Wednesday, July 28, 2010

First graphs: Pass locations, rush directions, field goals, and punting

As promised, here's a first look at some of the graphs from Burke's PBP dataset, specifically the 2008 spreadsheet. The first graph here looks at the distribution of pass locations in the 2008 NFL season. Passing up the middle, short or long, occurs less frequently than passing left or right. Passing right occurs more frequently than passing left, due to the fact that most quarterbacks are right-handed. Throwing over your shoulder requires more arm strength and gives the defense more time to adjust and get a good look to get a pick. In short, throwing left is common but is a slightly more risky play for a right-handed quarterback.

Edit: Wow, didn't realize I mixed up the guards and the tackles. Oh well.
This graph shows the distribution of run directions in the 2008 NFL season. This time, running up the middle occurs more than twice as often as any other direction, likely also because it is a "safe" direction to run the ball (behind the protection of the full force of your offensive line). Short yard attempts are usually the least risky plays, but also do not gain as much reward as an outside run if executed correctly.

Here is a graph showing field goals by distance (I used yard line and added 17 yards to each). Few field goals are blocked or no good at the 44-yard distance, but once you go beyond there, the number of successful field goals drop faster and faster.

Here is a graph showing the field goal and punt percentages on 4th down. This shows that the 36 or 37 yard line is approximately the breakeven point in NFL teams deciding whether to punt or to go for a field goal (which is around 53 or 54 yards for field goal distance). What might be more interesting to see in 4th down situations is how often NFL teams tend to go for it on 4th down depending on yard line, relative to punting and field goals, etc.

Next time, I'll take a look at play calls in the 2008 NFL season and see how they stack up against one another (pass vs. rush vs. punt vs. field goal vs. etc.) depending on yard line and on what down it is.

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