9

April

Packing the Stats: Who can the Packers find at pick 21?

Packing the StatsIn 2012, Greg Gabriel postulated an interesting hypothesis that teams use historical draft data to predict how many players at a certain position will get drafted.  I did this analysis in 2012 based on the draft board and draft selection of the Packers back then and thought it was a pretty interesting exercise.  Basically, a quarterback (regardless of the specific player) is more likely to be drafted in the 1st round than say a kicker is.  Extrapolating that further, every draft can expect to see 2-3 quarterbacks drafted in the first round and expect 0 kickers to be drafted in the 1st round.  To narrow that down even further, the Packers can expect to see around 2 quarterbacks selected before pick 21 this year and hence if they were interested in drafting a quarterback, they could predict that the 3rd best quarterback will be available for them when they pick (assuming they don’t trade the pick of course).

Naturally, the Packers aren’t likely to pick a quarterback in the 1st round, but this hypothesis can be applied to any position.  Below is the number of players picked at their respective positions up to the 21st pick from 2005 (the first year of Ted Thompson’s tenure as the Packers GM) to last year.  Also note no punters or kickers have been picked in the top 21 selections so I’ve dropped those positions from the list.

 

Sheet2

I wouldn’t say the data is all that surprising, quarterbacks, defensive ends (i.e. pass rushers) and wide receivers are the most highly drafted players in the top 21 picks while centers, guards and tight end almost never get drafted in the 1st round.  There’s also a very striking decline in the number of running backs drafted in the 1st 21 picks, with last year being only the 2nd time in 9 years that a running back wasn’t selected.

The following list is composed of the top players from their respective positions based on current rankings from CBS Sports’ NFL draft page.  One of the biggest caveats is choosing which big board to go off of, I personally like CBS Sport’s because their rankings have been the closest to the actual draft compared to other large media draft rankings. Players names which are italicized are likely to have already been selected by pick 21 and players with their names in brackets meaning that position typically won’t be picked again by the 21st round (for instance, only 1 tight end has been picked higher than 21st in a single draft so the Packers would be breaking the trend a little by drafting a second tight end in the top 21 picks.

25

October

Packing the Stats: Rushing to Conclusions Follow-Up

Packing the StatsIn response to the low yards per attempt by Alex Green last weekend, we had some good discussion in the comments regarding my statistical research on how the rushing game affects the success rate of NFL teams in the past ten years. The data seemed to show that the number of attempts had a higher correlation with winning than average yards per attempt.

Some people agreed, bringing up the Packers’ success during the two halves of the Seahawks and Colts games when they committed to running the ball more. Others argued that this was more of a secondary outcome, in which winning causes increased attempts and not the other way around.

We even had some suggestions for further statistical research, such as parsing out big runs and even comparing correlations in the passing game.

Before continuing my future research, I wanted to do a quick aggregate of both total attempts per game and total yards per game. These two categories showed a higher correlation to winning than yards per attempt, so what if we looked at them together?

Below is a table that charts win percentage in relationship to both attempts and yardage. Take a look:

Rushing Statistics and Success Rate, 2002-2011

Rushing Statistics and Success Rate, 2002-2011

First and foremost, this was an outcome I did not expect at all. Logic told me that we’d see more of a “diagonal” relationship with win percentages. In other words, the higher the yards and attempts combined, the better the percentage.

But that didn’t happen at all. Instead, we see a reinforcement of the idea that total attempts matters more than anything else. If you look vertically across the chart, you’ll notice that the success rate is more consistent by column rather than by row or diagonally.

Honestly, one of the things that really stunned me was the 97.14% success rate where teams had only 60-79 yards and 30-34 attempts in a game. That’s at worst a 1.76 YPC and at best a 2.63 YPC.

I’d also like to note that most of these percentages are based on at least 100 games that match the criteria. So we’re not really looking at small sample sizes across the board.

I’m interested in hearing your comments. What do you make of this, and how does it apply to our ongoing conversation?

5

July

Packing the Stats: James Jones vs. Donald Driver

Here’s a post that is sure to spark some heated debate. We’ve had quite a few comments lately about the infamous James Jones and his comparison to the esteemed Donald Driver. Most of this has stemmed from two points of contention: (1) the Green Bay Packers’ decision to keep Driver despite his declining performance, and (2) the reputation of Jones in regard to dropped passes.

So, as I am wont to do, I took some time to research each of these player’s performances in 2011. I discovered some interesting things along the way, but let me first present to you some of the raw statistics (thanks to PFF):

 

J. Jones D. Driver
Snaps 514 521
Pass 376 419
Run Block 179 144
PFF Rating -2.2 -4.4
Penalties 1 0
Targets 54 54
Receptions 38 37
Catch % 70.4 68.5
Yards 635 445
Yds. / Rec. 16.7 12
YAC 292 142
YAC / Rec. 7.7 3.8
Longest 70 35
TD 7 6
INT 2 0
Drops 6 8
Missed Tackles 6 1
Fumbles 1 0

 

As you can see, Jones and Driver are very comparable as Packers receivers, with just about the same number of snaps and targets each. They do fill slightly different roles, though, as Jones provides more support in run blocking than Driver. Jones is also more of a deep threat, being targeted 11 times on passes of 20 yards or more, compared to Driver’s 3 targets in that range. That said, they both saw about 30 targets each in the 0-9 yard range, with most of their targets coming over the middle.

Now, it’s quite obvious that Jones was an overall more productive player. He caught just one more pass than Driver in the same number of targets, yet he put up almost 200 yards more. And while the deep balls do make a difference, Jones was able to rack up 150 yards more than Driver after the catch and recorded more missed/broken tackles.

The two marks against Jones are that he had one fumble and two interceptions on passes thrown at him (though only one of those was on a dropped pass, as we’ll see later).

11

April

Packing the Stats: Numbers and Notes From Around the Web

As you may know from reading my past blog posts, I love me some stats. I don’t think they’re the be-all and end-all when it comes to football, but I do think they are a useful tool to use when analyzing a team, a unit, or a player. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy following sites like Pro Football Focus (PFF) and Football Outsiders (FO).

These two groups of data crunchers put a lot of time and critical thought into representing the performance of players and teams in the form of numbers. Through careful observation and grading of every play of every football game of the year, these statisticians are able to eventually tell us which team’s offense is performing the best based on their results and the strength of the defenses they’ve played.  Or they can present a numerical “grade” for an individual player for something like “pass blocking efficiency.”

Like I said before, they provide a great tool for professional football analysis. We can use the information to either support what we think we’ve seen, or use it as a jumping off point to examine something further.

So without further ado, here are some interesting tidbits I’ve read about Green Bay Packers players as presented by the teams at Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders. Take them as you will.

FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS

  • In one of FO’s most recent articles, Tom Gower revisited the 2006 draft class to see who were the best players, biggest busts, and best values from six years ago. He looked at each position, recapped what happened on draft day, then presented the findings. As we all know, this was the year Ted Thompson took A.J. Hawk in the first round. Here’s what Gower wrote about who the best linebacker really was: “A fairly uninspiring class with no clear standouts, really. By Pro-Football-Reference’s Approximate Value method, it’s Hawk, followed by Wimbley, Florida State, 13th overall to the Browns.” Perhaps Packers fans don’t have quite as much to complain about. . .
  • About a week ago, FO Editor-in-Chief Aaron Schatz released two articles about the 2011 cornerbacks: “Best Cornerback Charting Stats 2011” and “Worst Cornerback Charting Stats 2011.” The good news is that no Packers CBs ended up on any of the “worst” lists. The bad news? None of them ended up on any of the “best” lists either. One player who did end up on the naughty list was former Packer Josh Gordy, though even Schatz gave him a pass for being an undrafted player in his second season filling the role of a starter.
12

March

Packing the Stats: Who can the Packers find at pick 28?

Greg Gabriel at the National Football Post (a great website that I highly recommend) recently published an article entitled “How clubs strategize for free agency and the draft” which postulates an interesting idea that when picking at a certain position in the draft, a team can expect a certain number of players at a position to be picked ahead of them (if that sounds confusing please check out his article where he goes more indepth in the concept).  For instance, if a team just won the Super Bowl and is picking last in the 1st round and is interested in drafting a quarterback, they can reasonably expect to see the 3rd or 4th best quarterback still available because on average 2-3 quarterbacks get drafted in the 1st round.  If you think about it, there are only so many “can’t miss” 1st round draft picks produced every year and usually their positions are distributed rather evenly (factored in with the nature of the NFL).  Obviously some years can be strong years for certain positions, like this year with defensive ends, but on average the amount of players in a certain position selected remains relatively constant.

With that in mind, the question I had is which players are statistically likely to be available at pick 28 for the Packers and which picks would make sense compared to previous years.  To do that I complied a list of every draft from the 1st pick overall to the 28th pick overall from 2005 (the year Ted Thompson became the general manager) to 2011 and then computed the average number of players at a position taken and their standard deviation between each year.

