Brace yourselves, draftniks, quarterback hand sizes are revealed at the NFL Combine but Mark Schofield is here to help you maintain a healthy perspective.
It happens every draft season.
There is a day when your timeline on Twitter ventures down a dark and dreary path. It usually takes place late in February, and most of the tweets begin with geotags and locations emanating from the Indianapolis area. That day is quarterback hand size day, when the QB hopefuls present for the Scouting Combine descend upon Indianapolis and are put through the testing, including measuring their height, weight and yes, their hand size.
As with every year, the overreactions begin almost instantly. To the point that this year, rather than overreact myself, I found it easier to just try and make some light of the situation:
(Of course, the fact that I am embarking upon a rewatch of the entire series of the moment spurred my creative juices, but I digress…)
Now, this attempt at humor was responded to almost immediately by the wise sage (the Grand Maester, if you will), Sigmund Bloom:
Lol what’s your view on the importance of hand size Mark
— Sigmund Bloom (@SigmundBloom) February 28, 2019
I responded to Sigmund but having spent more time thinking about how to view the hand size measurement, I wanted to expand upon my thinking and touch upon the evaluation process in general, as well as how to contextualize measurements such as this when grading quarterback play.
Let’s start with this question, which is one that I get a lot. “How do you decide what games to watch of a player?” There are a number of types of games that I want to see. I want to see a quarterback both at home and on the road. I want to see a quarterback in a game his team wins, and I also want to see a quarterback in games that his team loses. I want to see him against good competition, and against lesser competition.
Finally, I want to see him in bad weather.
I played the position with small hands. If I really push it, I can check in at a hand size of nine inches. I might not feel my pinky for the next few hours, but I can get there. My own experience taught me that in the cold, and in wet conditions, I was almost useless as a quarterback because of my hands. I could not grip the football to save my life. My throws resembled shot-puts, my mechanics suffered, and it was a general mess.
That’s when the hand size comes into issue.
For everything you want to say about how Hue Jackson handled his time in Cleveland, there is one thing he got absolutely right a few years ago. During his pre-draft process, one of the knocks on Jared Goff was the size of his hands. During the 2016 Scouting Combine Goff’s hands measured in at exactly nine inches, and it touched off a few days of controversy surrounding his draft stock.
So when his Pro Day came around, one of the things Jackson (who was in attendance) wanted to do was to test those hands. Near the end of Goff’s throwing session Browns’ offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton grabbed the ball and a water bottle. After soaking the football down he tossed it back to the California kid and asked him to make a few more throws. All of which were on the money.
Cleveland passing on the chance to draft Goff or Carson Wentz, and Mitchell Trubisky or Deshaun Watson a year later, now those are decisions that could be critiqued, but they ended up with Baker Mayfield in the end so perhaps it all worked out.
That brings us to this season. Perhaps the most interesting measurement among the quarterbacks so far, outside of Kyler Murray’s height and weight, was the hand size from Drew Lock. He measured in at nine inches, just like Goff, but it instantly has people wondering about his draft status.
Which is why you want to have those weather games to fall back on.
A measurement is a data point. One piece of the puzzle. Sure, there are some thresholds that, if not met, could become a complete bar to playing in the NFL. A quarterback who measures in at 5’5″ is probably not getting drafted. But with measurements such as this, it is best used as an impetus for either further study, or for revisiting games that you have previously watched to either make sure you have the complete pictur, or if not, to refine your previous understanding of a player.
One of the games I had under my belt was Lock’s final game, against the University of Arkansas the day after Thanksgiving. On that day in Columbia, Missouri, the crowd was forced to sit through heavy rain and temperatures in the 40s. Not ideal conditions for watching football, and not ideal conditions for throwing a football with small hands.
Lock went 16 of 25 for 221 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
One throw that stuck with me was this vertical route to Emmanuel Hall (#84). Now, does this pass get underthrown a bit? Perhaps, but a vertical shot toward the boundary against this single-high coverage look is a difficult throw, and Lock delivers here despite the conditions:
More importantly, when you see this replay angle, you can see that Lock’s throwing motion is unchanged even in these conditions:
As I mentioned, in my experience I became a “shot-putter” in weather conditions, and it altered my throwing motion. When you see passers start to alter their mechanics because of the adverse weather, you know that their hand size is impacting their play on the field, at least structurally. Lock’s motion is unchanged even with the wet conditions.
Another instance in where the hand size might play a role in adverse conditions is when the QB is tasked with making a quick “snap and throw” type of play. In the quick passing game, having to catch and release right after the snap is a moment where an inability to properly grip the football can have a truly adverse impact on the placement and throw.
Which is why a play like this should ease fears about Lock and his hand size:
On this slant route in the red zone, Lock is tasked with catching and immediately throwing a slant route to Hall after coming out of a run fake at the mesh point with his running back. If his hand size was going to impact a play in wet conditions, it would be a play like this. Instead, Lock puts this in a perfect spot. (And before you say that this throw was too low, I’d invite you to read Brian Billick’s old Baltimore Ravens playbook, where he instructs quarterbacks to throw the slant route “as low as possible.”)
So here is the larger point. Measurements and metrics such as this are a very useful tool when used properly. I consider myself a rather handy guy around the house, particularly in the realm of woodworking. Out in our back yard is an outdoor dining set that I built from scratch. But you need to use the right tools for the job, and use them properly.
Measurements and metrics help inform us, and steer us in directions of additional study. When you see a measurement such as Lock’s hand size, or Murray’s height, come in, it gives you areas of further analysis. On the flip side of Lock’s hand size was the measurement from Murray, which was well north of nine inches.
Now watching Murray on film I never had concerns about his hands, given how he plays the position, how he uses pump fakes and the like with out mistakes, but had his hands come in around the size of Lock’s, it would have merited going back to the film to rewatch and reconsider what I had already seen.
So as you continue your study, and perhaps rewatch a bit of Lock to finalize your evaluation of him, I would invite you to study that game against Arkansas. See for yourself how he fared in adverse weather conditions, and in moments when the hand size would be put to the test. Your own evaluation will be much stronger, and more fully complete, as a result. Using additional data to test and refine the film study is a surefire way to completely understand a player.
[Editor’s Note: Matt Waldman’s hand size measures out at 9.5 inches and the photo above is of him gripping a college-size ball. Evaluating his NFL readiness is a work in progress…]
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