Shortest NFL Defensive Tackles

Who Are the Shortest Defensive Tackles in the NFL? (2023-24)

I’ve been a Sports Performance Coach for two decades and I’ve always found it helpful to show the Defensive Tackles I coached the heights and weights of NFL players at their position. This has proven over the years to be motivational for players needing to add size and sometimes served as a harsh reality check.

I did the same research this season that I do every year. I went through the 53-man active rosters for the 2023 NFL season, immediately following the final preseason cuts, a total of nearly 1700 players and broke them down by position.

By popular demand, I have put together this guide focusing on the NFL’s shortest Defensive Tackles. Get ready to learn some random, yet interesting, football facts that you can show off to your friends.

Shortest Defensive Tackles in the NFL

In the NFL, where the average height for a defensive tackle is about 6’3 1/4″, a group of players stands out for defying this norm. These defensive tackles, all 6’0″ or shorter, with another group just an inch taller at 6’1″, demonstrate that height isn’t the sole factor in determining success in this demanding role.

Their ability to leverage their size and quickness often gives them an edge in penetrating the offensive line and making plays in the backfield. This emphasizes that in the trenches of NFL defenses, technique, tenacity, and athleticism can be just as important as physical stature.

Poona Ford

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 310 lbs
  • Team: Buffalo Bills
  • College: Texas
  • Draft: Undrafted in 2018
  • Years in NFL: 6 years

Calijah Kancey

  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 280 lbs
  • Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • College: Pittsburgh
  • Draft: 1st round, 2023 NFL Draft
  • Years in NFL: Rookie

Grady Jarrett

  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 288 lbs
  • Team: Atlanta Falcons
  • College: Clemson
  • Draft: 5th round, 2015 NFL Draft
  • Years in NFL: 9 years

D.J. Jones

  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 305 lbs
  • Team: Denver Broncos
  • College: Mississippi
  • Draft: 6th round, 2017 NFL Draft
  • Years in NFL: 7 years

Khalen Saunders

  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 324 lbs
  • Team: New Orleans Saints
  • College: Western Illinois
  • Draft: 3rd round, 2019 NFL Draft
  • Years in NFL: 5 years

Michael Pierce

  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 355 lbs
  • Team: Baltimore Ravens
  • College: Samford
  • Draft: Undrafted in 2016
  • Years in NFL: 8 years

Final Thoughts

This article on the shortest Defensive Tackles in the NFL has highlighted a group of players who defy the conventional height expectations for their position. Standing at 6’0″ or just slightly above, these athletes, such as Poona Ford of the Buffalo Bills and Grady Jarrett of the Atlanta Falcons, demonstrate that height is not the sole determinant of success on the defensive line.

Their careers underscore the importance of other attributes like agility, strength, and a lower center of gravity, which allow them to effectively challenge and overcome larger offensive linemen. Their ability to leverage these qualities showcases the diverse skill sets that can lead to success in the NFL.

These players are not just exceptions; they are proof that talent, technique, and determination play a significant role in defining success in the NFL.

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