Friday, February 28, 2014

The Miami Connection

Seeing the recent rumor on PFT that the Dolphins may be seeking to trade 2013 3rd overall pick, Dion Jordan, I just had to giggle like a damned fool. 

I have my doubts that such a trade will ever be done, as it seems so preposterous, but I fully support it, in theory.  With his -0.216 Kangaroo Score, and 0.426 Agility Score, in combination with a mediocre result of just 11.75 tackles for a loss averaged in his final two years in college, I was never really a fan of his.  At best, I would have viewed him as perhaps a 5th round prospect, and that is actually being somewhat generous.  That doesn't mean he can't find some degree of success at some point, but I feel the likelihood of it being sustained and substantial is probably rather slim.  Still, I'm sure that someone will be willing to give him a second shot, just based off of his draft status.  Hell, the Colts traded for Trent Richardson, so crazy things can happen.  Jordan's real opportunity might come as a more conventional 4-3 linebacker, with lower expectations of him as a pass rusher.  That is where I think he is probably a better fit in terms of athletic ability.

In a similar way, I seem to see people discussing whether their team should bring in offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, also from Miami.  Perhaps this is another case of people only looking at where a player was drafted, and convincing themselves that "Surely, there must be some talent here".  Or, maybe, people think he was just held back due the the alleged bullying he supposedly experienced.  Well, looking at his numbers, he has a 0.248 Kangaroo Score, and a 0.316 Agility Score (these shouldn't be directly compared to Dion Jordan's numbers, as they only show how each player compares to others at their position group).  Martin's results aren't terrible, but basically put him into a bin that largely contains mediocrities.  These aren't the sort of results that should have gotten him drafted in the 2nd round.  I suspect that Miami will be just as well off with him gone.  Still, there are a lot of truly horrible offensive linemen out there, so maybe Martin could be a modest improvement over some of the true dregs of the league.

Hmm, I probably shouldn't take so much pleasure in all of this misery befalling players/teams who did nothing to wrong me.  Maybe I'm just a bad person.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fat Guys In Spandex: A Combine Review

I thought I would throw out some of our initial impressions on this year's draft prospects, though it will take some time before we finalize our lists for each position group.  A fair number of our favorite prospects either weren't invited to the combine, or didn't participate in all of the drills, which means we will have to wait for some of the pro-day results to start coming in.  So, for now, I'll just throw out some random thoughts, though we're a long way from having our final lists for each position group.

One thing I should mention is our view on pro-day numbers.  Some people don't like to use them since they feel that the results can be a bit rigged in the player's favor when they perform at their home campus.  There may be some minor truth to this, but I think it gets a bit overblown.  Either way, I have no problem with adjusting a player's results in the vertical jump and broad jump, based on this extra data.  A jump is a jump is a jump.  I'm not too worried about this aspect of things being rigged in their favor.  As for the other data that pro-days can provide, well, sometimes it's the only data that is available.  If a player performs at the combine as well as their pro-day, I will tend to place more weight in the combine performance, at least for the timed drills.  In the end, I'll just say that some players can still improve their stock a bit in the next couple of weeks.

Also, do you know how frustrating it is that the NFL is so slow to release some of their combine data?  Waiting for them to release the numbers from the player's 10-yard and 20-yard splits is just annoying.  They also haven't released the results for the defensive linemens' short shuttle, which is extremely frustrating.  The data will come eventually, but they are being ridiculously slow about it.  Clearly the NFL doesn't care about my suffering.

This minor frustration pales in comparison to the greatest violation I have experienced this draft season.  If I have to see that Honda Civic commercial, with the 'Today is the greatest day' theme, one more time, I might just kill someone.  For some reason this ad comes up in virtually every Youtube clip I watch for draft prospects, and it is slowly driving me insane.

Now, onto my deranged first impressions, a few thoughts that are probably pretty obvious, and others that are sure to be treated with scorn.

