As teams look to gain all the information possible regarding incoming rookies as part of a broad testing and evaluation program, how does the NFL measure arm length, what is an average arm size for the QB position, and who has the record for the largest arm length measured at the NFL Combine?
How Does the NFL Measure Arm Length?
Unlike any of the athletic testing drills where lasers, stopwatches, GPS, and slow-motion cameras capture every detail, the NFL keeps it simple when it comes to measuring arm length.
The arm length measurement at the NFL Combine is done by measuring from the end of the bicep, or shoulder blade to the tip of the middle finger with the arm extended horizontally away from the body. This should not be confused with arm span, which is measured with both arms extended horizontally with the distance from tip to tip of both middle fingers.
This is just one of several measurements taken, including height, weight, arm span, and hand size. Athletic testing numbers are also conducted over the four-day event in Indianapolis, including the 40-yard sprint, vertical jump, broad jump, bench press, three-cone, and 20-yard shuttle.
What Is the Average Arm Length for NFL QBs?
The arm length of a player can vary by quite a wide margin, especially depending on the position. However, as a general rule of thumb, longer is better as it can help defenders get their arms around a rusher, corners can jam or deflect a pass easier, linemen on both sides of the ball can keep the other at bay, and receivers with larger arm lengths create a wide catch radius.
As for quarterback, it’s not as massive of a talking point when compared to something like hand size. Being longer can help as so long as the throwing motion is not too long. They can use the advantage to get the ball over the top of defensive linemen trying to bat down a would-be target.
On average, the typical arm length in the NFL is between 30 to 34 inches from the base of the shoulder to the tip of the middle finger, with QBs coming in around 32 1/8″. During last season’s draft cycle, Cole Kelley of SE Louisiana had the longest at 33 3/4″, while Miami (FL) QB D’Eriq King recorded the shortest measurement at 28 7/8″.
Who Has the Biggest Arms in the NFL?
By and large, linemen — especially tackles and edge rushers — have the longest arms in the NFL as they tend to be the biggest players on the field, with several over the 6’6″ range and 300+ pounds of aggression.
At the QB position, the longest arm length measured at the NFL Combine goes to 1991 No. 16 overall pick of the Seattle Seahawks, Dan McGwire. At 34 1/2″, McGwire not only has the longest arms but was also the tallest QB at 6’8″.
As for the longest arm measurements of any position, that honor goes to former Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jon Harris. Drafted in 1997 in the first round, Harris measured in at 6’7″ with a staggering 38.5-inch arm length. For context, Harris could reach his knees without needing to bend down.