History suggests Steelers should be concerned about Troy Fautanu's height

Troy Fautanu has quickly gained a lot of hype from the Steelers fans, but his lack of height has been a historical issue.
NFL Combine
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The Steelers broke a lot of trends when they selected Troy Fautanu in the first round. While there was some general pre-draft interest from the team, he didn’t check all of the usual boxes that the team looks for in their top pick. On top of this, he lacks the typical height that the team looks for in a tackle. In fact, being below 6’4 is a rare feat for any tackle that is drafted.

Typically, shorter tackles make the move to the inside long-term, as the lack of height isn’t as big of a concern. Guards can be tall, but you have also seen a lot of shorter guards last in the league. While I would argue that length is more important for success at tackle, something that Fautanu has, his lack of height would make him an anomaly if he stays at tackle.

I did a study on Twitter to see the history of recent tackle draft picks and how they stuck to see who was a success and who wasn’t. The criteria were this: the player had to be drafted at some point within the last 12 years and had to play at least 100 total snaps at tackle in their career. From there, I looked at PFF grades to see who was a success and who wasn’t.

The Steelers should be weary of these results

To put it plainly, there isn’t a strong history of undersized tackles panning out. Again, the general idea is that players of that size are better suited to move inside. Case in point, since 2012 there have only been eight tackles drafted that have stuck at the position despite being under 6’4, with one of those players being Fautanu.

In that span, we have seen two players I would deem a success. The primary name that sticks out is Dion Dawkins. He missed the height by just one-eighth of an inch, but he benefits from his insane length of 35 inches. He has carved out a long and successful career with the Bills.

The other name is harder to figure out. Former Steelers tackle Kelvin Beachum has found lasting success in the league despite his short stature and lack of length. No, he was never viewed as the elite tackle for the team, but he has been a steady presence for any line that he has played on.

The next tier is still question marks. They could inch their way into the good starter tier, but they have some underlying questions. Jermaine Eluemunor has been a late bloomer after starting his career as a non-factor. He has put together a pair of good starting right tackle seasons despite his size limitations. That said, he is just now starting to play that well.

Isaiah Wynn is the shortest player on this list, and while he put together some ok seasons as a tackle, he has seemingly made the move inside. His starting career is very much in question right now as well, as it seems like the Dolphins don’t have a clear plan for him.

The remainder of the list hasn’t panned out. Cody Ford, Chuma Edoga, and Justin Herron have all seen their fair share of tackle reps, but the results haven’t been great. Ford and Edoga have shifted more to interior players while Herron has been nothing more than a swing tackle.

What does this mean for Fautanu?

The general lack of short tackles is, in itself, concerning. The fact that nearly half that list is a certified bust at tackle, and only two have carved out lengthy and good careers is a bad sign. Fautanu has some great tape, but his lack of height shouldn’t be understated.

Even the extra length hasn’t been a lock to make a player a great tackle. While Dawkins had the longest arms of the bunch and is easily the best player on the list, Edoga and Ford also crested over 34-inch arms and flamed out as tackles. Perhaps the most concerning thing is that even though Dawkins is a good tackle, no one is mistaking him for one of the league's premiere players at the position.

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Perhaps Fautanu is the rare exception to this list and becomes an elite player at the position despite his lack of height. I genuinely think his ceiling though is a good tackle who could have potentially been an elite guard. For those completely discounting the height issue though, know that it could be a bigger issue than many think it will be.