The tight end group this year performed horrifically.  While players like Eric Ebron and Jace Amaro may end up performing like stars, their combine performances fell well short of the mark for what I need to see in order to draft a tight end in the vicinity of the 1st round.  The results were so bad, that I had to start considering some possibly idiotic options to solve this problem.  What if we considered Logan Thomas, the QB from Virginia Tech, as the best tight end prospect?  People keep suggesting that he has the tools to be a QB, and just needs to be coached up a bit, but does this ever really work?  It certainly doesn't seem so to me.  Bad QBs almost invariably remain bad QBs.  He does, however, have somewhat interesting physical measurables to play tight end.  At 6'6", 248 pounds, and showing good speed, explosiveness and agility, I think it would be an interesting experiment.  He also has 10 7/8" hands which would be exceptional for a tight end.  I'm not getting my hopes up that this will happen, but I think it is worth considering.

Despite all of the attention paid to Michael Sam, I think we can officially eliminate him as a draftable prospect.  I have no interest in rooting against this kid, because he seems like an intelligent and reasonable human being, but his profile as an NFL pass rusher is preposterously bad.  Though he may improve his numbers at his pro-day, he currently has a -1.113 Kangaroo Score and a -2.225 Agility Score (based off of his 3-cone drill, since the short shuttle data is still unavailable).  I don't even care that much about his poor 40 time (4.91 seconds).  I have never seen anyone achieve any real measure of success with results that were even half as bad as Sam's numbers.  When we consider his statistical performance in college, it doesn't really get any more encouraging.  He only performed at a high level in his senior year, and was relatively insignificant prior to that.  Even if we just considered his senior year, 9 of his 11.5 sacks came in just three games, with long stretches in between where he did very little.  At this point I would say he is completely undraftable.

It also seems that I will be continuing my trend of betting against players from Alabama.  Considering that most people project middle linebacker C.J. Mosley to be a mid-1st round pick, I will say that I find this all a bit confusing.  While we still need to get some additional data for him, he currently has a -0.748 Kangaroo Score, and a -0.251 Agility Score.  These results aren't quite as horrific as they may seem at first glance, as a -0.800 would be a fairly average result for a MLB (the baseline numbers here are skewed in favor of more explosive pass rushers), though we would really hope to see something closer to -0.400 here.  I would say his statistical production was also just in the okay-to-good range, but nothing exceptional.  When I watched him play, nothing really leapt out at me, and I got the overall impression of a fairly mediocre middle linebacker.  All the numbers, both athletically and statistically speaking, point to him being a smaller, less productive version of Rolando McClain, who the computer didn't think was very good either.  Still, I'll give him a shot to show some improvements at his pro-day, but for now, I don't see him being worth more than maybe a fourth or fifth round pick. 

Similarly, the hype on Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as a first round prospect seems a bit odd.  I don't think he is necessarily terrible, and still need to watch him play a bit more, but the numbers just don't add up to him being a reasonable pick in the 1st or 2nd round area.  While he has acceptable size (6'1" and 208#) and speed (4.58 seconds), his -0.603 Agility Score doesn't suggest any likelihood of exceptional coverage ability, and his 0.079 Kangaroo Score doesn't suggest he will be a great hitter either.  His college production is fairly unimpressive, outside of a decent number of interceptions, and is dwarfed by many of his peers such as Deone Buchanon, Calvin Pryor, and Jimmie Ward.  I'll keep digging around for more information here, but for now I would avoid him.  I would probably be willing take him a round higher than he probably deserves to go, just based on having an awesome name.

