Notes from the North
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 Mel Kiper has turned me into a big fan of Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson.

Not because Kiper sang Wilson's praises Friday night on ESPN. But because of Kiper's ridiculous reason for questioning Wilson's ability to succeed "at the next level": his height.

I have Kiper to thank for drawing my attention to this five-eleven pivot with a strong arm, great leadership qualities and an admirable college resume, who was drafted in the third round (pick 75) by the Seattle Seahawks.

To give him his due, Kiper was, in fact, somewhat complimentary about Wilson as a draft prospect. He called Wilson, who stands somewhere between five-ten and five-eleven in height, a test case for undersized quarterbacks, suggesting that, if a man with Wilson's skills and abilities can't get the job done in the NFL, then nobody who's shorter than six foot will ever make it in the big leagues.

But then, when challenged by Jon Gruden and the other ESPN panelists, Kiper threw out this moronic statement as if it in any way supported his argument that Wilson was a risky pick: "Facts. 28 of the 32 starting quarterbacks (in the NFL) are six-two and taller. Nobody under six feet is starting in the NFL right now."

Let's think about that comment for a moment. Kiper is basically saying: no quarterback under six feet can succeed in the NFL because no quarterback under six feet is currently succeeding in the NFL.

Wow. That's a special argument. Sort of like looking around the league in 1980 and saying, "No black quarterback can succeed in the NFL because no black quarterback is currently succeeding in the NFL." And then passing on Hall of Famer Warren Moon.

Or looking around the US in 1848 and declaring, "No woman could ever be a doctor in the United States because no doctors in the United States are women." And then watching Elizabeth Blackwell graduate with her medical degree from Geneva Medical College in 1849.

Or arguing in January of 2012 that no Asian American can play basketball in the NBA because there were then no starters in the NBA who were of Asian American background. Can anyone out there say "Jeremy Lin"?

Or, for that matter, Jackie Robinson, Jim Abbott, Willie O'Ree or Valentina Tereshkova? (Look'em up if you don't know who these people are).

Kiper's argument is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If everyone in the NFL believes that a quarterback cannot succeed if he is shorter than six feet, then no quarterback will succeed who is shorter than six feet. In fact, no quarterback under six feet tall will ever be given a real fair chance at succeeding in the NFL.

Just look at what happened to Doug Flutie throughout his professional career and, especially, in Buffalo. All the guy did was win. And all the NFL braintrusts could focus on was how short he was.

The fact is, the NFL too often focuses on the "measurables" rather than on  a player's on-field performance. NFL owners, GMs and coaches are often more impressed with one player's superior size than with another player's superior performance.

Dontari Poe is another example of this. Poe was a Combine Monster and attracted a lot of attention for his size, speed and strength. The fact that he's done practically nothing on the field in college, that he was practically invisible come game day, didn't seem to phase anyone. So Kansas City took him with the eleventh pick in the draft, ahead of a whole pile of defensive linemen whose Combine numbers weren't quite so impressive but whose performance on the field left Poe in the dust.

Kiper's position is made even more ridiculous by his later comment to the effect that, "If [Wiilson] was six-two he'd be a top ten pick."

What Kiper is saying is that, in every other way but his height, Wilson is a top quarterback prospect. His arm strength, his accuracy, his speed, his decision making, his intelligence, his experience, his on-field performance in college, his character, his leadership, his commitment, his drive... are all Top Ten.

But because he's maybe 30 millimetres under six foot, Russell Wilson is a risky pick, even in the third round of the NFL draft. Ridiculous. Offensive. Stupid. But also indicative of one of the biggest reasons the NFL Draft is such a crapshoot.

Kiper isn't alone in thinking this way. He just happens to feel it's his business to say it, on national television, at the biggest off-season event of the year.

So I'm cheering for Russell Wilson. If he gets a fair shot in Seattle, I hope he blows the league away. And shuts Mel Kiper up for good.

May 3, 2012  02:58 PM ET

I'm with ya on this!!!!!

 
May 11, 2012  08:39 PM ET

However inelegant Kiper was in composing his answer, he's far more likely correct than not. Short QBs can't see the trees for the forest. The sun itself is blocked out by all of those tall trunks and massive limbs between him and his targets. Even when he can find them, he's liable to miss the defenders who'll be lurking about out of his lines of sight.

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