Welcome to the 61st installment of The Wrong Read. Shawn Siegele’s recent article on 2020 Freak Scores linked to some classic work by Fantasy Douche that renewed my interest in the topic of wide receiver hand size. We know, on the one hand, that production is all that matters for WRs. But on the other hand, that last sentence can’t possibly be literally true. So the question is, how do we best measure a metric’s impact?
In a surprise to no one, Henry Ruggs ran a 4.27 forty at the NFL combine. If you’re moving Ruggs up your board after he showed off the blazing speed everyone already expected for months, then you might want to rethink your process. However, there could be another reason to move Ruggs up your board: his hands measured at 10.125 inches. But does Ruggs’ hand size make a difference?
There’s some anecdotal evidence that it might. Of the top 20 receivers in current dynasty ADP, only four have hands smaller than 9.5 inches. Eight out of the top–20 players have hands that measure at least 10 inches. The median hand size for an NFL WR is 9.375 inches. Of course, anecdotal evidence only gets you so far.
Hand Size and NFL Production
If you split NFL WRs into three roughly equal categories according to their hand size, some interesting trends emerge.
|Hand Size||Count||First 2 PPR||Hit Rate||Draft Position||Height||Weight||Arm Length||Hand Size|
For the sake of this exercise, any WR with hands that measure at least 9.625 inches are said to have large hands, while any WRs whose hands are 9.125 inches or less are said to have small hands. All other WRs are in the medium bucket.
The first thing to notice is that WRs with large hands average significantly more points than those with small or medium hands, and hit at a far higher rate. However, they are also drafted earlier and tend to be bigger. It’s no surprise that hand size is correlated with height and weight, and no surprise that size is correlated with draft position. So it’s not entirely obvious that hand size explains the effects we’re seeing.
Hand Size and Body Size
Looking at the interaction between body size and hand size a little more closely, however, reveals we might be on to something.
Apart from the tails, large-handed WRs appear to outperform even when we control for weight. This becomes even clearer if we control for height.
In case you’re wondering, the three medium-handed WRs to break 400 points in their first two seasons are A.J. Green, Allen Robinson, and Mike Evans. All are at least 6 feet 3 inches, and none are particularly known for being sure-handed receivers. The two receivers to break 400 with small hands are T.Y. Hilton and Calvin Ridley. Every other player to crest 400 points in his first two seasons has large hands.