The top three projected offensive tackles (Matthews, Robinson and Taylor), all passed our initial inspection as at least okay to good prospects.  I would say that all three should easily surpass last year's prospects of Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher by a pretty good margin, but perhaps not Lane Johnson who I still think is incredibly promising.  If I had to pick one of them at the top of the draft, I would currently lean towards Robinson.  Lewan Taylor was probably the most athletically intriguing, despite his rather mediocre arm length for his height, but the potential that he has human body parts in his refrigerator makes me a bit nervous.  The stories about him paint a potentially disturbing picture.  After these three, the list of tackle prospects gets very sketchy very fast, though there are some mid-round prospects we think could be intriguing.  The most interesting player to go in the top couple of rounds might actually be Joel Bitonio, though what position he will end up playing is a bit of a mystery at this point.  He is possibly the safest o-line prospect in the whole draft, at least based on currently available data.  Either way, our full list of offensive line prospects will probably be one of the first things we post up.  

How funny is it that CBS's projected top running back, KaDeem Carey,  ran a 4.70 second 40-yard dash, with a -0.858 Kangaroo Score, and a -0.941 Agility Score?  He better be relying on his charm and personality to gain yards, because physically he is a disaster.  On the other hand, maybe speed, power and agility are overrated aspects of being a running back.

So far, I would have to agree with Mike Mayock when it comes to making a decision between Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack, and would lean strongly in Mack's direction.  The computer currently has 1st round grades for both of them, though the decision may come down to whether your team is going to play a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.  I like Mack better in a 3-4, and Clowney has a slight edge in a 4-3, though I think both could probably play in either defense, if you accepted that they both have certain physical limitations.  Either way, I think the hype on Clowney is a bit ridiculous.  Yes, he is physically gifted, but he is not some otherworldly specimen that has never been seen before.  The really interesting question here will be whether a team would be better off trading out of the top of the draft, and gambling on some of the prospects that will be available later.  There could be some pretty good pass rusher depth this year (as well as general purpose linebackers), and I would probably be willing to settle for a potentially 'very good' player at a lesser price.  It will still be a little while before we put together our final list here, but I am dying to see how USC's Morgan Breslin performs at his pro-day, as I think he could be a very exciting option that would cost significantly less than other prospects.

I don't want to get too far into the wide receiver subject yet, though I will say that the initial projections of who will go in the first two rounds looks to be somewhat in line with what the computer would expect and approve of.  There are only two thoughts I want to throw out here.  One, I'm not sure if I can fully support the idea of Sammy Watkins as a top ten pick.  The computer likes him, and he was clearly a very productive player, but for a receiver who is of somewhat average size, his athleticism doesn't seem to fully back up the idea that this is a reasonable risk at the very top of the draft.  I suppose I could say many of these same things about Marqise Lee as well.  On the other hand, we have the incredibly frustrating situation that is Jeff Janis.  On paper he is just an astounding prospect, even if he did play at Saginaw Valley State.  He is clearly a bit of a gamble, but an incredibly intriguing player.

We'll be back relatively soon to dig deeper into the individual position groups, and lay out where we would take individual players, but I just thought I would throw this out for the moment.  For now, I think we can call this year's combine a roaring success since there was no feces-play in the hotel rooms, and nobody pulled an Isaac Hilton, though we did have someone duck out of the combine because God told them to.  I suppose that is progress, of some sort.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Thunderdome! Thunderdome! Thunderdome!

Our bomb shelter has been stocked with a month-long supply of C-rations and dog kibble.  In the next few days, Reilly (my dog/spiritual guru) and I will descend into the shelter's depths to begin our calculations for the 2014 NFL Draft.  Chicken bones will be thrown.  Coins will be flipped.  Ouija boards exhausted; and Magic 8-Balls consulted.  When we emerge, like Punxsutawney Phil, our prognostications for which players will have a long winter will gradually be posted up.  'Tis the season for obsessive compulsive disorder, and watching fat guys run around in spandex.

