Tomorrow is the first day that anything happens at the Combine, today is just the official opening, players in the ST/PK/OL/RB groups arrive in Indianapolis. Not many of the first two groups are going to be of much interest to Lions fans, but tomorrow we get to see what the hogs measure up at. Why that matters is that a few key measurables like height, and arm length will go a long way toward letting us know whether certain players have a future in the NFL as tackles or if they are going to have to kick inside.
If a player doesn’t have the feet to play tackle, but he’s 6’10” he probably doesn’t have much of a future in the NFL. He may get drafted by a team that hopes he can get by at right tackle, but a tall player with slow feet is not going to make it; he should have gone on a diet and played basketball. Tall guards block passing lanes for their quarterbacks with their heads, which affects shorter QBs like Matthew Stafford more than some of their taller brethren. He’s not Russell Wilson, but he is also not Brock Osweiler. Taller offensive linemen also have more difficulty maintaining leverage on the interior of the line, which limits their run blocking significantly. The height of a player is also a big issue because it sets the ideal length of the second measurable category that actually matters for linemen.
Longer arms are better, particularly for players who are sitting on the edge of the guard/tackle continuum. Long armed players are more effectively able to steer speed rushers to greater depth, and keep defenders from grabbing their jerseys during pass rush moves. Short armed players move inside, where the close quarters of interior line play make their physical deficiency less relevant. This is a non-starter for many teams. If Ryan Ramczyk were to come in and have 31″ arms he would drop from the top offensive tackle in the class to a possible third round guard in an instant.
Running Back Hand Size
The conventional wisdom says that a running back with small hands will fumble more. As a result the tiny handed players usually find themselves on the outside looking in on draft day. Height and weight may determine which teams are looking at specific players, but game tape and the drills are far more indicative of a running back’s DNA that today’s measurements. With that said the NFL likes it’s backs between 5’10 and 6’2″ and over 200 lbs but below 240 lbs for the most part. Outliers from those numbers are typically specialist backs and drafted late, or not at all.
The Least Interesting Day of the Combine
The only other information that can come out of the first day of the combine is medical information. So be on the lookout for players pulling out on day one. It usually means that the NFL’s army of medical staff found something seriously wrong with a player. Diagnosis from diabetes to cancer have come from the medical checks. Usually the league just wants fresh diagnostic imaging on known joint injuries, but every few years something more interesting and unfortunate comes up.
A Few Names To Watch
A lot of the senior class already did most of this at the Senior Bowl, and will just be going through the motions. Those who came out early though are going to be interesting. College teams just do not provide accurate measurements for their players, often being two or three inches off on their height and 20-30 lbs off on their weight. Particularly for the linemen, it is not uncommon for a player to be vastly different than advertised. The players whose measurements I think are most interesting to Lions fans are as follows:
Damien Mama, OG USC. He was 400lbs at one point before he got to USC. His feet get better as he loses weight, could be a late round depth option. He is listed at 6’3″ 327lbs.
Garrett Bolles OT Utah. He’s a guy with a checkered past who has really turned his life around. but does he check the boxes to play tackle? Bolles is a little light in the pants to move inside if his arms don’t measure up. He’s listed at 6’5″ so short arms would be a shock.