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Archive for February, 2008

Vilma, Jenkins, Faneca — Busy day for the Jets

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 29, 2008

Rare double post today, but I thought these moves deserve some attention. Let's start with Vilma.

According to the New York Times, the Jets received a 2009 4th round pick from the Saints, that could become a third round pick if Vilma reaches certain incentives. In general, the cost of a pick in round X this year is a pick in round X-1 next year; so you could look at this as if it's really a 2008 4th or 5th round pick -- in other words, not very much. Vilma was the defensive rookie of the year in 2004 and made the Pro Bowl in 2005, but has obviously seen his stock drop since then. He underachieved in 2006 and played poorly last year before suffering a season ending knee injury. It's unclear if Vilma will ever return to form, and there's been speculation that it will be two years before Vilma is at full speed -- and who knows exactly what that means for him anymore. Considering he's in the last year of his contract, he certainly wasn't going to command a lot in the trade market.

Nearly everyone blames Vilma's failures in '06 and '07 on the 3-4 defense Eric Mangini installed. I'm not convinced that's accurate, though.

2 Comments | Posted in General

Top Rookies, Part II

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 29, 2008

Yesterday, I looked at how the top rookie RBs and WRs end up performing over the course of their careers. The huge failure rate among WRs reminded me of something I wrote three years ago, when I wrote the "downside" column to a debate about Anquan Boldin's 2004 fantasy value:

There are a lot of reasons to be down on Anquan Boldin this year, looking from a historical perspective. From 1991-2002, we've seen the top rookie WR see their FP/G drop the following year.

Well, Boldin continued the trend, and the next year, Michael Clayton became the fourteenth straight wide receiver to regress after leading his class in fantasy points per game as a rookie (note that yesterday, we looked at raw fantasy points). Since then, though, Braylon Edwards and Marques Colston have improved in their second seasons. Here's a list of the top rookie (measured by FP/G) WR each season since the merger, and then how they performed the next year.

2 Comments | Posted in Fantasy, History, Statgeekery

Rookie RBs/Rookie WRs

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 28, 2008

Six years ago, Doug wrote this article on rookie running backs and wide receivers. For those that can't be bothered to click the link, here's a short recap:

Question: how often does the rookie RB who put up the best numbers actually turn into the best RB of that rookie crop?

The answer: very frequently. Almost always, in fact. Edge James, Fred Taylor, Corey Dillon, Eddie George, Curtis Martin, Marshall Faulk, Jerome Bettis, Ricky Watters. That's an 8-year run from 1992-1999 where the top rookie turned into the best back (at least so far -- Fred Taylor will probably get passed by Ahman Green this year [Chase note: Green did pass Taylor, but it took two years, not one for him to grab the lead he still holds. Dillon has since lost his title as well.]).

In fact, look through the list of top-producing rookie RBs and you'll find very few eventual busts among them. Mike Anderson (maybe), Leonard Russell, Ickey Woods, Troy Stradford. Contrast this with the list of top rookie WRs (see the Chris Chambers comment) and you'll see lots and lots of complete zeros.

This just in! LaDainian Tomlinson will probably turn out to be a pretty good player. Extra! Extra! Where else can you get insight like that? Ultimately, this won't help you much, but it is interesting to note the very strong correlation between rookie success and eventual success for RBs and the complete lack of same for WRs.

What's the Chris Chambers comment?

Chris Chambers showed a lot of promise in his rookie year. Instead of regaling you with the gushing accounts of his physical talent -- you can get that anywhere -- I'll just say that I am indeed among the rubes who will be on the bandwagon this year. The guy has some amazing jets. I'll leave it at that.

But in addition to the flashes of raw talent, Chambers also put up the best numbers of any rookie receiver in 2001. Which leads to the question:

How often does the best rookie WR actually turn out to have the best career?

The answer: very, very rarely. Randy Moss had the top rookie season in 1998 and will certainly turn in the best career of all the rookies from his class. But before Moss, you have to go all the way back to 1981 to find a year where the best rookie actually turned into the best receiver over the long haul. That was Cris Collinsworth. Between 1981 and 2000, the WRs with the best rookie seasons ended up with careers that varied from non-existent (Rae Carruth) to mediocre (Darnay Scott) to pretty good (Joey Galloway), but none of them turned into the best WR in their class. Some of those guys are still working on their careers, of course, so this could change (it's possible that Peter Warrick could get his act together, for instance), but if you look through the list, it's clear that the best rookie hardly ever turns in the best career.

All that said, I still like Chambers a lot. I'd put my money on him before I'd put it on any other individual from this rookie class. But against the whole field, he'd be a lousy bet. [Chase note: Chad Johnson, Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne were in this class. Lousy bet, indeed.]

