2014 NFL Combine workouts do not begin until tomorrow, when tight ends and offensive linemen take the field, but several positional groups have already taken part in the physical measurement aspect of the week, and we've got some notes from day one.
Tight ends and offensive linemen underwent height, weight and length measurements on Thursday. This is the time of year when fans become perplexed at the amount of attention paid to hand size and arm length measurements, but Buffalo Bills fans in particular should not discount this data.
Doug Marrone has stated on numerous occasions that hand size was a major part of their evaluation of EJ Manuel a year ago, and when he speaks about offensive linemen, he cites body type quite a bit. The Bills have also placed a large emphasis on physical measurements dating back to when Buddy Nix took over as GM, and it's unlikely that will change drastically with Doug Whaley in charge.
Let's take a quick peek at the numbers from some of the more prominent names at tackle and tight end from yesterday's weigh-ins.
Jake Matthews of Texas A&M is considered by many to be the safest prospect available this year. His arm length measurement (33 3/8") is a bit under the desired length, however, and as he's in a dead heat with Greg Robinson of Auburn on many boards, that measurement could make a difference in how some teams rank them. (Robinson's arms measured in at 35 inches, for the record. As a point of comparison, the arms of Cordy Glenn were measured at 35 3/4" in 2011.)
Taylor Lewan of Michigan (33 7/8") may run into similar issues, though not to the extent that Matthews might. Both Matthews and Lewan are giant dudes - Matthews is over 6'5" and 308 pounds, while Lewan is over 6'7" and 309 pounds - but every little measurement helps. (Robinson came in at 6'5", 332.)
Another popular name, Zack Martin of Notre Dame, measured in at 6'4" and 308 pounds, with an arm length measurement of just 32 7/8". That makes it a virtual certainty that, even though he was an excellent college tackle and has enough ability to play out there in the pros, most NFL teams - including the Bills - will view him as a guard. By comparison, Andy Levitre measured in at 6'3", 305 pounds with 32.5-inch arms in 2009.
Hand size is more of a deciding factor in ranking closely-graded tight ends than arm length, the idea being that if a player is going to be asked to catch a football traveling with velocity, it's decidedly easier to do so when you have gigantic hands.
Of the upper echelon of tight end prospects - i.e. players that the tight end needy Bills could target in the first couple of rounds - the only hand measurement of particular concern belongs to Jace Amaro of Texas Tech. Amaro is huge - 6'5", 265 pounds - but his nine-inch hands are fairly small, especially when compared to Eric Ebron of North Carolina (6'4", 250, 10-inch hands), Troy Niklas of Notre Dame (6'7", 270, 10-inch hands) and Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington (6'6", 262, 9.75-inch hands).
Let's reiterate that these measurements are clearly not the deciding factor in how players are ranked. Only when players are graded evenly, or very close, do these things matter - but they are very important notes to be taking, particularly for early-round draft picks, where separation is not clear.