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NFL Scouting Combine

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O'HARA: What we learned from the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine

Football games are decided on the field by yards, points and other statistics.

When it comes to picking players to play the games, inches and fractions of inches are critical parts of the scouting and decision-making process.

What we learned from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis is that those fractions of inches can spark instant judgments on the value of prospects.

Among the other things we learned include the following:

It is not a strong draft for quarterbacks, but quarterbacks still drive the conversation and speculation on how many might be drafted in the first round; Quintez Cephus still figures in the Lions' plans as they add to the receiver position; and head coach Dan Campbell laid out in his Combine media session what kind of play can be expected from the Lions in 2022.

We start with inches:

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett's hand size was a discussion point going into the Combine. Anything below nine inches in the way the NFL measures hand width is considered to be a problem for a quarterback's ball security.

Pickett was measured at 8.5 inches, substantially below the nine-inch limit. He's had issues with fumbles at Pitt, but he also threw 42 TD passes against seven interceptions in 2021.

Closer to home, where the Lions have the second pick in the draft, Michigan edge rusher and Heisman Trophy finalist Aidan Hutchinson's arm length was measured at 32 1/8 inches.

That's a couple inches shorter than most linemen. Presumably, that puts Hutchinson at a disadvantage with offensive linemen in the infighting that goes on in the trenches.

Like Pickett, Hutchinson had a big 2021 season, with 14.5 sacks.

Hutchinson was timed in a respectable 4.74 seconds for the 40-yard dash. He was in a good mood in an interview with the NFL Network after he finished his on-field drills.

He said he wanted to give it everything he had.

"I didn't want to have any regrets," he said.

Bottom line: NFL scouts measure things for good reason. Inches and fractions don't mean everything, but they add up as part of the formula.

Pickett and Hutchinson measured up as good football players.

The QBs: In viewing a video of the quarterback drills, Pickett looked at ease and was accurate in distributing the ball.

So did Malik Willis of Liberty, but in a different way. He threw a series of deep balls with a smooth, flowing motion. He's a small-school quarterback with a big arm.

Catching on: The Lions have made no secret of their desire to add wide receivers in the draft and free agency.

Cephus is still a strong candidate to be part of the Lions' future.

He went out for the season with a broken collarbone. In two seasons he has 35 catches and an average of 15.8 yards per catch.

Campbell's message: It was toned down a little from his comments in his debut press conference last year, but Campbell laid out what kind of players he's looking to add to the roster.

He referred to how the Lions finished last season in his press conference.

"We really finished the back half of the season," Campbell said. "We just improved. Those guys believed. They really believed. It was a testament to those guys. They kept going.

"Anybody who wants to come into our building, if you want to know what we're about, we're about cutting it loose.

"We're going to be aggressive. We don't cower from anybody. We respect all of our opponents, but we don't fear any of them.

"If you want to come to Detroit, you're going to be gritty. You're going to be with a bunch of guys who freaking love the game. They give their heart and soul.

"We're going to cut it loose. That's what we're about, and that's what they know."

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