The same questions get asked every year about the NFL Scouting Combine, and they all revolve around what actually matters from the event.
Clubs get their first real interactions with college football’s top NFL Draft prospects. They conduct player interviews, have access to their medical reports, and watch them undergo athleticism testing.
Players also have to get measured, and those measurements matter to most teams depending on which positions they play.
For offensive linemen, arm length is usually highlighted as important. Players with shorter than average arms usually don’t get picked high in the draft, and success stories of linemen with below average arm length aren’t very prevalent.
This is now becoming a topic of conversation for Iowa Hawkeyes center and potential Cincinnati Bengals target Tyler Linderbaum.
Linderbaum, widely regarded as this year’s top center prospect, measured in Friday morning with 31.125” arms. That gives him one of the smallest arm lengths out of every offensive linemen since 2000.
Here is every OL since 2000 to measure in with sub 32" arms: pic.twitter.com/zdTpFL9QPW— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) March 4, 2022
While it seems like an inconsequential number, linemen with short arms usually don’t get drafted early. Nick Mangold (30.75”) and Alex Mack (31.5”) are rare exceptions as they were drafted 29th and 21st overall in their respective draft years. Both players ended up having great careers, and even Mack is still playing at the age of 36.
Garrett Bradbury (31.75”) is a more recent example as he was taken 18th overall by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2019 draft. Bradbury hasn’t eclipsed a Pro Football Focus grade of 61.4 in his three years with the Vikings thus far.
Having short arms is not a death sentence by any means for centers, specifically, as Mangold and Mack are living proof, but teams in general will avoid those players early in the first round. This may not bode well for Linderbaum if he hopes to be taken in the top half of the first round, despite his tape being almost universally praised.
If Linderbaum does slide all the way to the 31st pick, it is entirely debatable if the Bengals would even select him. The previous two centers Cincinnati drafted to start immediately were Russell Bodine and Billy Price. Neither player panned out, and both had relatively shorter arms (32.5” for Bodine and 32” for Price).
Again, the consensus says Linderbaum is a better player than both Bodine and Price ever were, but it is possible that the Bengals avoid a familiar risk by passing on Linderbaum.
Linderbaum’s measurements are the only thing we’ll see from him as he will not perform any of the athleticism drills in Indianapolis. His draft stock as a whole could be altered after this weekend.