So in the summer of 2002, Doug wrote that the best rookie RB is usually the best RB from his class when he retires, whereas the best rookie WR is almost never the best WR from his class when he retires. Is that still true today?

12 Comments | Posted in Fantasy, History, Statgeekery

How much bigger are players now?

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 27, 2008

This post is mostly a huge data dump, so I'll hold the commentary until the end. If I was the reader, I'd scan all the tables if I had time, or just head to the bottom for the bottom once the analysis section begins.

How much bigger are players now? Here's a look at QBs entering the league every year:

10 Comments | Posted in History, Statgeekery

Jobs @ Sports Reference

Posted by Sean on February 22, 2008

Jobs @ Sports Reference

Sports Reference is hiring--not full-time at the moment, but for summer internships. If you are interested, please apply, and if you know someone who might be interested, please pass our ad along to them and encourage them to apply. We've got some interesting projects for the interns to work on, so I'm hopeful that we can fill these positions. Let me know if you have any questions. Job Ad

5 Comments | Posted in General

The History of the Black QB: Part IV

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 22, 2008

You can read Parts I, II and III of this series at those links, but I'm most excited for Part IV today. No background reading is required.

Have black QBs been discriminated in the draft? It's a complicated question that's probably impossible to fully answer. Akili Smith was a bust. Randall Cunningham was a steal. Those are easy, but how do we look at the whole group? Here's one way.

9 Comments | Posted in History, NFL Draft, Statgeekery

Running backs and BMI

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 21, 2008

Most of you have probably heard of the Body Mass Index, a ratio that's pretty simple to calculate and can be a useful tool to gauge someone's health, but with a key caveat. Muscular people have very high BMIs, and high BMIs are usually associated with poor health (because most people that weigh a lot are fat, not muscular). In football, the opposite is true: the better athletes usually have higher BMIs, because that means they've got more muscle on their frame. For the most part, skill position players in the NFL don't have much fat on them, so we can assume the added weight is solid muscle. Using weight is a poor way to measure the type of muscle we're interested in when looking at running backs, since a 5-10, 225 lb RB is more solidly built than a 6-2, 240 lb running back. The former is Ricky Williams or Emmitt Smith; the latter is LenDale White or James Stewart.

The BMI formula is simply:

703 * weight/ (height^2)

Here's a list of the BMIs of the 50 RBs with the most rushing yards, among those that entered the league in 1970 or later. Height is in inches, weight is in pounds.

10 Comments | Posted in College, History, NFL Draft, Statgeekery

11,945 box scores

Posted by Doug on February 20, 2008

It's going to take some time to properly integrate all this into the site, but I couldn't wait any longer to unleash it on the masses:

11,945 pro football boxscores. That's every game played in the NFL, AFL, or AAFC from 1940 through 2007.

As should be clear from the URL and the lack of formatting, these are not yet in their permanent homes, so be prepared to move your bookmark if you set one. There are a few gaps: we don't have team stats for postseason games, and even in regular season games there are a few holes in the team stat tables, especially in the earlier years. And for 1995 forward, I will soon be adding full individual stats. Still, if you're like me you can have a lot of fun at the above link as is.

Enjoy.

EDIT TO ADD: Following the lead of MattyP in the first comment, everyone should find the first NFL game they attended and post a link to it. Here's mine: Sept 20, 1992, Texas Stadium: Cowboys 31, Cardinals 20. I did not remember that Michael Irvin had three TD catches. What I do remember is that we were seated directly behind Missouri Tiger basketball legend and at-the-time Dallas Maverick Doug Smith.

36 Comments | Posted in History, P-F-R News

“Game-winning” touchdowns

Posted by Doug on February 19, 2008

A few weeks ago, I told you about The Touchdown Project that we're working on here at p-f-r. We've now got a database of every scoring play back to 1940, and you'll start to see the results of that work at the site before too long.

When I was a kid, the baseball boxscores included something called the "game-winning RBI," which was defined as an RBI that gave your team a lead it never relinquished. So the game-winning RBI might have been on the first run of the game, or it might have been on the last. It was interesting as trivia, but useless as any kind of measure of how well a guy actually played. So useless, in fact, that even announcers realized it was useless. It was eventually scrapped.

Anyway, for no other reason than that I can, I decided to compute "game-winning touchdowns" in the same way. A game-winning touchdown is one which gives your team a lead (a lead it didn't have before that score, that is) that it never relinquishes.

If you can't guess who is the all-time leader in game-winning touchdowns, then, well, let's just say you're not exactly the Jerry Rice of football trivia. If you can guess who is in second place, you just might be. I'll put it in white text just below this paragraph for those who want to take a second to guess.

