The Top 10 Shortest NFL Players Ever

Have you ever wondered who the shortest NFL player is right now, or who the shortest players have been throughout football’s history?

Well, there have been plenty because lack of height can actually provide an advantage in the NFL. For many on our list, that is the case. Read on for our short-guy list that contains some surprising facts and figures.

Shortest NFL Players
Image: Twitter/optastats

10. Maurice Jones-Drew – 5ft7

The versatile offensive players preceding Maurice Jones-Drew on this list perhaps needed only another inch or two, plus another 15-20 pounds.

Jones-Drew had those necessary additions and, with Darren Sproles, belongs at the top of the talent here.

Following a spectacular career at UCLA, Jones-Drew was selected in the second round by the Jacksonville Jaguars and carved out an impactful nine-year career.

In addition to his 79 rushing and receiving touchdowns, Jones-Drew brought back a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in his rookie season and added a 100-yard kickoff return TD the following year.

The 2011 season was the tallest point in Jones-Drew’s career. He played all 16 games and averaged – averaged – 100 yards per game, with his 343 carries and 1,606 yards leading the NFL.

He was voted first-team All-Pro and capped a run of three consecutive Pro Bowl honors. How important was he to his team?

In eight games, he produced at least 50% of the Jaguars’ offense.

Jones-Drew finished his career playing one season for the Oakland Raiders.

He is now a veteran in the world of football broadcasting, a career that cares very little about a man’s height.

9. JJ Taylor – 5ft6

The theme continues with our shortest NFL players and their similarities. JJ Taylor had additional reason for perceived disrespect: He wasn’t even drafted.

Taylor was a standout in Tucson at the University of Arizona but conventional wisdom said he couldn’t translate his many skills into an NFL career.

Taylor signed with the New England Patriots and made a brief but exciting career out of it.

He scored two touchdowns and rushed for 156 yards with New England, adding six pass receptions, one punt return and five kickoff returns for 112 yards.

Released by the Patriots before the 2023 season, Taylor was signed to the Houston Texans practice squad where he hopes to prove he’s not too short to contribute.

8. Tarik Cohen – 5ft6

And next in the line of short, elusive, dynamic runners is Tarik Cohen, whose promising career has been derailed by devastating injuries.

Selected by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round of the 2017 draft based in part on his 4.42 NFL Combine time in the 40, Cohen immediately became a nice complement to the running back room and a force on kickoff- and punt-return teams.

In 2018, the versatile Cohen made first-team All-Pro and led the league with 33 punt returns for 411 yards. He also caught 71 passes including five touchdowns. Officially a running back, Cohen gained 444 yards and scored three rushing TDs.

Was there anything this height-challenged player couldn’t do? Well, he added a touchdown pass that season, one of two career TD throws for Cohen.

Since the end of 2019, however, a series of major injuries have all but ended his hopes to continue in the NFL.

The Bears cut him in March 2022.

He refused to walk away, though, and was signed to the Carolina Panthers practice squad last September. Further injury trouble sidelined him for the season, and Cohen’s NFL future remains up in the air entering 2024.

7. Jakeem Grant – 5ft6

Next on the list of shortest NFL players, Jakeem Grant fits the mold of the others found here.

He’s a late-round draft pick (sixth round in 2016), a quick and elusive runner and he’s also been dubbed “Mighty Mouse” during his football life.

Grant started eight of the 81 NFL games he’s played, primarily as a receiver (100 catches through 2023). He also has returned four punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns.

The Texas Tech speedster – he ran a sub-4.40 40-yard dash before the draft – made the Pro Bowl in 2021 while playing for the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears.

Not quite ready to close the book on his career, Grant, now 30, was trying to make the Cleveland Browns’ roster when he compounded the frustration from an Achilles injury a year before by suffering a ruptured patellar tendon during the 2023 preseason.

Injury also cost Grant in 2018 when he had delivered a 102-yard return of a kickoff and a punt return TD of 70 yards. He was done for the season following a leg injury in Week 10.

Grant holds the Dolphins record for most career punt return touchdowns (three).

6. Mark McMillian – 5ft7

mark mcmillian
Image: Instagram/mcmillian29

It’s easy to see why Mark McMillian, the shortest NFL player in history who played defense, had a chip on his shoulder.

First, the position of cornerback is the most visible and vulnerable. You’re defending a guy who is usually every bit as athletic as you are – but he knows where he’s going; you have to determine that for yourself.

Second, you have to hit people. Tackling is important, and McMillian, whose nickname “Mighty Mouse” tells you all you need to know about how he played. He was fearless.

Third, McMillian was a 10th-round selection in the NFL draft. They don’t even have 10 rounds anymore (it’s a seven-round process these days).

McMillian turned all that into motivation, resulting in a long career, 1992-99 with Philadelphia, New Orleans, Kansas City, San Francisco, and Washington.

With KC in 1997, McMillian snared eight interceptions, tied for second that season, with three of the eight going for a pick-6 (interception returned for a touchdown).

McMillian played in 127 games and pulled down 23 interceptions.

5. Jacquizz Rodgers – 5ft6

An elusive and surprisingly powerful running back at Oregon State, Jacquizz Rodgers was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft by the Atlanta Falcons and played four seasons there.

He flexed his staying power by playing another four seasons – one with the Chicago Bears and another three with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rodgers compiled a career average of 3.8 yards per carry while scoring nine rushing touchdowns to complement five touchdown receptions. This mighty mite caught 216 passes in his career and rushed for more than 2,000 yards.