"I am gravely disappointed. Again you have made me unleash my dogs of war."
- The Lord Humungus  

For the most part, the players' stats from college have already been entered into the computer, and it is looking like it will be a very good year for drafting long-snappers.  Rejoice!  Still, since so much of our views on players are based on how they perform at the combine, or their college pro-days, we haven't really locked ourselves into any opinions quite yet.  Once all of the data is assembled, and it all passes through the thresher (our Banana 6000 computer and an overclocked 1983 Speak & Spell), we'll see which prospects are left standing.  If I had to guess though, I do think this draft will be exceptionally strong, particularly compared to the 2013 Draft, and there should be some impressive depth at the linebacker and outside pass rusher positions.  We're especially curious to see how well Jimmie Ward, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson and Morgan Breslin perform.  As you may have come to expect, there will be much drooling over individual player's vertical jumps.

Our patented drafting system, consisting of (a.) Reilly the draft prognosticating dog, (b.) his sophisticated communications device, and (c.) the Banana 6000 data thresher

Before we get to that point, where we embarrassingly reveal our half-baked thoughts, I thought I should clarify what our goals are.  Most draft sites on the internet basically boil down to positional rankings, and flowery descriptions of the supposed pros and cons of the different prospects.  Uhh, we probably won't be doing too much of that.

When it comes to positional rankings, as you see on most sites, they do tend to be reasonably good at  predicting when a player will be selected.  There also doesn't tend to be a lot to differentiate them, and what differences there are tend to boil down to "we projected this player to be selected just ahead of that other player, while most other sites had that order in reverse".  Since we figure that more than half of the players will never amount to much of anything, we eliminate most of them from consideration from the very beginning.  Even amongst the players projected to go in the 1st round, probably 40-50% won't make our list at all.  Why does everybody seem to list the same players, in approximately the same order, while knowing that a fair number of them are going to be busts?  Why not just eliminate the prospects that you have no confidence in?

What we are trying to do is to identify the players that best fit what we consider to be the prototypical mold for someone at their position, and frequently the highest rated players simply aren't the ones that interest us.  Still, the positional rankings that other people list do have some value to us, mainly as they pertain to giving us a sense as to how long we can probably wait before selecting certain oddball players.  The hive-mind of the internet tends to be fairly good in that sense.

Once we have separated the wheat from the chaff, the banana from the peel, or the corn from the dog, as far as athletic ability and college production are concerned, we begin to form the Little Big Board.  Unlike NFL teams which can have around 200 players on their draft boards, ours is much smaller.  We will probably only have 60-80 players that interest us at all.  Even with such a short list, this tends to be sufficient to get us through 7 rounds, as our picks tend to be a bit more peculiar.  Yes, there will undoubtedly be players who end up doing quite well, that weren't included in our list, and that doesn't bother us in the least.  Our goal is simply to see what would happen if, round by round, we only selected the players who appeared to be the safest bets, according to the computer and my football savvy dog.  While I provide the manual dexterity to operate a keyboard, Reilly provides the rational level-headed approach to this possibly pointless endeavor.  This all culminates in the annual Ozzie Newsome Challenge, where Team Kangaroo makes its picks in real time alongside the actual selections of the Baltimore Ravens.  We don't really care too much how individual picks turn out (a minor lie), but instead are just interested in seeing what would happen if we consistently made picks based on certain semi-strict standards, and measurable data.  Individual prospects don't matter as much to us, as we are more interested in the overall group that is drafted. You could say that the Ozzie Newsome Challenge is where we put our money (or our foot) where our mouth is...for better or for worse.

Doesn't this all just amount to guessing?  Well, yes. 

As I said, we will also tend to avoid a lot of the flowery descriptions of players.  Very little will be said about a player's motor, hustle, intensity, technique, and there will certainly no mention of their "bubble".  I haven't run across anybody whose skill in analyzing such subjective issues was reliable enough to take seriously, so we tend to throw it all out the window.  The more of these descriptions I read, the less I feel that I know anything.  Sure, sometimes these draft profiles do end up describing a player rather well, just not often enough for me to know when to trust them.  So, we'll just stick to the numbers, and hope for the best.

