On Sunday, I used my draft value chart to determine how NFL teams valued various positions. Today, I’ll use the same method to see which schools and conferences dominate the NFL Draft. You are not going to be surprised to discover that USC Trojans have dominated the draft over the last ten years. You’ll be even less surprised to see that SEC teams have accumulated the most draft value, and the most value per team, of any conference. But let’s put some numbers on what we all know. Here’s what I did:

1) Using these draft values, assign a value to every pick in every draft from 2004 to 2013.

2) Calculate the amount of draft capital assigned to each college team by summing the values from each draft pick for each player from that college.

3) Sum the values for each school in each conference. Note: I am using the school-conference affiliations as of the 2013 season, so the SEC gets credit for the last ten years of Texas A&M, and the ACC gets a decade worth of Pitt draft picks. (Speaking of Pitt, regular readers may recall last year’s two posts on college and NFL team connections). On the other hand, Maryland and Rutgers are not credited to the Big Ten… yet. This is almost certainly not the ideal way to handle the situation, but any other approach would be too time consuming and as a reminder, nothing about college football makes any sense, anyway.

Based on that methodology, the table below shows the 100 schools that have produced the most draft value from 2004 to 2013. By default, I’m listing only the top 10, but you can change that in the dropdown box to the left: [click to continue…]


In January, I calculated the AV-adjusted age of every team in 2013. In February, I looked at the production-adjusted height for each team’s receivers. Today, we combine those two ideas, and see which teams had the youngest and oldest set of targets.

To calculate the average receiving age of each team, I calculated a weighted average of the age of each player on that team, weighted by their percentage of team receiving yards. For example, Anquan Boldin caught 36.7% of all San Francisco receiving yards, and he was 32.9 years old as of September 1, 2013. Therefore, his age counts for 36.7% of the 49ers’ average receiving age. Vernon Davis, who was 29.6 on 9/1/13, caught 26.5% of the team’s receiving yards last year, so his age matters more than all other 49ers but less than Boldin’s. The table below shows the average age for each team’s receivers (which includes tight ends and running backs) in 2013, along with the percentage of team receiving yards and age as of 9/1/13 for each team’s top four receiving leaders: [click to continue…]


In case you haven’t heard, the St. Louis Rams are running a contest to predict the team’s 2014 schedule. lThe prize is $100,000, which sounds nice until you realize that to win, you must accurately predict not only the opponent each week, but the location and the exact day of the game. Nobody is going to win this contest. Nobody is going to come close to winning the contest. It’s a personal information/PR grab and nothing more.  Normally, this wouldn’t bother me, but it’s not like the Rams are giving away a billion dollars.  For a hundred grand — which is less than two percent of the amount of dead cap space being allocated to Cortland Finnegan this season — the team shouldn’t have needed to make it impossible for anybody to win. Considering the rules, St. Louis might as well have announced that the grand prize is eleventy billion dollars.

So what are the odds of winning this contest? Let’s start with an easier problem than the one at hand: predicting the Rams opponent in each week of the season.

With 17 weeks, there are 17 possible opponents once you include home/road designations and the bye week. Therefore, you have a 1-in-17 chance of correctly guessing the Rams opponent in week one. By extension, you have a 1-in-16 chance of correctly guessing who St. Louis plays in week two, assuming you were correct with your guess in week one (this is what we mean by conditional probabilities). Do this for every week of the season, and by week 17, you have a 100% chance of correctly guessing who is on the team’s schedule.

It may not be intuitive exactly how daunting a task this is. But this is much, much harder than Warren Buffet’s bracket contest.  For example, you only have a a 1-in-272 chance of correctly guessing who the Rams opponents will be in the first two weeks of the season. That drops to 1-in-4,080 through three weeks, 1-in-8.9 million through six weeks, and 1-in-8.8 billion through nine weeks. That already makes it harder than the bracket contest, and you still have the back eight to play. The odds of correctly guessing the opponent each week is 1-in-356 trillion. And remember, this is quite a bit easier than the actual contest!

But let’s make some adjustments based on the information we know (which will lower the odds) and the added conditions one must satisfy (which will drastically increase the odds).

