Arm length shouldn’t deter the Detroit Lions from drafting Aidan Hutchinson

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

You know it’s officially NFL Combine season when all you read about is hand size, arm length, and 40 times.  Detroit Lions draft prospect Aidan Hutchinson put on a show in Indianapolis this past weekend, but will his below-average arms deter general manager Brad Holmes and co.?

Hutchinson’s arms are officially measured at 32 1/8 inches which are considered below-average at the position, but that really remains the only knock on arguably the top prospect in the class.

The former Michigan standout had no issue overcoming this during his time with the Wolverines.  Last year Hutchinson compiled 14.5 sacks and nearly 80 pressures.

Hutchinson did play against good competition playing in the BIG Ten, but the NFL is a whole other animal. NFL organizations are not only looking at quickness, speed, and strength when it comes to defensive ends, they are also looking at length, but that is one thing Hutchinson can not control.  The length certainly does matter at the NFL level for edge rushers who are going up against the best tackles in the world.

Brad Holmes hints that arm Hutchinson’s arm length may cause concern.

"“You definitely want to get confirmation on what those measurables are for what you thought you saw on film,” Holmes said. “Some measurables, you already have. There’s a lot of studies that’s done, in terms of which position, whether it’s offensive tackle with arm length, what are the subsets of offensive tackles with this size arm length and what has been the success rate of those guys? Then it goes to the receivers and 40 times, does that really compare? That’s when you really deep dive the analytics. We have a great analytics department that we utilize heavily. There’s certain trends that you can see start to develop when you deep dive the measurables.”"

I may be overanalyzing the final two lines, but with Holmes mentioning the analytics department in which the organization relies heavily upon may be a subtle hint that we shouldn’t be shocked if the team goes in a different direction.

Hutchinson seemed to struggle in Michigan’s College Football Semi-Final contest against the Georgia Bulldogs.  Although the Wolverines often move their edge rushers around, Hutchinson often lined up opposite the right tackle, on the left edge of the defense.

Georgia right tackle Warren McClendon did an excellent job neutralizing Hutchinson in that contest.  According to Pro Football Focus, the talented edge rusher was only able to generate one pressure and two tackles in that elimination game.  McClendon earned an overall grade of 66.3 for his work in that game.  The starting left tackle in this contest for the Bulldogs was senior Jamaree Salyer.  Both tackles are 6-foot-4 with a long reach.

Detroit Lions draft prospect Aidan Hutchinson still has the makings of an elite defensive end despite arm length.

The arm size should be something to notice but should not wholly deter the Detroit Lions from drafting Hutchinson.  I’m not saying Hutchinson will be T.J. Watt, but look at how the two compare, courtesy of Kent Lee Platte.

Sure, Watt has one-inch longer arms, but these two defensive ends are in lockstep when it comes to all of the other measurables.  Their 40 times, splits, shuttle, and cone drills are nearly identical.

Hutchinson has shown an NFL-like blend of power and agility to overcome his arm size. The Detroit Lions should pick him with confidence with the no. 2 overall pick following his combine results if that had been the initial plan.  Also in consideration will be Kyle Hamilton, Kayvon Thibodeaux.

But who is to say the Lions haven’t had their eye on someone like Jordan Davis?  The knock is that the Lions already have a plethora of interior defensive linemen like Michael Brockers, Alim McNeill, Levi Onwuzurike, and John Penisini.

Davis appears to be the best defensive tackle coming out since maybe Aaron Donald, and that should rocket the Georgia product even further up draft boards.

Check out Davis’ combine results.

According to Kent Lee Platte, Davis recorded the best Relative Athletic Score (RAS) since the measurement was created in 1987.  Davis ran a 4.78 time in the 40-yard dash; he’s over 340 pounds!  My goodness.

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The Lions could easily justify bolstering their defensive line by selecting Davis and simply rotating an overload of fresh, capable bodies throughout the game.  Take the San Francisco 49ers, for example; they showed us what a stout front seven could do during their playoff run to the NFC Championship game.