NFL teams will begin receiving in-game tracking data on every player in the league beginning this spring, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com.
Club have been seeing data on their own players since 2014, but access to other teams’ players had not yet been available. However, the NFL’s Compensation Committee recently agreed to a proposal allowing every team to collect data on every player, per Pelissero. Clubs will be sent information from the 2016-17 campaigns in mid-April, and will subsequently receive data on a weekly basis during the 2018 season.
Zebra Technologies collects tracking information through sensors placed in players’ shoulder pads, per Pelissero, who says one NFL analyst believes the data could have “massive scouting potential.” “More new metrics,” said the analyst. “Understanding if certain fields are slower or faster. Fatigue and injury prevention. Seeing which players are really explosive but maybe don’t make plays because the scheme is bad.”
As Pelissero notes, some clubs have placed an increased importance on studying tracking data and hiring analysts to further delve into the information. Those teams will presumably have a leg up when the data is released on a league-wide scale, while clubs that haven’t invested in analytics have registered concern over the program. In 2016, for example, Kevin Clark of the Ringer discussed the activities of Zebra Technologies, and Panthers head coach Ron Rivera didn’t sound amenable to increasing data being made available.
“I want to get beat on the field. I don’t want to get beat because someone used a tool or technology — that is not coaching at that point,” Rivera said. “I work all week, I’m preparing and kicking your ass. All of the sudden you see a piece of live video and you figure out, ‘Oh crap, that’s what he’s doing.’ And how fair is that?”
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.