Ah, but the numbers lead us to Occam's Catch-22.  In many of our past posts, I have tried to suggest how frequently the athletically superior players, with proven college production, do tend to be the best bets, and that speculation of a more subjective nature seems unnecessarily risky.  It seems obvious, that great athletes should be...well...athletic.  In trying to illustrate this idea, I've increasingly had to resort to more complicated explanations, involving standard deviations, and odd numerical scores which may not seem terribly intuitive.  What should be a simple idea (which William of Ockham might approve of), becomes increasingly convoluted.  The more simple the idea, the more complicated it sometimes is to prove it, especially when we have generally been led to believe that counter-intuitive factors like determination and character are what really determine success (I'm not saying that these factors don't matter at all).

When we first started this blog, it was mainly due to some pent up frustration with the approach that many of the NFL teams took towards drafting players.  I figured we would just occupy a dark little corner of the internet and rant like a loon.  As a small number of people somehow managed to stumble into our secret closet of shame and delusional ego-mania, we are very grateful for the degree to which people seem to have been receptive and open-minded to what we are doing.  It probably means you are half crazy, if you are following us, but that's okay.  Birds of a feather, and all of that.  Basically, I want to thank the people who have stumbled through here for not repeatedly calling me an idiot.  It's a greater gift than I could have ever asked for.  For the people who undoubtedly do think our approach is idiotic, you can address your complaints to Reilly.  It's all his fault.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Pitta Situation

There seems to be some consternation among Ravens' fans about the current Dennis Pitta contract situation, so I thought I would chime in.

As the Ravens struggle to come to some sort of long term arrangement with Dennis Pitta, some people are wondering if he is really worth the sort of money he may be seeking.  They tend to point to Pitta's decent but not exceptional yearly stat totals as evidence for why he should settle for less money than some of his peers, but that is probably not an entirely reasonable way of viewing this issue.

First of all, his statistical production was probably held back a bit due to some unpleasant issues that were outside of his control.  Regardless of whatever talent he may possess, the team was pushing for a few years to make Ed 'Butterfingers' Dickson the starter, ahead of Pitta.  Now, at this point nobody believes that Dickson is actually better than Pitta, but since Dickson was selected one round ahead of Pitta (Dickson was taken in the 3rd round in 2010, versus Pitta in the 4th round of the same draft) and was given more opportunities in his career, a bit of idiocy ensued.  Consider this, to see how lopsided the situation was in Dickson's favor:

        Year       GP       GS     Rec    Yards    TDs      Yards/GP
Pitta 2013 4 1 20 169 1 42.25
Dickson 2013 16 14 25 273 1 17.062

Pitta 2012 16 5 61 669 7 41.812
Dickson 2012 13 11 21 225 0 17.307

Pitta 2011 16 2 40 405 3 25.312
Dickson 2011 16 16 54 528 5 33

Pitta 2010 11 0 1 1 0 0.09
Dickson 2010 15 3 11 152 1 10.133


47 8 122 1244 11 26.468
60 44 111 1178 7 19.633

How the hell has Dickson started 44 games, to just 8 for Pitta?

First of all, let's look at the 2010 season.  Todd Heap was still on the team at this point, but Dickson was clearly being groomed to be the heir, and Pitta was hardly utilized at all.  This early edge in Dickson's favor was almost certainly just a product of his higher draft status at this point.  Still, as I've said before, I think the team underestimated Pitta, who had a vastly better college resume, and was arguably just as good of an athlete.  Either way, this was a bit of a throwaway season for both of them.

In 2011, Heap was gone, and the team clearly handed the starting job to Dickson (16 starts).  While Dickson did okay, the pesky Pitta was nipping at his heels statistically speaking, despite Dickson getting all of the starts.  The most interesting thing here is that Dickson was only managing to hold onto 58.8% of the passes thrown his way in 2011, while Pitta was holding onto 67.2%.  Considering that Pitta was producing 10.1 yards per reception, versus Dickson's 9.9, it's not as if you could simply blame this difference on the depth of their routes.  One guy was just better at catching the ball, though this didn't seem to matter too much to the Ravens' coaching staff.

