If you watched the NFL season opener on Wednesday night, you may have caught the segment in the first half that showed Hakeem Nicks’s catch in the Super Bowl last year. They broke down each element of the play—player positions on the field, how far Manning was from Nicks when he let go of the ball, how hard Manning threw the ball, how fast Nicks was running, how far the defender was from Nicks when he caught the ball, and I’m sure there were many more categories that could have been included.
This is really nothing new, ESPN has been doing it for years.
You may have also seen how basketball and baseball are on the verge of exploding stat-wise and there is no reason why football should be that far behind. But why we’re here is something a lot more important than scouts using these stats to analyze every aspect of a player’s game.
It’s actually video games.
It will get to the point where everything a player on the field does will be recorded and monitored, and not so they can watch it in the film room. It will be converted into numbers and be gobbled up by stat geeks.
Do wide receivers maintain their speed the whole game? Can a running back consistently break tackles when a defender coming at a certain speed hits them from a certain angle? Can a quarterback rifle a pass into a receiver’s arms twelve yards away when a defender is within three yards of him?
The numbers will pile up. Sabermetrics are still young in baseball and have a ton of new stats to add, but it has even more room to run rampant in football.
But I said we’re here for the video games.
These figures will eventually make their way online and more into the mainstream as they are easier to acquire. I suspect serious fantasy sport players will be using them quite a bit.
But soon after that, they will become the part of Madden that you don’t see. That is, the ranking system that determines how fast or strong a player is. Only instead of some guy determining that James Harrison is this good or Peyton Manning is that fast (er, slow) it will come directly from real game situations.
A decade or two from now, people might as well start betting on simulations.