INDIANAPOLIS — It is hands-down the most digested, criticized and eyebrow-raising number attached to NFL quarterback prospects each year. And on Tuesday at the annual combine for the best players in the country, former Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett became the latest high-profile passer to have his hand size become part of his pre-draft windup.
Pickett’s right hand was measured at 8½ inches, which would be the smallest of any quarterback currently in the NFL.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill, whose hands were measured at 8¾ inches leading up to the 2017 draft, has the smallest hands of the signal-callers, followed by Cincinnati Bengals backup quarterback Brandon Allen, whose hands were measured at 8½ inches at the 2016 Senior Bowl. Allen, who told ESPN’s David Fleming in February 2020 that he did hand exercises and used a stretching / massage regimen after the Senior Bowl, later had his hand measured at 8⅞ inches at the 2016 combine.
Pickett, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award in 2021, is seen as a potential first-round pick entering the combine. He is the No. 1 quarterback and No. 19 prospect overall on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board and is the No. 2 quarterback (behind Liberty’s Malik Willis) and No. 19 prospect overall in Todd McShay’s Scouts Inc. rankings.
Pickett participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, last month, but he elected not to get an official measurement for his hands. He said then that he will try to improve his hand mobility through stretches ahead of the combine.
“The reason I didn’t measure at the Senior Bowl was just to have those extra couple weeks, just kind of a commonsense thing, to have more time working the exercises,” Pickett said Wednesday in Indianapolis. “Whatever it measures, it measures, I’m sure that won’t be the end of it, but that will be the last measurement I’m sure I’ll take of it.”
He has finished his college career with the most 300-yard passing games (16) and most 400-yard passing games (five) in school history. Pitt went 32-17 in the games Pickett started. Pitt won the ACC championship game Dec. 4, 45-21 over Wake Forest, and Pickett finished with 20-of-33 passing for 253 yards and two touchdowns to go with a 58-yard touchdown run.
“The tape is your résumé; the rest of this stuff is just part of the boxes you have to check,” Pickett said. “There hasn’t been much talk about [his hand size] in the formal interviews that I’ve had.”
Bengals star Joe Burrow, who advanced to his first Super Bowl last month, spent plenty of time leading up to the 2020 draft answering questions about his hand measurement of 9 inches at the combine. I have joked on Twitter that he was “considering retirement after I was informed the football will be slipping out of my tiny hands.” He went No. 1 in the draft.
In reviewing records from the combine since it moved to Indianapolis in 1987, Jeff Blake, Michael Vick and Kliff Kingsbury had their hands measured at 8½ inches at the combine. On the other side of the debate, the biggest hands among current quarterbacks belong to the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson (10¼ inches), followed by the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (10⅛) and Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen (10⅛).
The average hand size for the 39 quarterbacks taken in the first round from 2008 to 2020 is 9 7/10 inches, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. The signal-caller with the largest hands of that group was Mark Sanchez in 2009 (10½), while the smallest among that group is 9 inches for Burrow, Ryan Tannehill and Jared Goff. Hill did not take part in the combine in 2017.