The Jets have the 13th overall pick in next week’s NFL Draft and a clear need at offensive tackle. A number of prospects could be good value with that selection.
Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski is a bit of a controversial prospect. Many believe he can play tackle effectively in the NFL. Others believe he will ultimately need to slide inside to guard due to concerns over his arm length. Skoronski’s arms measured at 32.25 inches at the NFL Scouting Combine.
What is the concern over arm length? It is due primarily to the nature of the tackle position. Tackles match up one on one against edge rushers. They generally don’t get much help. The edge rushers they face have all the space in the world on the outside to maneuver.
Playing tackle isn’t easy. To stonewall a pass rusher, you need to initiate contact while maintaining balance.
If you let the pass rusher hit you first, you can be thrown aside.
If you lean, you can be thrown off balance and give the advantage to the pass rusher.
Long arms thus seem like an asset. It is easier to maintain first contact and stay balanced, maintaining leverage with longer arms.
How short can a tackle’s arms be to perform at a high level? Generally the
My colleagues at Mile High Report actually took at look at this a few years ago and listed the arm lengths of every tackle who made an All Pro team between 2015 and 2020.
If we take into account the last two seasons, we can add the following tackles as All Pros.
Rashawn Slater 33.0
Tristan Wirfs 34.0
Andrew Thomas 36.125
So there you have it. The standard answer that a tackle needs 34 inch arms might not be true. There are a number of exceptions. However, nobody fell below 33 inches. Skoronski falls below that threshold at 32.25 inches.
You can see why arm length can matter. You see that Skoronski falls short of the threshold. Case closed, right? Well, not exactly.
Northwestern OL Peter Skoronski said teams have spoken to him about both guard and tackle. They like his versatility. Skoronski also dispelled the supposed short arm limitations. Said the issues charged to short arms are more technique than anything else. pic.twitter.com/ZQHzRLEKV7— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) March 4, 2023
I think Skoronski makes a compelling point in his own defense here.
In a situation like this I think it is important to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect prospect. Everybody enters the league with some flaws. Some of them are technique based. Some are physical shortcomings.
This is an era where we are overloaded with content, and it frequently spills into overanalysis. It is particularly true when it comes to the NFL Draft. Everybody out there has a take. Prospects are broken down from every angle possible. With that, prospect flaws receive a spotlight.
Ultimately I don't think it should be a question of whether or not a prospect has flaws. I think is a question of whether the prospect can work around those flaws.
We understand this better at some positions than others. For a smaller wide receiver, we recognize pretty easily that the ability to use short area quickness and longer speed to create separation can compensate for a lack of size.
At other spots we don't do this as well. I have no idea how Bryce Young’s career will turn out. It seems like people are writing him off purely due to his lack of size. His ultimate trajectory won’t come down to his size, though. It will come down to whether he can find a way to be effective in spite of it.
Being on the shorter side for a quarterback can impact your ability to see over blockers and scan the whole field, but it isn't necessarily something that spells doom for a career.
Drew Brees was undersized. He made up for it, though, with an uncanny ability to slide into gaps between where his offensive linemen stood to get the field vision he needed. In turn, the Saints invested heavily in interior offensive linemen to keep defensive tackles from collapsing the pocket and further constricting his vision.
Russell Wilson was also short for a quarterback, but his ability to create outside the pocket more than made up for any reduced vision he might have dealt with standing in the pocket.
I think this is the perspective we should have when discussing a prospect like Skoronski. Perhaps shorter arms give him less of a margin for error than another prospect might have. On the same note, efficient usage of his arms and top notch technique can help compensate for physical shortcomings.
In a discussion like this I also value the input of people who played the game so I have been struck by what some former NFL offensive linemen have to say.
The combine arm length measurement is bullshit: total waste of time. Until guys are poking each other with their middle finger, it has nothing to do with how to block someone https://t.co/FOzf6nicvr— Joe Thomas (@joethomas73) March 6, 2023
I just looked up my arm length. 33.25 ... That is zero % of the reason I was a better OG than OT. lol— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) April 2, 2021
When I read an anonymous scout say an offensive tackle doesn’t have “great length (arm length)” yet that’s not at all the cause of any negatives on film, I know they don’t understand the position. It helps explain why teams whiff on lineman.— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) April 21, 2021
They certainly would know.
I have one final point to make about Skoronski and the Jets. Is he a tackle? Is he a guard?
This discussion takes me back to a podcast episode I did years ago with analyst. We were talking about a prospect who projected to multiple possible position. I asked the analyst where he should play. The answer I got was that you should start any prospect at the more important position, and if he fails then you move him to the other. It seemed so logical that I was amazed I never thought of it.
I would imagine if the Jets draft Skoronski, they would slot him in to play tackle as a rookie. Let’s say for a moment the skeptics prove to be correct, and he struggles there. If he needs to move inside to guard, the Jets could very well have an opening in a year when cutting Laken Tomlinson would save $8 million in cap space. Tomlinson will be 32, and his play last year suggests he is not a likely long-term player for this team. While it is not a foregone conclusion that Tomlinson will be gone, there is a likely soft landing spot even if Skoronski does need to kick inside.
Peter Skoronski might be off the board by the time the Jets pick at 13, but I’m not sure he should be ruled out because of his arm length if he is still available.