There have been a large number of news reports about concussions in the NFL, and how it's "today's monster players" laying down big hits on one another that lead to this danger. I decided to go into the numbers and take a look at this form myself. Here's a graph showing the median weight of NFL players over time. This data was comes from about 16,000 players collected from pro-football-reference.com

The weights of NFL players since 1950

There are a bunch on interesting features in this graph:

  • The most striking thing is just the overall increase in weight since the mid-80s. This is some combination of nutrition, weightlifting and steroids, although in what combination I don't know
  • The wide receivers in particular are very interesting. Why did they go through a shrinking phase and then a growing phase? What was happening in the game that caused this?
  • Running backs are getting shorter, but also heavier, showing that the game is evolving towards these guys being short, strong and powerful
  • The weight of kickers drops until the 1980s then rebounds. This is probably because (from Wikipedia) The kicker initially was not a specialized role. Until the 1960s, the kicker almost always doubled at another position on the roster. Therefore the drop through the 1980s is the emergence of the specialized kicker, and the rise thereafter matches that seen in virtually every other position
  • It's amazing how small the variation is amongst some of the positions. Plus or minus 6 pounds at 230+ pounds. Represents an incredibly specialized role.
  • Finally, a comment directly from Reddit: The idea that players are getting fatter isn't really that far-fetched. While there isn't a common trend across all positions, these graphs seem to indicate that offensive linemen have gotten significantly fatter since the 70's. (pdf source)

Of course, this is only a small fraction of the story and the following gallery contains both the heights and BMIs of these same players, along with the weights broken down by position to show the scatter. Enjoy!

For those interested in outliers, here are the heaviest quarterbacks to play in the NFL on a year-to-year basis:

  • 1940 season : Bernie Masterson is 195 lbs
  • 1941 season : Tommy Thompson is 192 lbs
  • 1942 season : Russ Cotton is 196 lbs
  • 1943 season : Tommy Thompson is 192 lbs
  • 1944 season : Larry Weldon is 198 lbs
  • 1945-1948 season : Paul Christman is 210 lbs
  • 1949-1952 season : George Blanda is 215 lbs
  • 1953 season : Bob Gambold is 215 lbs
  • 1954-1959 season : George Blanda is 215 lbs
  • 1960-1962 season : Bob Scrabis is 225 lbs
  • 1963 season : Roman Gabriel is 220 lbs
  • 1964 season : Sonny Gibbs is 230 lbs
  • 1965-1966 season : Ron Smith is 220 lbs
  • 1967-1968 season : Roman Gabriel is 220 lbs
  • 1969 season : Bobby Douglass is 225 lbs
  • 1970-1972 season : Frank Patrick is 225 lbs
  • 1973-1976 season : Bobby Douglass is 225 lbs
  • 1977 season : Mike Wells is 225 lbs
  • 1978 season : Bobby Douglass is 225 lbs
  • 1979-1980 season : Bill Troup is 220 lbs
  • 1981-1982 season : Rich Campbell is 224 lbs
  • 1983-1985 season : Todd Blackledge is 225 lbs
  • 1986 season : Jack Trudeau is 227 lbs
  • 1987-1990 season : Vinny Testaverde is 235 lbs
  • 1991-1994 season : Scott Mitchell is 240 lbs
  • 1995-1998 season : Kerry Collins is 248 lbs
  • 1999-2005 season : Daunte Culpepper is 264 lbs
  • 2006 season : Jared Lorenzen is 275 lbs
  • 2007-2009 season : JaMarcus Russell is 265. lbs
  • 2010 season : Kerry Collins is 248 lbs
  • 2011-2013 season : Cam Newton is 260 lbs

And here are the lightest quarterbacks playing in the NFL on a year-to-year basis:

  • 1940 season : Solly Sherman is 190 lbs
  • 1941 season : Young Bussey is 184 lbs
  • 1942 season : Charlie O'Rourke is 175 lbs
  • 1943 season : Allie Sherman is 170 lbs
  • 1944 season : Bill Glenn is 157 lbs
  • 1945 season : Allie Sherman is 170 lbs
  • 1946 season : Jimmy Tarrant is 160 lbs
  • 1947 season : Jesse Freitas is 170 lbs
  • 1948 season : Jim Camp is 162 lbs
  • 1949 season : Jesse Freitas is 170 lbs
  • 1950-1951 season : Bev Wallace is 180 lbs
  • 1952-1963 season : Eddie LeBaron is 168 lbs
  • 1964-1967 season : Cotton Davidson is 182 lbs
  • 1968 season : Harry Theofiledes is 180 lbs
  • 1969-1975 season : Bob Berry is 185 lbs
  • 1976 season : Neal Jeffrey is 180 lbs
  • 1977 season : Pat Haden is 182 lbs
  • 1978-1979 season : Mark Miller is 176 lbs
  • 1980-1981 season : Pat Haden is 182 lbs
  • 1982-1985 season : Paul McDonald is 185 lbs
  • 1986 season : Doug Flutie is 180 lbs
  • 1987 season : Kevin Ingram is 178 lbs
  • 1988-2005 season : Doug Flutie is 180 lbs
  • 2006 season : Jeff Garcia is 195 lbs
  • 2007-2009 season : Matt Moore is 192 lbs
  • 2010-2013 season : Armanti Edwards is 191 lbs

This post was picked up in a few locations, including: