102 Comments

How Consistent are Explosive Players?

| June 2nd, 2020


Recently, I’ve found that explosive plays are really important to overall offensive production and explosive plays are extremely inconsistent from year to year on a team level. Today I want to look at explosive plays on an individual level to see if players can be fairly reliable counted on to be more or less explosive than expected.

The Set-Up

Like with the team-level data, I used performance from 2014-19 as my sample size. I used the Pro Football Reference Game Play Finder to identify all players who had at least 200 pass attempts, 50 pass targets, or 100 carries in each season. I chose these numbers as somewhat arbitrary thresholds to get a good mix of a sufficient data sample each year and a big enough sample size within each data point to make the data as reliable as possible.

I then looked up the explosive plays (runs of 15+ yards, passes of 20+ yards) each of those players achieved in those seasons. I used the data in aggregate to get average explosive play rates for each. Full data can be seen here.

  • Passing: on average, 8.7% of all passing plays (including sacks) resulted in explosive passes. This data did not seem to change much from 2014-19, with each year fluctuating between 8.3% and 9.1% and no clear year-to-year pattern. I also double checked that smaller sample sizes didn’t skew the data, but the rate stayed the same when I only looked at player seasons with 300+, 400+, or 500+ pass attempts.
  • Rushing: on average, 4.8% of all running back carries resulted in explosive runs. I’ll note I excluded QBs with 100+ carries in a season from this, because many of those are scrambles and thus have a much higher explosive rate, and the sample size of QBs with 100+ carries was too small to study independently. Again, this number didn’t change much year-to-year or if I had a larger carry threshold for inclusion (I checked 150+, 200+, and 250+ carries).
  • Receiving: I split this one up by position, since WRs, TEs, and RBs are used quite differently in the passing game. Overall, 5.5% of targets to running backs, 11.1% of targets to WRs, and 9.3% of targets to TEs resulted in explosive completions. Again, there was little variation year-to-year.

I then used those rates as a baseline for how many explosive plays an individual should be expected to produce based on their volume for the year. For example, a RB with 100 carries and 100 pass targets should be expected to have 4.8 explosive carries and 5.5 explosive receptions. If they actually produced 6 explosive carries and 4 explosive receptions, they had 1.2 more explosive runs and 1.5 fewer explosive catches than expected.

To save words, from here on out I’m going to refer to that as the explosive differential.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

126 Comments

Nick Foles Will Be the Starting Quarterback

| June 1st, 2020


For the Bears, there is no more important issue looming than which man will be under center receive the shotgun snap when the Bears take the field against Detroit in Week One. Today I want to dig into the stats to see what we can learn about Foles vs. Trubisky, as well as what to expect from whoever wins that derby compared to other QBs around the NFL.

The table below shows basic efficiency statistics for Trubisky and Foles in the Reid offense (so Trubisky in 2018-19 in Chicago and Foles in 2016 in KC and 17-18 in Philadelphia), plus the other three notable recent Reid QBs (Smith 13-17, Mahomes 18-19, Wentz 16-19). I’ll note I included playoff stats for everybody because otherwise Foles’ sample size is just so small (less than 350 with just regular season, just over 500 with playoffs included). I also included the NFL average for 2018-19 as a frame of reference for what’s roughly normal around the league. I split up the data into short and long passes (targeted more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage) using Pro Football Reference’s game play finder.

That’s a lot of information to digest, so let’s look at short and deep passes separately.


Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , ,

174 Comments

How Consistent are Explosive Plays?

| May 26th, 2020

The Bears produced the fewest explosive plays in the NFL last year, and given the importance of explosive plays to overall offensive output, that largely explains their status as one of the worst offenses in the NFL.

So I want to look at how consistent explosive plays are. We’ll start with a team-by-team basis, and then look at it on a player-by-player level in a follow-up article.


The Setup

I used Pro Football Reference’s Game Play Finder to track explosive runs (gained 15+ yards) and passes (gained 20+ yards) for each team season since 2014. I did this to have 5 years to compare season-over-season consistency (2014 vs. 2015, 2015 vs. 2016, etc.), giving a respectable sample size of 160 data points without going too far into the past, since the NFL is a constantly evolving league.