Adjustment #1

The first adjustment to our 1-in-356 trillion likelihood lowers the odds. If we assume that each team plays a division opponent in week 17, that makes the contest ever so slightly easier. If we work in reverse order, you now have a 1-in-6 chance of guessing the week 17 opponent (remember, you need to specify game location), a 1-in-16 chance of guessing the week 16 opponent assuming your week 17 selection was correct, and so on. This improves your odds all the way to 1-in-126 trillion. Hooray? [click to continue…]


Andrew Healy is back with a sequel to his popular post. As always, we thank him for his generous contributions. Andrew Healy is an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University. He is a big fan of the New England Patriots and Joe Benigno.

A couple of weeks ago, I went decade-by-decade since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to identify the teams that were the best of their eras and the teams that nearly became the teams we remember most instead. In those rankings, I used Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System to estimate team strength. Today, I use Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings and go back an additional twenty years. Using DVOA produces some pretty notable differences that were bigger than I would have guessed.

What are some of those changes?

  • The Steelers have been supplanted as the true team of the ‘70s.
  • The best team to win no titles changes for three of the decades.
  • The ‘70s Vikings get replaced by a more recent what-might-have-been team as the best to win nothing in the Super Bowl era.

Before we get to that, I cover the 1950s and 1960s, identifying the true teams of those decades and the what-might-have-been teams. In a follow-up post, I’ll bring it all together and identify the franchises that have maximized their championship potential the most, and those that have left the most money on the table. [click to continue…]


Luck's rushing ability makes him a QBR star

Luck's rushing ability makes him a QBR star.

A few weeks ago, I put ESPN’s Total QBR under the microscope. Today, I want to look at the quarterbacks whose passing statistics most differ from their QBR grades.

Total QBR grades go back to 2006, so to start, I ran a regression using Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt to predict Total QBR. The best-fit formula was:

Total QBR = -13.5 + 11.23 * ANY/A

For those curious, the R^2 was 0.80, indicating a very strong relationship between ANY/A and Total QBR. What this formula tells us is that a passer needs to average 5.65 ANY/A to be “projected” to have a QBR of 50; from there, every additional adjusted net yard per attempt is worth 11.2 points of QBR. Last year, Peyton Manning averaged 8.87 ANY/A, which projects to a QBR of 86.2. In reality, Manning had a QBR of “only” 82.9; this means Manning’s QBR says he wasn’t quite as amazing as his excellent efficiency numbers would indicate (to say nothing of his otherworldly gross numbers). One likely reason for this result is that Manning ranked 29th in average pass length in the air (according to NFLGSIS) and 6th in yards after the catch per completion; this matters because ESPN gives more credit to quarterbacks on the yards they accumulate through the air. (Throughout this post, we will be forced to deal with educated guesses, because Total QBR is a proprietary formula.)

As it turns out, Manning rating higher in actual QBR than projected QBR is a stark departure from prior years. In 2012, he finished 7.2 points higher in actual QBR than projected QBR, but that’s nothing compared to his time with the Colts. In five years in Indianapolis during the Total QBR era, Manning finished at least 10 points higher in actual QBR each season.

Along with Manning, Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck are the two quarterbacks who are most likely to over-perform relative to their “projected” ratings. Let’s be careful about exactly what this means: whatever the ingredients that go into the QBR formula that don’t go into the ANY/A formula, Manning, Ryan, and Luck seem to have a lot of them.

Luck is a fascinating case. In 2012, he ranked just 20th in ANY/A, but 11th in QBR. I wrote several articles during Luck’s rookie season about how his QBR ratings surpassed his standard stats.1 Last year, he ranked 16th in ANY/A and 9th in QBR. Does this make Luck the quarterback most underrated (if you buy into QBR) by his traditional passing numbers (if you buy into ANY/A)? [click to continue…]

  1. Although now I can’t recall if his 2012 ratings were inflated because of his 4th quarter comebacks.  And I can’t check, because once ESPN decided to cap the clutch weight associated with each play, they retroactively applied the current formula across past years. []


Every draft pick has a value, as seen in my draft value chart.  When the first overall pick is used on a quarterback, that means the quarterback position gets credited with 34.6 picks. If you assign a value to every pick in each of the last ten drafts, you can get a sense of the amount of value spent on each position in the NFL in an average draft. The graph below shows the percentage of the draft value pie attributed to each position; for example, quarterbacks are selected with 7% of all draft capital:

