C, G, and some OT

I also thought it was interesting to see an unnatural spike at 250 lbs. and 300 lbs. This tells me one of two things. 1.) When a player is close to a desirable milestone weight, they change their nutrition/exercise to get to that target weight. But I think it’s more likely to be option two…if a guy is close to 300 or 250, they get a little bump on their listed weight to make them seem bigger than they are.

I hope you enjoyed the post!

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Jason Pauley

Passionate about Analytics (Football, Sports, Marketing, Sales, Demographics)