Results

I started by doing a simple comparison of explosive plays a team had in one year compared to explosive plays they gained the following year. As you can see in the chart below, there wasn’t much of a relationship.

As a reminder, correlation (R²) is a measure of how strong the relationship between two variables is. It ranges from 0-1, with 0 meaning there is no relationship whatsoever. So a value of 0.027 tells us there is basically no relationship between how many explosive plays a team has in one year compared to how many they will have the following year.

I’ll note I did similar looks for explosive runs and passes when separated out from each other and got similar results (R² < 0.07 for both). I also looked at all three in terms of explosive rate (explosive plays/total plays), and got similar results. I don’t feel the need to pepper this article with a bunch of similar graphs that show no results, but if you’re curious, the full data set and graphs can be seen here.

This then, would seem to suggest good things for the Bears. Just because they were unexplosive in 2019 does not mean the same will be true in 2020. 

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

199 Comments

Is Producing Explosive Plays More Important Than Avoiding Negative Ones?

| May 18th, 2020


I did some work last off-season examining how important explosive plays are to an offense’s production, and found that there is a strong relationship between the number of explosive plays (runs of 15+ yards, passes of 20+ yards) and overall offensive performance (measured in either points/game or DVOA rank). I have updated that information to now include 2018 and 2019 data and still found a strong relationship, as you can see in the graphs below.

Correlation (R²) can be loosely interpreted as how much of the pattern is explained by that variable, which means explosive plays account for roughly 40-60% of overall offensive production, which is quite a high number, and consistent with values from the 2018 season alone. Seeing the same relationship across multiple seasons of data provides additional credibility to the relationship.

(Side note: just like in 2018, total explosive plays shows a stronger relationship with both points/game and DVOA than the % of offensive plays that are explosive, so I’ll probably just track total explosive plays from now on.)

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

268 Comments

Establishing Realistic Expectations for Cole Kmet

| May 13th, 2020


The Bears spent their first pick (43rd overall) on Cole Kmet, a big tight end from Notre Dame who has a chance to plug a Bears’ roster hole from day one.

It should be noted, however, that tight end is a position where conventional wisdom says it’s hard to make a big impact in your rookie season due to a steep learning curve. In order to establish realistic expectations for Kmet, let’s take a look at how comparable tight ends have fared in their first few years of the NFL.

In order to do so, I looked at all 18 tight ends drafted in the 2nd round between 2010-19. I tracked their playing time and statistical contributions on offense after extrapolating to a full 16 game season to normalize the data since several players missed games with injuries.

The full data can be seen here, but I’m just going to show the range of snaps played, targets earned, passes caught, and receiving yards, which can be seen in the table below.



Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,

216 Comments

Why Do Day Three Draft Picks Hit (or Miss)? A Deep Dive…

| May 6th, 2020


Former NFL executive Joe Banner did an interview a few years ago where he referenced a study by an NFL team that found most day 3 picks who turn into successful NFL players are guys who slip through the cracks either because they were from small schools, had an injury in their last year of college, or were undersized for their position.

This made me curious, and since it was a private study without information published, I decided to do it myself.


The Setup

I used the Pro Football Reference database to grab information about every day 3 draft pick from 2007-16. I stopped at 2016 because I wanted players who had finished their 4 year rookie contracts, and started at 2007 to give me 10 seasons’ worth of data. This gave a sample size of 1509 picks.

I then identified players who were a hit based on 2 criteria:

  1. They were a primary starter on offense or defense for at least 2 seasons (as defined by Pro Football Reference).
  2. They had a career AV (a Pro Football Reference metric that attempts to quantify overall impact of each player) of at least 15. I chose this value as the cutoff because Nick Kwiatkoski finished his four years in Chicago with an AV of 15, and that feels about right for the cutoff for a hit.

Any player that hit at least one of these thresholds was considered a hit, while all others were not. I also found that the majority of players who hit this threshold also hit the 1st one, though there of course some outliers.


Results

Let’s take a look at some different factors and see how they influenced hit rates on day 3 of the draft.

