How Concerned Should Teams be with Tutu Atwell's Size?

Louisville Cardinals wide receiver Tutu Atwell measured in much smaller than expected.

Unteachable traits often make players highly sought after come draft day. That said, prospects are expected to cross certain thresholds that many believe to be the bare minimum for an NFL athlete. Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell of Louisville is a rare example of an athlete who simultaneously possesses an elite trait and a borderline prohibitive one.

In a draft class full of high-level receiver talent, the Louisville product has been a polarizing prospect. His weigh-ins in Indianapolis have only exacerbated that uncertainty. Atwell measured in at 5-foot-8 and 149 pounds. Put simply, that weight is almost unheard of in the NFL. Former NFL executive Dane Vandernat, speaking on the topic, said, “There are a lot of NFL personnel that believe that this is a big man’s game, big men create matchups, little men get dominated. To come in shy of 150 pounds is rare.”

While many believe that the speedster will be an outlier in the league, it is important to recognize what differentiates him from past small but successful NFL stars. The player that is perhaps most widely recognized as a success in the league despite his smaller size was running back Darren Sproles. There is, however, one key difference: Sproles was approximately 5-foot-6, but weighed almost 200 pounds. Atwell is just two inches taller than the diminutive running back, but roughly 50 pounds lighter. Vandernat perhaps put it best by saying, “Despite the fact that there have been short players in the NFL, there typically are not players that weight.” While outliers exist, the number will certainly be a concern on draft day.

When discussing the small Louisville receiver, it is impossible to ignore his speed. While his size is an obvious issue, Vandernat noted that Atwell’s game-breaking ability is an undeniable positive trait that may also give him special-teams value. Of course, employing him as a returner and on offense may open him up to a greater chance of sustaining an injury.

While many cite outliers and claim it's unreasonable to completely rule a prospect out thanks to an individual trait, these standards have grown to be accepted for a reason. Atwell has the potential to be an outlier and legitimate playmaker at the next level; all the same, his size is a concern that should not simply be shrugged away because of his elite speed. 

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