[click to continue…]


2014 Running Back Free Agent Market

April 12, 2014 Current Events

The free agent running back market has been as peculiar as it’s been quiet. There have been no big contracts doled out and only a few sizable ones of note, although some of the ensuing narrative about the demise of the running back position has been overblown. Today I want to look at the ten […]

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Owen Daniels and Gary Kubiak, Together Again

April 11, 2014 Current Events

A couple of years ago, I wrote this post about Josh McDaniels and Brandon Lloyd. Well, with Owen Daniels reuniting with Gary Kubiak in Baltimore — lest you forget, Kubiak is the Ravens new offensive coordinator with Jim Caldwell now head coach in Detroit — I thought it might be fun to look at previous […]

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Wide Receivers and Weighted Team Pass Attempts

April 10, 2014 Receiving

In his seven-year career, Calvin Johnson has already recorded 9,328 receiving yards. And for those curious about these sorts of things, he’s the career leader in receiving yards per game at 88.0, too. But Johnson has also benefited greatly from playing on teams that have thrown a weighted average of 635 pass attempts per season. […]

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Is there any hope in Oakland for Matt Schaub?

April 9, 2014 Quarterbacks

Is Matt Schaub washed up? Is he the next Jake Delhomme? For the first six seasons of his Texans career, Schaub was an above-average quarterback in both Net Yards per Attempt and Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. But last year was disastrous in a way that his poor conventional stats fail to completely capture (for […]

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What Does Chris Johnson Have Left?

April 8, 2014 Statgeekery

After six seasons in Tennessee, Chris Johnson is now a free agent. The star running back has had an up-and-down career. The successes are easy to document: since 2008, only Adrian Peterson has more rushing yards, and Johnson has rushed for 1,299 more yards than the next closest back, Matt Forte. Johnson was just 32 […]

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Head Coach Retention Rates

April 7, 2014 Coaches

In the footnotes (always read the footnotes!) to one of Neil’s posts at 538, he included a fun chart displaying the likelihood that a baseball manager would be retained by his team X seasons from now. That made me wonder: what is the NFL head coach retention rate? And, as is often assumed by the […]

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A Passing League

April 6, 2014 History

In some ways, the premise of this post is geeky even for this site. And that’s saying something. There is a debate over the proper way to measure league average. For example, when we say the average completion percentage in the NFL is 61.2%, this is generally assumed to reflect the fact that in 2013, […]

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Interactive Trivia: Jerry Rice And [_______]

April 5, 2014 Trivia

If you play with enough filters of the “my dad can beat up your sister” variety, you can get some pretty counter-intuitive results. For example, Jerry Rice and DeSean Jackson are the only two players in NFL history to catch 350 passes, gain 6,000 receiving yards, and average 17.1 yards per reception through their first […]

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Matt Waldman Rookie Scouting Portfolio

April 4, 2014 Announcements

Every April 1st, friend-of-the-program Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) releases his Rookie Scouting Portfolio. The RSP is, well, insane. It’s a 251-page draft guide that not only provides rankings and analysis of 164 players, but also provides over 1,000 pages of scouting checklists and play-by-play notes. Matt does top-notch work year round, and I can confidently state […]

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Scoring Distribution Since 1940

April 3, 2014 History

We all know that scoring is on the rise. The 2013 season was the highest scoring season in NFL history, just narrowly edging out the … 1948, 1950, and 2012 seasons. Scoring soared in the aftermath of World War II, but quickly dropped off in the middle of the 1950s. Scoring fell to its nadir […]

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The Best Kickoff Returners in NFL History

April 2, 2014 History

Two weeks ago, I looked at the best punt returners in NFL history; today, a look at the top kickoff returners. Again, we begin with a graph of the league average yards per kickoff return from 1941 through 2013. The variation here has been relatively minor, falling in a 5-yard window from 18.9 yards per […]

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Ranking The Almost Dynasties

April 1, 2014 History

A couple of weeks ago, Andrew Healy contributed a guest post titled, “One Play Away.” He’s back at it today, and we thank him for another generous contribution. Andrew Healy is an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University. He is a big fan of the New England Patriots and Joe Benigno. What teams do we […]

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Is ESPN’s QBR the best measure of quarterback play?