Small School

We’ll start with players from a small school, which I defined as anything but the “power 5” conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC). The table below shows hit rates for Power 5 picks vs. small school picks for each round of the draft’s 3rd day.

A few thoughts:

  • Generally, the small schools hit at a slightly higher rate than Power 5 schools, a difference that is more pronounced later in the draft.
  • Given this, it seems weird that teams spend far more day 3 draft picks on Power 5 players than they do small school guys. Between 63%-74% of picks in each round were spent on players from Power 5 schools. Of course, fewer small school players getting drafted probably helps explain why they have a higher hit rate. If you take more small school guys just because, they probably won’t be able to sustain that higher odds of success.
  • Notice rounds 4-5 are fairly similar, but very different than rounds 6-7. In order to have larger sample sizes, I will split day 3 into those 2 groups going forward.
  • With that in mind, general rules of thumb to keep in mind are that roughly 1/3 of picks in rounds 4-5 pan out, compared to roughly 15% (1 in about 6.5) of picks in rounds 6-7. As we look at other factors, we’ll look for anything that changes appreciably from those numbers.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

148 Comments

Data Draft Thoughts: On Small Schools, Selecting Needs & Not Mortgaging Future Picks (Finally)

| April 29th, 2020

Here are some random musings about the Bears’ approach to the draft last weekend.


Mortgage Paid

This draft marked the first time since 2016 that Ryan Pace didn’t trade away a future day 1 or 2 pick.

Because of these frequent trades – and the  Khalil Mack deal – the Bears have had only two 1st round picks and 5 day 2 picks (out of 8 expected) over the last 4 drafts. That kind of continued deficit catches up to you eventually, and Pace has continually borrowed from the future to make up for it.

This year, Pace finally resisted the temptation to trade a high future pick for instant gratification. This is a good thing, because you always pay a steep interest rate on those kind of moves. The typical rule of thumb is that a pick 1 year away is worth a current pick 1 round lower, which we saw in action last weekend when Pace traded a 2021 4th round pick for a 2020 5th rounder and used it to select edge rusher Trevis Gipson. At least he only traded a future day 3 pick, which while less than ideal is still better than trading away a pick from the first 2 days of the draft. Next year the Bears will have close to their full complement of picks with which to work.


Positional Focus

Prior to the draft, I identified wide receiver, offensive line, cornerback, safety, and edge rusher as the Bears’ greatest 2020 needs, with tight end as a looming roster hole for 2021 and beyond. Given that every pick this weekend was spent on these positions, and all of them besides safety were addressed, it seems they mostly agreed with me.

I also did pre-draft work looking at where value was likely to be found in the draft, and concluded:

  • The best value at defensive back is early.
  • Tight end and interior offensive line have better value late.
  • Wide receiver has value throughout the draft.
  • Edge rusher is unlikely to provide value anywhere in the draft.

Well, Pace’s approach in regards to this wisdom was mixed. They did take a defensive back early, but also late. They took a wide receiver and waited on interior offensive line, but grabbed a tight end early and took an edge rusher. Let’s compare where their selections were drafted with where they ranked on the Athletic’s consensus big board. Note Hambright and Simmons did not appear on the 300 player big board.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

244 Comments

Where is the Positional Value for the betway平台 in the 2020 Draft? (Part Two)

| April 21st, 2020

Yesterday I looked at top 50 prospects and found there is likely to be excellent value at WR, with solid value expected at DB, OT, and QB. Today, I want to look at the top 175 prospects to roughly fall in line with the Bears’ 3rd pick, which is 163.

The table below shows how many players were drafted in the top 175 picks at each main Bears position of need in the 2010-19 drafts. Because every draft is different, I provided a range from the least to most players at that position drafted in the top 175 picks within the last 10 drafts, as well as an average. The last column shows how many players from that position are ranked in the top 175 right now according to a composite big board.