Answer here ------> Lenny Moore < ----------

With a clear statement that this is interesting only in a trivial way, here is a list of all players who have scored 50 or more regular season TDs, ordered by the percentage of their TDs which were game-winning:

13 Comments | Posted in General, History

Increased Risk Games Revisited

Posted by Jason Lisk on February 18, 2008

Last July, I posted a lengthy two part look at running back overuse and injury. Toward the end of those posts, I introduced what I will call an educated working hypothesis about the role of workload in running back injuries.

In my opinion, it is not the raw number of carries that matters. I believe the key is the number of higher stress games a back endures over a period of time. I will refer to these as Increased Risk Games (IRG).

Based on my review of the game by game rushing attempts from 1995-2006, the tipping point where "increased risk games" kicked in and we saw increased injury rates in the games that followed was at about 25 rushing attempts in a game.

Now that 2007 is completed and fresh in our minds, I thought I would look back on the past season's running back workloads and injuries to see what new information might be added. The official NFL injury reports from the past season freshly are available, so we can cross-reference rushing attempt totals on a weekly basis with the injury reports to have more detailed information than simply looking at past seasons game by game data can provide.

10 Comments | Posted in General

The History of the Black QB: Part III

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 15, 2008

In Part I of this series I chronicled the emergence of the black quarterback, from Fritz Pollard to JaMarcus Russell. In Part II, I looked at some of the greatest seasons by a black QB in NFL history, with Daunte Culpepper's 2004 season topping the list.

There have been twelve black quarterbacks to start over 60 games in the NFL in their career, and Charlie Batch (49) and Byron Leftwich (44) might join them one day. David Garrard, Vince Young, Jason Campbell and JaMarcus Russell are young QBs that should stick around for awhile, too. Here's a list of the twelve:

8 Comments | Posted in History, Statgeekery

Passing yardage is for lovers

Posted by Doug on February 14, 2008

Here is what it looks like when one pfr-blogger sends sweet nothings into the email box of another pfr-blogger:

I noticed during my QB research that there are a fairly large number of quarterbacks who have been on a roster this year or last that were born on Valentine's Day.

Indeed, Valentine's Day is the premier birthday for NFL passers. In terms of total career passing yards through the entire history of the league, it has an enormous lead on the second-best birthday, which I've mysteriously blanked out in the chart below:

4 Comments | Posted in Parenting advice

Why do teams run the ball?

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 12, 2008

Note: It was pointed out in the comments that a similar discussion has been going on over at bbnflstats.com. Thanks to Brian, in comment 7, for pointing that out. His posts are well worth reading if you've got the time.

Everyone knows that teams average more yards per pass than per rush. In the 2007 season, NFL QBs averaged 6.85 yards per pass attempt, and NFL RBs averaged 4.17 yards per rush attempt. This past season wasn't an aberration.

YR 	RUSH	RYD	Y/R	PASS	PYD 	Y/P	Diff
2002	12,016	49,984	4.16	17,087	115,054	6.73	+62%
2003	12,698	53,345	4.20	16,330	108,403	6.64	+58%
2004	12,654	53,028	4.19	16,288	114,979	7.06	+68%
2005	12,726	51,822	4.07	16,411	111,468	6.79	+67%
2006	12,734	53,413	4.19	16,358	112,092	6.85	+63%
2007	12,414	51,786	4.17	17,018	116,580	6.85	+64%

So why do teams run the ball? The most common explanation I've heard is that rushing plays are more consistent, and the larger variance that comes with a passing play makes passing plays less attractive. I don't want to minimize the value of consistency. If a team could run for three yards every play (average yards per play = 3.0), that team would score a touchdown every drive. If a team passed for 10 yards on 50% of its plays, and 0 yards on the other half (average yards per play = 5.0), that offense would score less points; that team would have to punt a non-zero amount of times. The ability to consistently gain yardage is crucial in the NFL.

23 Comments | Posted in General

The History of the Black QB: Part II

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 8, 2008

If you've got a few minutes to spare, check out Part I of this series, although it's unrelated to today's post. Thanks to JWL, who pointed out the absence of J.J. Jones in that post, which has since been updated. If you notice any other absences from that list, please post their names in the comments. (I'm not considering players like Antwaan Randle El or Brad Smith as QBs, since they are really WRs who just run some trick plays.)

Pro-Football-Reference introduced sacks and sack yards lost as part of the new database. You can check out which QB has been sacked the most number of times in a single season or career. To date, this blog hasn't used the sack data too often, so I'm going to make an effort to incorporate this new and valuable information a bit more frequently into my posts.