Now we get to 2012, where Pitta finally bounded ahead of Dickson, though Dickson continued to get the majority of the starts.  Despite the clear statistical edge that Pitta had in this year, it really wasn't until after week 11 that the team began to give Pitta some extra attention...due to an injury to Dickson.  That's right, they probably never chose to make Pitta the starter, but rather had their hand forced by Dickson's injury.  At this point in the season, Dickson had been in for 404 offensive snaps, compared to Pitta's 360 snaps.  Despite that difference in their playing time, Pitta already had 38 receptions for 381 yards and 3 touchdowns, compared to Dickson's 14 receptions for 152 yards and 0 touchdowns.  Pitta's edge would only continue to grow from this point onwards.

Some might suggest that the reason Dickson was getting more playing time was due to being a better blocker, but really, I think it is probably fair to say that neither one of them is particularly good in this regard.  The same could probably be said of numerous tight ends such as Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham.  So why was Dickson really getting more playing time?  All I can think of as an explanation, is that the team for some reason remained convinced that their higher draft pick, was the better player, despite all of the mounting evidence to the contrary. 

Still, I've seen some suggest that if Pitta's best season only amounted to a total of 669 yards and 7 touchdowns, that this still isn't very impressive.  Oh, how greedy and unreasonable we can be sometimes.  Okay, let's compare him to the ten most productive tight ends from the 2012 season (and we'll throw Dickson in there for comedic purposes).

Player    Snap Count    Rec Yards     Yards Per Snap
D. Pitta 639 669 1.046
E. Dickson 538 225 0.418
J. Witten 1078 1039 0.963
J. Graham 697 982 1.408
T.Gonzalez 964 930 0.967
G. Olsen 1005 843 0.838
H Miller 994 816 0.820
B Myers 1009 806 0.798
R. Gronkowski 731 790 1.080
J. Gresham 1002 737 0.735
O. Daniels 864 716 0.828
B Celek 861 684 0.794
AVG. 920.5
MED. 979

Just to be clear, when I refer to the player's snap count here, I am only using their regular season snap count.  Including their full season snap count would warp things a bit, since not everyone made it to the post-season.  Either way, it is fairly obvious that when we look at his peers, Pitta wasn't receiving nearly as many opportunities as them, though he still managed to wind up in 11th place for receiving yards by a tight end.  We could project Pitta's numbers based on the average and median number of snaps for the other tight ends, and we would wind up with a result of between 963 and 1024 yards, though this could be a bit too ridiculous to take seriously.  That many of these other players were on much more offensively competent teams than the Ravens, probably doesn't need to be pointed out either.

Additionally, I find the fact that the only two players with a higher Yards Per Snap are Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.  Obviously, Pitta doesn't have the power and size of Gronkowski.  Nor does he have the speed and athleticism of Graham.  Still, Pitta is very agile for a tight end (based on his combine numbers), and most importantly he is dependable.  That Pitta could even have some sort of odd statistical comparison to Graham and Gronkowski, is at the very least intriguing, isn't it?

Which brings us finally to Pitta's ill-fated 2013 season.  What might have been, will never be known, but there is something interesting to contemplate here.  Despite missing the majority of the season, he did manage to make it back for the last few games.  What happened?  Well, he only had 20 receptions for 169 yards, and 1 touchdown, in the 4 games he participated in.  Unimpressive, right?  Except that when we consider he was only on the field for 158 snaps, this works out to 1.069 yards per snap, which is ever so slightly better than what he did in 2012, his best season.  As far as concerns over whether he could come back from the hip injury are concerned, I would say that this is a sign in his favor.