 

POS

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Total

Average

STD

min

max

QB

3

3

2

2

3

2

4

19

2.71

0.76

2

3

RB

3

3

2

5

2

2

1

18

2.57

1.27

1

4

FB

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0.00

0.00

0

0

WR

6

1

4

0

4

2

3

20

2.86

2.04

1

5

TE

0

2

0

0

1

1

0

4

0.57

0.79

0

1

C

1

0

0

0

2

1

0

4

0.57

0.79

0

1

G

0

1

0

1

0

1

1

4

0.57

0.53

0

1

23

November

Packing the Stats: Running Back Role Reversal

One of the big problems with playing 3 games in 10 days is that injuries are that much more devastating.  In particular, having only 3 days to get healthy for Packers such as Greg Jennings and James Starks will be a particularly difficult task.  In my opinion, there’s no huge rush to push Jennings if he isn’t a 100% ready.

Jordy Nelson (who happens to be white) has had a career year and Jermichael Finley is a near lock to be the focal point of the defense even if he isn’t targeted all that much.  After that, there is always Donald Driver, James Jones, Randall Cobb or maybe even Andrew Quarless who is capable of having a fantastic game in Jennings’ absence.

Not so much with James Starks.  While still technically the backup to Ryan Grant, anyone who has watched a Packers game (save perhaps the Bears game) understands that Grant is really backing up Starks.  The difference between the two can be summed up pretty easily; Starks is the better performer but Grant is the more dependable of the two.


Totals
 Grant Starks
ATT 73 120
YDS 267 545
AVR 3.65 4.54
STD 3.69 6.34
STOP 16. 25
ATT/STOP 4.56 4.8

As you can see, Starks has outperformed Grant in attempts given (though I admit that its probably more based on the coaches and Aaron Rodgers’ play calling), total yards and yards per attempt.  Grant on the other hand has outperformed Starks based on variance (or standard deviation), total number of “bad plays” (here defined as running plays that resulted in no gain or loss of yards) and bad plays per attempt.  The summary here is that Starks is the big play back, who can rip off huge runs but is also more prone to getting stuffed behind the line while Grant is the consistent back who almost always gets some yardage but also almost never gets the big run.

It should also be noted that there really isn’t any comparison between the two running backs’ ability as receivers. Grant has only had 8 receptions for 69 yards this season while Starks has caught the ball 28 times for 210 yards.  Grant has never really had the softest hands and even fullback/folk-hero John Kuhn has more receptions than Grant this season.

25

October

Packing the Stats: Regression of The Secondary

The Packers may be perfect in the win-loss column, but it would be foolish to assume that everything with the Packers is going perfectly.  The last 3 years the Packers have fielded competitive teams each with its own Achilles’ heel; in 2009 it was the offensive line, in 2010 it was the running game and this year it’s definitely the secondary.

While everyone one has heard that the Packers are near the bottom of the barrel in terms of passing defense, is it because they’ve played against elite passing quarterbacks? Is it because they’ve played against pass-first teams?  Or is it because the secondary simply isn’t as good as it was when they won the Super Bowl?

I decided to take a look at passing averages of teams that Packers have played.

The first section are the numbers posted by opponents while playing the Packers.

The Second section are the passing averages of Packers opponents not including the Packers game (i.e. how these teams did against other teams on their schedule).

The final section is the difference between the two and the last bit is the average of these differences.

For the columns, PASS is the total passing yards, COMP is completions, ATT is attempts, TD is passing touchdowns, INT is interceptions, COMP% is completion percentage and PY/A is passing yards per attempt.

 


VS GB
PASS COMP ATT TD INT COMP% PY/A
NO 419.00 32.00 49.00 3.00 0.00 65.3% 8.55
CAR 432.00 28.00 46.00 1.00 3.00 60.9% 9.39
CHI 302.00 21.00 37.00 2.00 2.00 56.8% 8.16
DEN 273.00 22.00 32.00 3.00 3.00 68.8% 8.53
ATL 167.00 18.00 32.00 1.00 2.00 56.3% 5.22
STL 328.00 29.00 45.00 0.00 1.00 64.4% 7.29
MIN 219.00 13.00 32.00 2.00 2.00 40.6% 6.84
VS OPP
NO 343.00 30.00 41.67 2.50 1.33 72.0% 8.23
CAR 278.50 20.67 34.33 1.17 1.00 60.2% 8.11
CHI 233.33 19.33 32.50 1.17 0.67 59.5% 7.18
DEN 189.20 17.20 32.00 1.60 0.80 53.8% 5.91
ATL 252.67 22.67 36.83 1.33 1.00 61.5% 6.86
STL 213.20 19.20 37.80 0.60 0.40 50.8% 5.64
MIN 187.50 17.17 29.00 0.67 0.33 59.2% 6.47
DIFF
NO 76.00 2.00 7.33 0.50 1.33 6.7% 0.32