NCAA

Will Joe Burrow’s Small Hands Affect His NFL Chances?

While defense might win championships, modern football success starts with a quarterback. With that reality in mind, the bizarre minutia of the NFL Scouting Combine makes sense; if you’re going to be paying an athlete millions of dollars as your franchise player, you want to know everything about him ahead of time. LSU’s Joe Burrow is learning that reality first hand.

According to NFL measurements, Burrow apparently has comparatively small hands. While that reality has gotten plenty of buzz, will it actually affect the quarterback’s chances of NFL success?

Joe Burrow’s road to the NFL

Given Joe Burrow’s family history, it’s understandable that he turned into an exceptional quarterback. His road to the top, however, had a bit of a slow start.

After shining during his high school career, Burrow enrolled at Ohio State. He spent his first season in Columbus as a redshirt; once on the active roster, he served as J.T. Barrett’s backup. The starting job, however, would never arrive.

Dwayne Haskins passed Burrow on the depth chart, prompting the quarterback to call an audible. He transferred to LSU and immediately stepped into the starting job, throwing for 2894 yards and 16 touchdowns during his first full season under center. The 2019 campaign, though, would be much different.

During his final year of NCAA eligibility, Burrow didn’t leave anything to chance. The quarterback exploded for 5671 yards and 60 passing touchdowns as LSU cruised to a national title. The quarterback capped off his record-breaking season with the Heisman Trophy and is expected to be the first-overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

Joe Burrow’s hands-on experience at the NFL Combine

As the top prospect in the 2020 draft class, Joe Burrow has faced all sorts of scrutiny. At the NFL Combine, however, things reached an entirely new level.

Although events like the 40-yard dash and the bench press get most of the hype, the combine also includes a set of physical measurements, including height, weight, and wingspan. For Burrow, however, his hand size made waves.

The quarterback’s hands measured nine inches across—measurements are taken from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the pinkie—which is well below the norm for the position. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the average hand size of a quarterback picked in the first round since 2008 is 9.7 inches. Conventional football wisdom dictates that bigger hands are better for holding onto the football, both in terms of playing in bad weather and avoiding fumbles.

Does hand size actually matter at the highest level?

While it’s tempting to analyze every piece of information that emerges from the NFL Combine, hand size really doesn’t matter. Joe Burrow might develop into a star or a bust, but his physical measurements won’t be a deciding factor.

Plenty of quarterbacks have found success with small hands. Guys like Tony Romo and Jared Goff clocked in at nine inches or less; Patrick Mahomes’ mitts measured 9.25 inches, but that hasn’t slowed him down at the professional level. As Steve Ruiz of For the Win worked out during last year’s conversation around Kyler Murray’s hand size, there’s no correlation between combine measurements, cold weather success, and NFL fumbles.

In a league like the NFL, fine margins can be the difference between winning and losing. Joe Burrow’s hand size, however, won’t move the needle at all.