So, am I saying that the Ravens should resign him?  Not really.  Despite my high opinion of him, he is getting a bit older (he'll be 29 at the start of the next season).  Does this mean the team should draft a tight end to replace him?  Not really.  I'm not sure it is reasonable to expect a rookie to outperform Pitta.  So, I'm not advocating for either resigning Pitta, or replacing him, so what am I suggesting?  What I am actually suggesting is that whatever the team does, they probably shouldn't squander talent like they appear to have done for much of their time with Dennis Pitta.  Whoever does end up starting next year, I just hope they aren't screwed over the way Pitta appears to have been.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mindless Amusements

If you have been following the NFL Draft for any length of time, you have undoubtedly run across the weird Youtube clips that seem to surround virtually every draft prospect.  They range in quality from the informative, to the idiotic.  This recent clip I saw for West Texas A&M quarterback Dustin Vaughan, was probably the first one I saw that actually made me laugh.

It's good to see that someone has a sense of humor about all the draft lunacy.  He's just the sort of idiot I have to root for.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Arm Length: Pythagoras Was An O-Line Coach

This is probably going to seem incredibly obvious/pointless to most people, but I thought I would discuss the subject of arm length, as it relates to offensive tackles (though it applies to other positions too).  I suspect almost every aspect of this has been covered before, but I wanted to throw in some basic mathematics.  The idea of a player being able to reach farther than his opponent, and the advantages this might create in blocking them has been discussed many times.  If you have ever had an older sibling plant the palm of their hand into your forehead, just to watch you flail about, unable to reach them with your stubby toddler arms, you've already experienced the potentially humiliating impact of this subject.

Yes, that is a perfect, and emotionally painful, dramatic reenactment of my childhood.

Still, I rarely make any mention of this arm length issue, since I think there are a number of factors that make the utilization of this measurement a bit problematic.  First of all, I don't entirely trust the accuracy of the arm length measurements that are taken at the NFL Combine.  Secondly, though related to the first issue, I'm not certain that the method of measurement (arms extended out to the side) is really the ideal approach.  Finally, unless a player has an arm growing out of the top of their head, I would be more interested in knowing a player's height at their shoulder, which is a rather impossible number to come by.  This is where they are reaching out from, after all.  I'll get into this a bit more, as we go along.

Despite the natural assumption that taller players will have longer arms, this often isn't the case.  Most people weren't designed according to DaVinci's Vitruvian Man, and their proportions can be a bit surprising.  Consider Ron Jeremy, if you doubt me.  These irregularities in human proportions are what I really want to focus on here.  I'm going to have to make some fairly broad generalizations here, but stick with me for a second, and it will hopefully make sense when we are done.  First, let's look at a basic right triangle.

Fascinating, isn't it?

Now, just for the sake of keeping things somewhat simple, let's pretend an imaginary offensive tackle is facing an average sized opponent who is 6'3" tall.  I chose 6'3" since it is fairly close to the average height of an outside linebacker or defensive end, but really we could have chosen any height that was less than the average height of an offensive tackle.  Since most offensive tackles are taller than 6'3" (generally they are about 6'5" or taller), they will have to reach out at a somewhat downward angle to block this shorter opponent.  The degree to which a tackle has to reach downward is obviously going to decrease the effective length of his arms.  Yes, a tackle could also crouch, to play at the same level as his opponent, and maintain a possible advantage in arm length, but for now we are just going to pretend that all tackles have an equal ability to crouch (they don't), and ignore that aspect of the argument.

Now, normally, the average length of an offensive tackle's arms is just a smidge over 34 inches.  When a tackle's arm length drops to 33 inches it becomes a bit of a concern, while a reach of 35 inches is a very exciting result.  This is just a difference +/- 1" we are talking about here (relative to the average), between the worrisome and the potentially exceptional.  So, we're already well into the realm of obsessive compulsive geekery, if we are fretting over 1 measly inch.

So, we'll say that side A of the triangle represents the difference in height between our imaginary tackle and his 6'3" opponent.  Side H, the hypotenuse of the triangle, will be our imaginary tackle's actual arm length, aimed downward towards his opponent.  Side B, will tell us what our tackle's effective arm length is (B =.the square root of H² minus A²).   Yes, I know this is all very basic and stupid.

