Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


To what (arm) lengths will Zimmer's Vikings go to in the NFL draft?

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: April 28, 2014 - 1:07 PM

I spent a little time this weekend digging through NFL scouting combine results and pre-draft measurements of recent Bengals draft picks to try to get a bead on the traits that new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer covets besides intangibles like intelligence, toughness and aggression.

Of course, the Vikings want speed, strength and explosiveness, just like every other NFL team.

But length was one key attribute the Bengals looked for when Zimmer was their defensive coordinator from 2008 through 2013, especially at defensive end and in their secondary.

Once again, they were not alone in that regard. Many teams, most notably the 49ers, prefer players with tall frames and long arms. That length allows defensive ends to latch onto offensive linemen and get the upper hand and helps cornerbacks like Xavier Rhodes get a jam at the line. Obviously, those long arms are handy in pass defense, whether linemen are trying to bat down passes in the trenches or defensive backs are covering tall, athletic receivers down the field.

The Bengals drafted 19 defenders combined in the last five drafts. Not all of them had long arms. In fact, defensive tackle Geno Atkins, perhaps the best of the bunch, had below-average arms, which suggests that Sharrif Floyd’s shorter arms don’t necessarily have to be a detriment.

But when it came to the pass rushers and defensive backs they drafted, there was a lot of length.

For example, Carlos Dunlap, a 2010 second-round pick, is 6-foot-6 with arms that were measured at 34 5/8 inches at the scouting combine that year. That was more than an inch longer than the recent average for the position. Margus Hunt, a second-round pick last spring, has arms that are slightly above average at 33 3/4 inches, but the dude is a monster at 6-foot-8. I couldn’t find an official arm length for Michael Johnson, the 2009 third-round draft pick that just signed a monster contract with the Buccaneers, but he is 6-foot-7 and is said to have long levers, too.

And while they haven’t had the kind of Superlative success that the Seahawks have had with Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and company, the Bengals have also coveted size and length in the secondary. They drafted three cornerbacks taller than 6-foot in the past five years, including 2012 first-rounder Dre Kirkpatrick. And they have drafted a pair of towering safeties in Robert Sands and George Iloka. Both of those guys are 6-foot-4 with above-average arm lengths. Iloka’s 34 1/2-inch arms were the longest among DBs at the 2012 scouting combine.

I’m not saying the Vikings will look to turn the draft into an arms race. They still care about how a guy plays on tape and covet other traits, too. But length might be something they also look for.

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