They call football a big boy’s game. If you excel at it, you’re the big man on campus. Or the big shot. Or big dog.
It’s no small task to reach the NFL. That said, for some players in the league, seemingly everything is too small. It would be for you, too, if you stood a towering 6 feet, 9 inches. Or weighed nearly 400 pounds. The resulting intimidation factor on opponents certainly looms large.
As we settle into another NFL season kicking off tonight (and with it, prime NFL betting), we wondered which players give off the biggest such vibes?
Tackling the biggest NFL players
Trent Brown, Las Vegas Raiders: 6 feet 8 inches, 380 pounds
It’s a crown Brown has worn since entering the league in 2015: one of the largest — if not the largest — players in the NFL.
Coming out of Florida, Brown measured in at 6-8, 355 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine. For good measure, Brown has tacked on even more mass. Along that same trend, his performance has also peaked.
A seventh-round pick, Brown was part of the New England Patriots when they won Super Bowl LIII two years ago. Last season, the offensive tackle joined the Raiders (at the time located in Oakland) as part of a four-year, $66 million deal that made him (at the time) the highest-paid offensive lineman in football.
Brown was named to his first Pro Bowl that year, even in an injury-shortened campaign. Even so, since becoming the regular started in San Francisco in 2016, Brown has started in all 53 games he has appeared, missing 11 due to injuries.
Zach Banner, Pittsburgh Steelers: 6 feet 8 inches, 360
Banner has been an enormous figure essentially all his life. Imagine walking into second grade, for example, and seeing a hulking 5-foot classmate.
If that weren’t enough, few people are unironically nicknamed “the Hulk” or “Big Daddy” or “Diesel” — three of Banner’s sobriquets during his playing days.
An offensive tackle, Banner was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, checking in at just shy of 6-foot-9-inches that made him the tallest lineman drafted in 10 years.
Banner seems to have finally found a home in Pittsburgh, his fourth city since entering the league. But he has always loomed large. (He weighed 385 pounds in 2015 while at USC.)
Chuck Pagano, then the coach of the Indianapolis Colts after selecting Banner in the draft, put it best: “It’s scary how big this guy is. He can barely fit in the locker room.”
By the way, Banner played basketball for the Trojans in 2013. Imagine running into that in the lane.
Mekhi Becton, New York Jets: 6 feet 7 inches, 363
Becton enters his first NFL season as a first-round pick. And already he has impressed coaches and teammates.
The offensive tackle appropriately goes by “Big Ticket.” And he actually has a $175,000 pendant to prove it.
We can all attempt to imagine just how big players are, but perspective paints a more detailed picture. The Jets’ veteran running back, for example, is Frank Gore, who called Becton “different” than linemen he’s come across before.
Certainly Becton’s skill and savvy plays into that assessment, but certainly the lineman’s stature (nearly a foot taller and 150 pounds heavier than Gore) comes into account.
It’s also eternally entertaining to hear defensive players chime in, such as New York linebacker Blake Cashman:
“I had to take him one-on-one, and let’s just say that didn’t go so good for me. Today in practice, first day in pads, he made himself known out there and what he’s capable of doing.”
When it comes to NFL players, don’t overlook the little guys
Of course, size alone doesn’t create a threat. Even the smallest players in the NFL can play big roles.
On the flip side, then, let’s take a peek at the little guys who could make big contributions.
JoJo Natson, Cleveland Browns: 5 feet 7 inches, 153
It’s not a name you’ve likely become familiar with over the past few years. Natson went undrafted in 2017 and primarily played special teams when he was on active rosters.
Despite his stature, Natson has big-play potential.
Consider his time at Utah State, where, in three years, Natson tied the program and Mountain West Conference record with four punt returns for touchdowns. He transferred to Akron for his final season and promptly added another two scores.
This is where Natson has the best potential to flourish in Cleveland. After all, two years ago, he was seventh in the league with 10.8 yards per punt return while with the Los Angeles Rams.
Deonte Harris, NO 5 feet six inches, 170
He’s known as a return specialist. But Harris is just plain special.
Harris came out of FCS Assumption College in Massachusetts, where he holds a number of school records. That includes 45 career touchdowns; 6,173 all-purpose yards; and 14 return TDs that also stands as the NCAA record for any division.
Despite going undrafted in 2019, Harris made his presence known early. During the preseason, he broke off a 78-yard punt return for a score. And during the regular season, he led the league in punt return yards (338), was third in yards per kick return (26.8) and was one of just six players with a punt return for a TD.
Harris earned a Pro Bowl nod last season. And it likely won’t be his last.
Jakeem Grant Sr., MIA 5 feet 7 inches, 171
Lovingly known as “Mighty Mouse,” Grant enters any given game with big-play potential.
Predominantly a return specialist, Grant also sees action at wide receiver, where he has averaged 9.2 yards per target during his four-year run in Miami.
It’s a carryover from Texas Tech, where he holds the all-time record with 3,286 receiving yards that helped him earn a sixth-round selection in 2016.
Grant’s first score came on a big play, a 74-yard punt return in Week 5 of his rookie season. In 2018, he went off again with a 102-yard kick return for a TD during the season opener. He nearly repeated the feat as he broke off a 101-yard return for a score.
For his career, Grant has ripped off six scoring plays of at least 50 yards.