 

Look at the ranges compared to how many players are currently ranked in the top 175 to get an idea of what positions are strong or weak in terms of depth for this year’s draft. For instance, 28 WRs are ranked in the top 175 prospects this year, while an average of 21.4 go in that range, and never more than 25 in the last 10 years. That suggests there is likely value to be found at WR in round 5 (though we never know exactly how a draft will unfold). A few other thoughts:

  • Offensive tackle likewise sees a higher number of prospects ranked than have been drafted in the last 10 years. This position was strong in the top 50 as well, suggesting quality options can be found throughout the draft.
  • Interior offensive line and tight end both presented poorly in the top 50 but are above average in the top 175, suggesting the depth is better than the top end talent and the Bears might do well looking to address these spots on day 3.
  • On the flip side, quarterback and defensive back are both below average in the top 175 but above average in the top 50. This suggests the Bears likely want to focus their attention on those spots with high picks if they’re going to be selected.

Let’s go through position-by-position at the likely value spots for the Bears’ 5th round pick and see what players are likely to be options.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

280 Comments

Where is the Positional Value for the betway平台 in the 2020 Draft? (Part One)

| April 20th, 2020

The 2020 NFL Draft is upon us.

The Bears have a long list of needs but short list of picks. They are currently slated for two picks in Round 2 (43 and 50) and then don’t pick again until the middle of round 5 (pick 163). But trades could always shake that up.

In order to maximize those limited draft resources, the Bears need to be smart about finding positional value with their picks. We never know exactly how a draft will unfold, but we can examine historical trends to see what positions are most likely to provide value this year.


The Setup

I looked at every draft from 2010-19 to see how many players at each position were drafted in the top 50 (their 2nd round picks) and top 175 (their 5th round pick). Since this is Bears-specific, I especially focused on their top 4 needs that I identified after free agency died down: wide receiver, offensive line, defensive back, and edge rusher. I also looked at tight end and quarterback since those are two future needs that have gotten a lot of attention from fans this off-season. A few notes:

  • My source for this data did not differentiate between CB and S, so I combined the 2 into DB.
  • They did differentiate between interior offensive line and offensive tackle, so I kept those separate.
  • They had LB and DE as separate, with some edge rushers on both lists. I included all DE as edge rushers (even though some were more 3-4 DEs, not true edge rushers) and manually went through the LB list, looked up scouting reports for every player, and included anybody who was talked about as an edge rusher.

I then found a composite big board that averages player rankings from 18 different draft analysts and used those rankings to compare to historical trends.


2nd Round

Here is the data for players drafted in the top 50. Because every draft is different, I provided a range from the least to most players at that position drafted in the top 50 picks within the last 10 drafts, as well as an average. The last column shows how many players from that position are ranked in the top 50 right now according to the composite big board linked above.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

149 Comments

Looking at RB Fits in the 2020 NFL Draft

| April 14th, 2020


Running back isn’t one of Chicago’s biggest needs heading into the draft, but they do need to add speed and diversify how they use their backs, so they might look for a player who can combine some of Tarik Cohen’s big-play ability with David Montgomery’s steady presence as a lead rusher.

With that in mind, let’s look at what running backs in the draft could be fits for this offense. Last year I identified four physical characteristics that running backs who thrive in this offense generally share:

  • Short. This is measured through height, which usually comes in at or below the average RB at the Combine (5’10”).
  • Well built. This is measured through weight, which usually comes in at or above the average RB at the Combine (214 pounds).
  • Good acceleration. This is measured through the first 10 yards of the 40 yard dash, which should come in above average (1.59 seconds or better).
  • Explosive. This is usually measured through the vertical and broad jumps, which typically measure out better than the overall RB average of 35″ and 118″, respectively.

Every running back Andy Reid brought in to Kansas City for this offense hit at least 4 of those 5 thresholds (explosiveness has 2). David Montgomery, Chicago’s 3rd round pick last year, hit 3 of 5. So this is clearly a physical profile that the coaches are looking for.

As always, these test results are not a way to say how good or bad a running back will be, but simply if they match the physical characteristics of previous players who have excelled in this offense.


4-5 Thresholds Hit

As was the case with WR (but not TE), this is a physically gifted draft class for running backs. 16 of the 28 who did at least 4 of the 5 tests hit 4 or more of the physical thresholds. They can be seen below, with missed thresholds in red.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,