Imaginary Tackle #1- 6'8" tall, with a 34" arm length
Side A= 5" (height difference compared to opponent)
Side H= 34" (arm length)
Side B= 33.63" (effective arm length vs. a 6'3" opponent)

Imaginary Tackle #2- 6'5" tall, with a 34" arm length
Side A= 2" (height difference compared to opponent)
Side H= 34" (arm length)
Side B= 33.94" (effective arm length vs. a 6'3" opponent)

With all other things being equal, except for imaginary tackle #2 being 3" shorter, there is a 0.31" difference in how far they will be able to reach in order to plant their hand in their 6'3" opponent's head (or, wherever), with the shorter tackle having the advantage.  This may not seem like a big difference, but these little things can potentially add up.  Considering the rather small difference between an above average or a below average arm length (again +/- 1 inch), a 0.31 bonus could have a potential impact.  Suddenly, our imaginary 6'8" offensive tackle is looking a bit below average.  The extent to which superior arm length matters is debatable, but not judging these things in relationship to a player's height seems a bit odd to me.  If nothing else, it demonstrates how simply being taller, without a proportional increase in arm length, is probably of questionable value.  Being taller may even be a handicap.

Let's now look at a more extreme example, this time using actual NFL tackles matched up against our imaginary 6'3" opponent.

The Unfortunately Not Imaginary Tackle, Adam Terry - 6'8" tall, with a 32" arm length
Side A= 5" (height difference compared to opponent)
Side H= 32' (arm length)
Side B= 31.607"

The Ridiculously Proportioned Tyron Smith - 6'5" tall, with a 36.375" arm length
Side A= 2" (height difference compared to opponent)
Side H= 36.375" (arm length)
Side B= 36.32" (effective arm length vs. a 6'3" opponent)

For some bizarre reason, once described Adam Terry as having "the hand usage and long arms to lock on and steer", when they discussed this 2005 second round draft pick.  This little bit of scouting is probably best forgotten, or treated as comedy.  Against our imaginary 6'3" opponent, he ends up losing 0.393" of effective arm length, due to his height.  This penalty is particularly painful, since his arms were already significantly below average, at 32" in length.  Either way, while Tyron Smith already had a 4.375" reach advantage over Terry, when we factor in Smith's shorter height this increases to a 4.713" reach advantage, which is just ridiculous.  It should also be noted that Tyron is only losing 0.055" of effective arm length in this situation.  I'm really only throwing this comparison in here to show how wildly physical proportions can vary.

At some point, I figure somebody is going to argue that our imaginary 6'3" opponent's head should line up quite nicely with a taller offensive tackle's shoulders, so why would there need to be a downward angle to his outstretched arms?  Well, first of all, thanks for ruining my excellent Spaceballs sourced visual demonstration.  Secondly, if an offensive tackle really targeted his opponent's head, there would be a reasonable chance of a penalty flag being thrown (not that people don't get away with this), which is why....Thirdly, linemen actually go for the shoulder pads or chest of their opponent, which means that against a shorter opponent, guess what?  Yup, once again their arms will still probably have to be aimed downward just like we would expect.  This relationship between two opposing player's shoulder levels, is one of the reasons why I would be curious to know a player's height at their shoulders (or, if we treat them like horses, their withers), rather than just at the top of their head. 

In the end, I think people can sometimes make too big of a deal about arm length.  While Adam Terry failed, he had numerous other issues beyond Tyrannosaurus Rex arms.  I prefer to consider other athletic traits first, and then look at arm length as just the icing on the cake.  Superior arm length probably won't make a bad athlete great, but it could make a good athlete even more effective.  Arm length probably does play some role in a player's success, and as long as it is discussed in its proper context, is somewhat interesting to consider.  However you choose to look at it, I think we can all agree that what we really want to find is another HervĂ© Villechaize, but with 36" long arms.  It could be difficult.

Yes, I clearly have too much time on my hands.