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Sacks Are Coming From Lighter Players

In 1994, the “average” sack came from a player that weighted 266 pounds. Wait, what do you mean by average sack? Well, if you look at all 937 sacks in 1994, and identify the weight of the sacker on each sack, you can calculate the weight of the average sack in each season. John Randle was 290 pounds, and he had 13.5 sacks that year, so he gets 13.5 times as much weight a player with one sack. The graph below shows the weight of the player producing an average sack in each year since 1982. As you can see, it peaked in the mid-’90s, and has declined slightly since.

However, players in general are getting heavier, including in the front seven. The graph below shows the average weight of a player in the front 7 — weighted by the number of starts by such a player — for each year since 1982. That data is in orange; the blue line showing the average sack weight is still included in the chart for reference.

For most of the ’80s, the average defensive player in the front seven was heavier than the average sacker. That trend has now shifted. What does it mean? That, of course, is always in the eye of the beholder. One inescapable conclusion, though, is that a lighter front seven player is more likely to record a sack than a heavier front seven player; the opposite was true 30 years ago.

What do you think?

  • LightsOut85

    I’ve always thought that in recent years the appeal of the 6’5 270-280 edge-rusher seemed overrated (going near the top of the draft, etc), since most of the players who were consistently among the top in getting pressure were closer to the 6’3″ 250 mold. (With my theorized reasoning being that the bigger guys *may* be stronger, but you’re more likely to consistently out-athlete a 300lb+ OT than you are overpower them, and those bigger guys usually aren’t explosive as the most explosive smaller rushers). You could argue that this build would be more well-rounded, but with such emphasis on stopping the pass in this age, pass-rush ability should be prioritized (IMO).

    • Interesting stuff. I agree that player weight is also tricky to measure because it fluctuates so much. But what else can we do?

  • Richie

    A couple additional charts might be interesting:

    Would we see the same thing if you used BMI instead of weight?

    What if you also included weight and/or BMI of offensive linemen? If linemen are getting heavier (I think they are), then having faster pass-rushers would be the best antidote. Whereas, ~30 years ago it may have been a more successful strategy to just have BIGGER pass rushers to try to overpower the offensive line.

    Also, do we know what the source of height/weight information is? Are players more likely to lie about their weight now and say they are lighter? Are teams more willing to lie about weight for some sort of gamesmanship?

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