4. Darren Sproles – 5ft6

The most accomplished NFL player on this list, Sproles played 14 seasons at football’s highest level. For a fourth-round pick in the NFL draft (2005), he has paid major dividends for his employers.

Despite Darren Sproles’ height, he posted a career mark of 4.9 yards per carry with the Chargers, Saints and Eagles, scored 23 rushing touchdowns and was among the leading receivers for the running back position. Sproles caught 553 passes for nearly 5,000 yards with 32 touchdowns.

With his nine return touchdowns (seven punt returns, two kickoff returns) and all the return yardage, Sproles is on a select list.

Since 1945, here are the NFL leaders in all-purpose yardage: Jerry Rice, Brian Mitchell, Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Frank Gore, and Darren Sproles.

Yep, he’s the best player on our list of shortest NFL players.

3. Deuce Vaughn – 5ft5

Deuce Vaughn
Image: Twitter/whatsgoingdowney

Selected in the sixth round of the 2023 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys, Vaughn came into the league with big-time accomplishments from his years as a Kansas State star.

There was plenty of discussion on the topic of Deuce Vaughn’s height. He measured 5ft5 at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis – a record.

He’s listed at 5ft6 with the Cowboys, and at NFL.com but we don’t think he grew an inch at age 22. He’s 5-5.

His rookie season wasn’t what Vaughn had hoped, however, and he completed an injury-filled campaign with 23 carries for only 40 yards in seven games.

2. Trindon Holliday – 5ft5

Trindon Holliday was always short and quick, and he used those attributes to make it all the way to the NFL.

Holliday was born in Baton Rouge, La., and went to LSU where he was also a track star for the Tigers.

Selected in the sixth round of the 2010 draft by the Houston Texans, he played in 33 games over the course of four years and was employed primarily as a kick returner and punt returner – specialty positions for the speedy and quick.

Technically a wide receiver (he caught two passes in his NFL career), Holliday made his living returning kicks and punts. He scored two touchdowns on punt returns – and led the NFL in punt return yardage in 2012 with the Denver Broncos.

He also scored two touchdowns on kickoff returns, both were highlight-worthy runs of 105 yards each.

Holliday was not the shortest player in the NFL, but he was probably the best player of 5ft5 or shorter.

1. Jack “Soupy” Shapiro – 5ft1

Jack “Soupy” Shapiro - shortest NFL player
Image: Twitter/oneeightysports

Born in New York City in 1907, Shapiro likely had every reason to feel he had to prove himself. Various accounts say he worked with a brother and their father to earn $9 per week to pay for food and shelter.

To that point, his nickname “Soupy” (incorrectly posted in some circles as “Soapy”) points to his affection for soup.

On the field, Shapiro walked on at New York University as a running back. He then played at least one game for the Staten Island Stapletons, beginning his reign as the shortest player in the NFL – a title that he owns to this day.

Game records indicate Shapiro was a blocking back rather than a featured running back in that 34-0 win over the Minneapolis Red Jackets.

Other accounts say Shapiro later referenced playing in two more NFL games, a rematch with the Red Jackets and a matchup with the Orange Tornadoes.

Soupy is far from anonymous, accepting the NFL Alumni’s Norm Van Brocklin Award for Outstanding Achievement in 1995.

Pete Brown, who played in the 1950s, said at the ceremony that Shapiro was the all-time Tom Thumb in the NFL’s history and credited Shapiro for setting an example that everyone can achieve their dream.

Shapiro is not a name that comes easily to mind when the subject is football, but he is the smallest NFL player in history.

Who Are The Shortest Players in the NFL Right Now?

Size matters in today’s NFL, but strategic size is important, too. Kick returners and wide receivers have seen benefits from being short, with quickness and elusiveness among the prime benefits to their lack of stature.

The players who are short, even for their positions, have attributes that compensate for any vertical shortcomings. These guys show the intangibles necessary to excel even if undersized.

Even better, these players frequently provide NFL betting value when fans scroll through their options for online sportsbooks and want to place wagers.

There are countless examples of players who have proved you don’t have to be tall to play in the NFL.

Current Season Player Height
Shortest NFL player overall  JJ Taylor 5ft5 3/8
Shortest quarterback in the NFL Kyler Murray & Bryce Young 5ft10
Shortest running back in the NFL Boston Scott & JJ Taylor 5ft6
Shortest wide receiver in the NFL Deone Harty 5ft6
Shortest linebacker in the NFL Ivan Pace Jr. 5ft9
Shortest lineman in the NFL Nick Harris 6ft1

The Best NFL Betting Advantages With Shortest NFL Players

NFL fans who enjoy knowing how to bet on the NFL and its players love a winner. Most find big-time excitement when one of the shortest players in the NFL help them win the bet.

Many of the players on the above list contribute to their teams as well as winning bets, and they become even more beloved.

Several of the shortest NFL players are expert kick returners who have terrific value when wagering at NFL betting sites or in person. Perhaps no play in the NFL is as exciting as a kick-return touchdown.

Watch for these super special mighty mites during NFL games.

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Jay Dieffenbach

Jay is a Sports Betting Writer at Techopedia.com, and has been working in US sports for more than 20 years. He's worked for Daily Racing Form, the Arizona Republic, The Athletic and FanDuel among other sports and gambling positions.