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NFL Combine Measurement Day Means It’s Time to Obsess Over Hand Size

It’s the season when player measurements become an object of intense scrutiny among draftniks. Should the Bengals worry about Joe Burrow’s 9-inch hands? (No.)

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The NFL season never ends. While the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory is still fresh, the NFL combine, this week in Indianapolis, gives us an opportunity to start looking forward. To keep you informed, a rotating cast of Ringer staffers will provide a collection of thoughts from each day of the event. On Monday, the quarterbacks and wide receivers were measured. Here are four takeaways:

Joe Burrow Has Tiny Hands

The combine is very important. It’s also very dumb. The measurements, testing, and interviews that happen every February in Indianapolis can tell a team how physically gifted, athletic, and mature a player is, but they can also obscure his on-field achievements and reduce his draft stock to the size of his hands.

Enter Joe Burrow. The former LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner was measured on Monday, and his hand size immediately drew attention. Burrow measured at 9 inches from thumb to pinky, tied for the smallest hand size among first-round quarterbacks measured at the combine since 2008.

We have been here before. In 2016, former Cal quarterback Jared Goff measured in with 9-inch hands, and it stirred a miniature panic among draftniks—but the Rams still took him no. 1 overall. Goff has been a fumble-prone quarterback in the NFL, but that’s as much an issue with his pocket presence as it is with his hand size, and Burrow fumbled just four times last season (and five times the season before). There is no statistically significant relationship between hand size and quarterback play. Draft gurus who want to focus on Burrow’s numbers should put aside his hand measurement and focus on the stats that matter: 60 touchdowns, six interceptions, 5,671 passing yards, and an incredible 201.96 passer rating. Burrow just had what is arguably the best season ever for a college quarterback—it would be ridiculous to worry about his hand size now.

If there is any organization that might not heed that lesson, though, it’s the Bengals. They have a notoriously small scouting department and could overthink how much hand size matters for their quarterback, who is required to play a ton of games outside in cold weather in AFC North stadiums. But even considering how little faith I have in that organization, I wouldn’t bet on them messing this up: Cincy’s head coach, Zac Taylor, coached Goff with the Rams in 2018.

But Tua Tagovailoa Has a Tiny Body

Perhaps the Bengals will talk themselves into Tagovailoa, whose hands measured a perfectly adequate 9 7/8 inches. However, the former Alabama quarterback also measured in at 6 feet even (Burrow is 6-foot-3). That’s well under what NFL scouts usually look for in a quarterback, and to find another first-round QB who measured in at 6 feet or under you have to go all the way back to … last year, when the Cardinals took 5-foot-10 Kyler Murray first.

Murray is coming off a relatively promising season in which he won the Associated Press’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award. We already knew Tagovailoa didn’t possess prototypical NFL height, and his combine measurement shouldn’t affect his stock. What will really matter are his medical reports with regard to his surgically repaired hip. That information is not yet available.

Chase Young Doesn’t Need to Prove Himself

The Ohio State pass rusher may be the best player in the draft, but teams that covet him will have to decide how much he’s worth based on his tape, not his testing. He’s skipping that portion of the combine but will be available for medicals and interviews. Young was so good in college that this shouldn’t matter much; it’s not uncommon for top prospects to skip the workout portions of the combine.

The Wideout Field Is Crowded As Hell

This is a historically deep wide receiver class, and it might come down to the small details at the combine when teams determine how to rank pass catchers on their boards. With that in mind, here are some measurements from today that caught my attention:

  • TCU wideout Jalen Reagor came in at 5-foot-10 5/8 and 206 pounds. That’s a chunky frame (in a good way), and if the speedster shines in the agility and speed skills as he’s expected to, he could shoot up draft boards. He has the girth to box out defenders and make tough catches.
  • Arizona State wideout Brandon Aiyuk came in at 5-foot-11 5/8 with a wingspan of 6-foot-8. That’s absolutely wild. Aiyuk has incredibly long arms relative to his build, which could help him in contested catch situations.
  • Clemson wideout Tee Higgins measured in at 6-foot-3 5/8, 216 pounds, with a 6-foot-9 wingspan. That’s a bit smaller than the 6-foot-4 he was listed as at Clemson, but Higgins is still massive. For any team that values size at the wide receiver position, Higgins will be high on the board.
  • Meanwhile, Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III and his 10 1/8–inch hands raised eyebrows. At 5-foot-11, he’s one of the smaller receivers on the board, but those mitts could help him haul in difficult passes.
  • Alabama wideout Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma wideout CeeDee Lamb are the consensus top two receivers on the board, and they came in with very similar builds:

Ultimately, the physical testing will have a bigger impact on what separates these receivers—but the measurement data has already given us plenty to think about.