March 31, 2014 Quarterbacks

One of the very first posts at Football Perspective measured how various passing stats were correlated with wins.  One of the main conclusions from that post was that passer rating, because of its heavy emphasis on completion percentage and interception rate, was not the ideal way to measure quarterback play. But what about ESPN’s Total […]

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The 2013 Cleveland Browns Had the Strangest Season

March 30, 2014 SRS

Okay, that title could be the opener to any number of jokes. But I mean “strange season” in the way Football Perspective has used the phrase before. Take a look at Cleveland’s schedule and results from 2013: Score Week Day Date Rec Opp Tm Opp 1 Sun September 8 boxscore L 0-1 Miami Dolphins 10 […]

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Predictions in Review: NFC North

March 29, 2014 Stat Recap

During the 2013 offseason, I wrote 32 articles under the RPO 2013 tag. In my Predictions in Review series, I review those preview articles with the benefit of hindsight. Previously, I reviewed the AFC West, the NFC West, the AFC South, the NFC South, and the AFC North. Today, the NFC North. The Detroit Lions […]

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Comparing 2014 Vegas Projections to Estimated Wins

March 28, 2014 Vegas

Three weeks ago, Vegas released the first set of 2014 win totals for all 32 teams. I immediately wondered how those win totals compare to the estimated wins I created based on 2013 DVOA ratings. I tweeted a request for someone to write such an article, and Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) was kind enough to oblige. […]

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2013 Fumble Recovery Data Has Jets, Cowboys at Extremes

March 27, 2014 Statistics

There are few statistics more random in all of sports than fumble recoveries. When a football is on the ground, it’s not the case that better teams are more likely to fall on the ball than bad teams: in the NFL, recovering fumbles is nearly all luck and little skill. This is a fact widely […]

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The Best 40-Yard Dash Times since 1999

March 26, 2014 Draft

A month ago, I looked Jadeveon Clowney’s impressive time in the 40-yard dash. In that post, I argued that all 40-yard times must be adjusted for weight. Well, thanks to the good folks at NFLSavant.com, 40-yard dash times are available for many players going back to 1999. Which made me wonder: which players have posted […]

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How will DeSean Jackson age?

March 25, 2014 History

If you believe the rumors, the Eagles are desperately trying to trade wide receiver DeSean Jackson; absent an eligible suitor, and Philadelphia may even cut the three-time Pro Bowler. This is a pretty weird situation; what’s even weirder is how few tangible reasons have been given as to why the Eagles desire to remove him […]

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Expected Quarterbacks Wins Based On Passing Efficiency

March 24, 2014 Quarterbacks

On Friday, the Jets released Mark Sanchez. I don’t have much in the way of a post mortem, but it felt odd not to have at least some post on the subject. And despite watching every Sanchez start for four years, it still takes me by surprise when I see that his career record is […]

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Which Quarterbacks Produced Peak Years For Their Receivers?

March 23, 2014 History

Some quarterbacks and wide receivers just go together. Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. Dan Marino and Mark Clayton and Mark Duper. Joe Namath and Don Maynard. John Hadl and Lance Alworth. But quarterbacks play with lots of receivers, and receivers generally play with several quarterbacks. We don’t remember most combinations, but that doesn’t mean they […]

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What do Schaub and Fitzpatrick mean for Bortles, Manziel, and Bridgewater?

March 22, 2014 Current Events

The Texans and Raiders recently made a couple of veteran quarterback acquisitions. The team with the first overall pick in May’s draft signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and then traded Matt Schaub to Oakland, owners of the fifth overall selection. Will either team now be deterred from spending a top five pick on Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, […]

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Meaningless receiving yards

March 21, 2014 Receiving

Which player led the league in meaningless receiving yards last year? Wait, what are meaningless receiving yards? I am defining a meaningless receiving yard as one where: On third or fourth down, a player gained fewer yards than necessary for the first down. The receiving yard(s) came in a loss and when the player’s team […]

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A closer look at running back aging patterns Part II

March 20, 2014 Fantasy

Two years ago, I wrote this post on running back aging curves. One conclusion from my research was that age 26 was the peak age for running backs, which was immediately followed by a steady decline phase until retirement. In that study, I only wanted to look at very good-to-excellent running backs in the modern […]

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