4 Comments | Posted in History, Statgeekery

There is no greatest team ever

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 7, 2008

Back in May '06, I told Doug about this wacky theory I've got, and he responded by saying it would be a good post on his newly formed blog. I kept putting it on my to-do list because the idea was never timely enough to motivate me to spell it all out. Until now.

As most of our readers know, I'm a Patriots hater. However, after watching the 2007 New England Patriots play five games, I was already proclaiming them arguably the best team in NFL history.

Does that prediction, in retrospect, look smart or stupid? I'm not sure. But Patriots hate aside, I'm thrilled that no one will call this Patriots the best team in history. And do you know why? Because David Tyree made one of the greatest catches you'll ever see, after Eli Manning made one of the sweetest escapes you'll ever see. And because Brandon Jacobs converted a 4th and 1 by a foot. And because Brady's bomb to Moss in the final 30 seconds bounced off his fingertips, and didn't fall into his hands. And because the Patriots didn't run the ball on 1st down at the goal line with under three minutes to go. And because Steve Smith got a great pick from his teammate, and converted a crucial third and 11 in the final minute. And because Plaxico Burress made one great move on Ellis Hobbs. And, finally, because Asante Samuel jumped an inch too low to intercept a Manning pass on the game winning drive.

The point?

28 Comments | Posted in General, History, Insane ideas

The 2007 New York Giants: Worst Super Bowl Champion ever?

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 6, 2008

I was rooting strongly for the Giants in this past Super Bowl and was very impressed with New York's victory. I also know that being considered the worst super bowl champion ever is like being the least impressive gold medalist: all deserve credit and praise for achieving such an incredible feat. Winning on the field is what counts, and who really cares what I have to say, anyway?

However, I was curious to see where New York ranked relative to other champions. Here's a list of all 42 Super Bowl Champions, sorted by record:

38 Comments | Posted in History, Statgeekery

P-f-r draft pages upgraded

Posted by Doug on February 5, 2008

The upgrades are subtle but they make a world of difference. The main thing is that the yearly draft pages now contain the pick number, and the names, positions, and colleges of all the drafted players who didn't appear in the NFL. Last year when I reviewed the ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia, which is the source of most of our new data, I wrote this:

Finally, there is draft information, organized by year and then by team. It’s a bit hard to reconstruct the exact draft order with this format, but it would be hard to reconstruct the teams’ drafts if it were organized the other way.

The sortability of the tables at the newly-redesigned p-f-r allows us to get the best of both worlds. The yearly draft pages by default display the draftees in the order they were drafted, but if you want to see all the Eagles' draft choices, or all the defensive ends, or all the Nittany Lions, you can do so with the click of a button (and maybe a little scrolling).

We also now have a list of all draftees from each college, including the pick numbers and the guys who never played in the NFL.

Click on the draft tab up in the header to get started. (Note that the 2007 draft isn't in there yet. It will be soon.)

Before long --- let's say maybe within a month or six weeks --- I hope to have a querying tool that will let you sift through all this draft data and answer questions like "between 1990 and 2000, what percentage of running backs drafted in the 4th round or later made the pro bowl at least once in their career," or "list all Big Ten defensive ends who were drafted in the first round but never recorded an NFL sack."

4 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft, P-F-R News

My life story, one Super Sunday at a time (revisited)

Posted by Doug on February 4, 2008

Forgive the re-run from last year (with a small amount of new material), but I still claim this is a fun way for football fans to recall the places they've been...

Last night was the 31st Super Bowl I’ve watched. In the span of those 31 years, I’ve lived in twelve different domiciles in six different towns in five different states with eighteen different people (NOTE: last year, it was seventeen. I have a three-month-old daughter now!). I’ve watched Super Bowls in 22 different places. I’ve gone from being a seven-year-old to having a seven-year-old.

I decided to bung down a paragraph about my memories of each Super Bowl, and I’ve found that doing so was a good way of remembering people, places, and times that I hadn’t thought about in awhile. Please add your own memories in the comments.

9 Comments | Posted in Rant

The History of the Black QB: Part I

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 1, 2008

Twenty years ago, yesterday, Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to ever appear in a Super Bowl, and for at least one more season, he'll remain the only one to ever win the big game. The 2007 NFL season -- in which 15 black quarterbacks took a snap -- marked the fortieth consecutive season where at least one black quarterback was in the NFL. In 2007, the Giants became the final franchise to have a black quarterback throw a pass, when Anthony Wright had six attempts for the Giants in week two. This month, I'll be looking at the history of black quarterbacks in the NFL, with posts every Friday.

17 Comments | Posted in History