Were Connor Halliday’s NFL chances doomed from start by small hands?

FOR THOSE WHO read the article on Connor Halliday in Newsweek last month, the takeaway was that the former Cougar quarterback was a “lock for the NFL” until he broke his leg late in his senior season. But a new Bruce Feldman article about quarterback hand size suggests Halliday’s NFL outlook was mostly cloudy to begin with.

Feldman, the Fox Sports scribe and co-author of Mike Leach’s “Swing Your Sword,” notes in this story how NFL coaches and personnel departments in the modern age view the size of a quarterback’s hand as more important than height because it speaks to how well a ball can be gripped and thrown in inclement weather.

The interest in hand size began with Brett Favre and his uncanny ability to play well in cold weather, which Feldman explored in his book The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks. Turns out Favre’s hands, from thumb tip to pinkie tip, were big ol’ mitts. They measured 10 3/8 inches.

Courtesy of Sporting News, a check of the records shows that of the top 15 QB prospects a year ago, Halliday had the smallest hands — by far.

He measured in at 8 3/8. All but one of the rest were between 9 1/4 and 10 1/2. The next closest to Halliday was an even 9.

In comparing Halliday to the prior year’s top 15 QB prospects, his hand size also puts him — again, by far — at the bottom.

In a study by Rotoworld’s Jonathan Bales, he dubbed Michael Vick’s hand size “historically small” by NFL QB standards and -- at 8 1/2 -- his hands were were bigger than Halliday’s. Bales found that QBs with small hands can only make a go of it in the NFL if, like Vick, they have excellent mobility. And Halliday, for all his talents, wasn’t exactly Mr. Mobile.

In his story this week, Feldman cites an ESPN analysis of 39 quarterbacks drafted quarterbacks between 2008 and 2012 with a hand size of 9 1/4 or less. The study found that less than one-fifth of those players had gone on to start even half of one NFL season. 

While there’s no telling what Halliday could have done in post-season all-star games to improve his standing, the simple fact among NFL draft observers before the broken leg was that Halliday was likely a late-round or unsigned free agent type of prospect.

Add in the uncommonly small hands by NFL QB standards and it’s pretty clear his quest for NFL job was going to be an up-hill climb whether he walked away from the game on the eve of training camp or not.

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