The NFL Combine is about one thing—placing prospects under a microscope. Every fiber of their mind, body and soul is examined and dissected, which often leads to obsession over minute details. When it was revealed at this year's Combine that Cal quarterback Jared Goff has relatively small hands (for an NFL QB), the internet exploded with instant analysis of how that might negatively affect his play. Had Goff's hands measured a half-inch bigger, they wouldn't even have been a topic of conversation.
This isn't new—analysts and fans have been obsessing over seemingly trivial details of NFL prospects for years. The Draft is and always will be a bit of a crapshoot, so people often look deep into a prospect's measurables for some shred of tangible evidence that could predict his future success. This makes it easy to "lose sight of the forest for the trees," so to speak. Who cares if a dude's arms are a little short if the film shows him dominating play after play?
With that in mind, we decided to revisit concerns from prior years' Combines, which now look totally stupid in retrospect.
Derek Carr's Hands Are Too Small to Be a Franchise QB
Derek Carr had all the tools to be a top-10 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He was strong, he was athletic and he could make every throw. There was just one problem—his hands were "too small." Carr's hands measured 9-1/8 inches, below the "magic number" of 9-1/2 that many teams like to see in a QB prospect. Since his play and his leadership were beyond reproach, Carr's mini-mitts became a serious concern. His NFL.com prospect profile listed "relatively small hands" in the very first sentence of the "Weaknesses" section.
It's possible that some cold weather teams—such as Cleveland and Minnesota—passed on Carr in part because of his hand size. He was selected by Oakland with the 36th overall pick, and he's been the Raiders' starting quarterback ever since. Last season, he threw for 32 touchdowns and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. Although he had some of the smallest hands in his QB draft class, Carr has a great shot to be the best overall player.
Le'Veon Bell is Too Tall to Be a Great Running Back
Believe it or not, there were once concerns that Le'Veon Bell was "too tall" to be a great running back in the NFL. Running back is one of the few positions where short stature can be an asset—shorter running backs can hide from defenders behind their offensive line, and they present a smaller target for would-be tacklers.
At nearly 6-foot-2, Bell was thought by some to be a bit too tall to be a star running back in the league. Yes, he was fast and strong, and he had rushed for nearly 1,800 yards during his junior season at Michigan State—but if only he were a couple of inches shorter! From his NFL.com prospect profile: "Taller back who presents a big target for defenders to hit, especially when failing to lower his pads going into the hole. Size also limits his breakaway speed and ability to create on his own if challenged by better front sevens." The Steelers didn't seem too bothered by Bell's height, selecting him in the middle of the second-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Considering Bell was a first-team All-Pro in 2014, it's safe to say the concerns over his height look pretty dumb in retrospect.
Russell Wilson is Too Dang Short to Play in the NFL
As a prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft, Russell Wilson had it all. The quarterback showed off his ridiculous athleticism at the Combine, clocking a 4.55 40-Yard Dash and a 4.09 20-Yard Shuttle. His hands were massive, measuring 10-1/4 inches. He also had picture perfect mechanics and strong leadership skills. He had everything a team could want in a franchise quarterback—except for a couple of inches of height. At 5-foot-11, Wilson was deemed too short to be worth a high draft pick. From his NFL.com prospect profile: "Wilson's height will be his biggest inhibitor at the next level and the largest reason for his late-round value. It remains to be seen if he can throw effectively from the pocket at the next level ... if Wilson were 3 inches taller there would be debate at the top of the draft as to where he fits in."
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Countless scouts saw Wilson's height as a factor that could limit his success, and he ended up sliding all the way into the third round. Now, he's making throws like this and has played in three Pro Bowls. Had Wilson been an inch or two taller, he probably would have been picked ahead of Brandon Weeden (6-foot-4), Ryan Tannehill (6-foot-4) and Brock Osweiler (6-foot-7)—all taller dudes who were selected in front of him.
Kawann Short's Skinny Legs Will Hold Him Back
Coming out of Purdue, Kawann Short was a beast. He was an All-Big Ten selection for three straight years and was named a second-team All-American his senior season. He also impressed at the Combine, measuring in at 6-foot-3, 299 pounds and recording a 5.05 40-Yard Dash while tallying 29 reps on the Bench Press test.
When you consider all those factors, Short looked like a surefire first-round draft pick. Just one problem—he had skinny legs. From his NFL.com prospect profile: "Frame is out of proportion, as he has thin legs and holds extra weight in the middle of his body." The worry was that Short's skinny legs would make him a liability in run defense, as he wouldn't be able to adequately anchor himself against NFL linemen. Short stumbled into the middle of the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, in part because of concerns about his proportions. Short's legs seem to be working just fine in the NFL. Last season, the Carolina Panther was named a second-team All-Pro.
Zach Ertz Will Never Be a Premier Tight End With Those T-Rex Arms
Zach Ertz aced the 2013 NFL Combine, measuring in at 6-foot-5, 249 pounds and clocking impressive results in several key events. However, his arm length wasn't ideal, measuring just 31-3/4 inches.
Zach Ertz has some short arms for a 6'5" guy...31". Jordan Reed has 33" arms at 6'2+"
— Jared Stanger (@JaredStanger) February 21, 2013
Many other tight end prospects had arms measuring 33 inches or longer, even some who were several inches shorter than Ertz. Ertz's arm size became such a concern, it spawned entire articles devoted to this detail. Ertz was selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, and his arms seem to be working just fine. Last season, he caught 75 balls for 853 yards, and he just signed a fruitful five-year extension to stay in Philly.
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