The name that appears to show up as the eighth pick in most mock drafts is Iowa’s left tackle, Riley Reiff. Even though the thought of drafting another offensive lineman in the first round is anything but appealing to Dolphin fans, this particular choice does make sense.
All signs are starting to point towards the Dolphins releasing the right side of their offensive line. Right guard Vernon Carey and right tackle Marc Colombo are both unrestricted free agents who are beyond their prime and had a season to forget last year. Once they are released, the Dolphins will need to fill this huge hole on the right side of the line and according to most draft “experts,” Riley Reiff will be the guy to do just that. But will the short length of Reiff’s arms discourage the Dolphins from selecting him?
Reiff measured in at the NFL combine at 6’5” and 313 pounds with an arm length of 33 ¼ inches. The coaches, scouts, and media were surprised by his short arms which lead to immediate speculation of his draft stock falling. Rumors were floating around that he will not be able to effectively play the tackle position in the NFL and can only be utilized as a guard. Furthermore, fans and other bloggers have recently been calling him “T-Rex.”
Conventional wisdom suggests that “great” offensive tackles have long arms. After all, arm length is viewed by NFL scouts as a prominent measurable to determine a player’s reaching ability in both blocking and pass protection. Linemen with longer arms are viewed to have a reach advantage over their opponents when battling in the trenches. Even though the difference in size can be a matter of a few inches, this can still be an influential factor come draft night. The sizes listed below are used as a general grading scale for scouts when evaluating arm length for tackles:
Great: 35 plus inches
Good: 34 inches
Average: 33 inches
Below Average: 32 inches or below
But does size really matter? The arm length of our very own Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long is 35 ¾ inches. Another great left tackle, Ryan Clady from the Denver Broncos, measures up at a monster 36 ¾ inches. The list goes on for all of the elite present and past tackles with long arms. However, stud tackles like Bryan Buloga (33 inches) from the Green Bay Packers and Joe Thomas (32 ½ inches) from the Cleveland Browns discredit the theory that great tackles must have 35 plus inch arm lengths. Are these small arm guys an exception to the rule?
In my opinion, Reiff’s small arm length is not a deal breaker. Sure, it would be ideal if he measured up to the status quo of an elite tackle but his quick feet and hands will compensate for his so called deficiency. If Buloga and Thomas can be successful tackles, what’s stopping Reiff from doing the same? Regardless, we will just have to wait until April 26th to find out how much impact Reiff’s arms had on his draft selection, if any.