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Analyzing the correlation between positional productivity and winning percentage in the NFL

Quarterback is the most important position in football. Just about everyone can agree on that.

Beyond the quarterback position, the totem pole of positional importance in the NFL is subjective and lacks a firmly agreed upon order. There is no perfect consensus on which positions are the most and least important outside of quarterback being king.

I figured it was time to run the numbers and bring some clarity to the topic of positional importance. Which non-quarterback position’s productivity aligns the closest with winning and losing? Which positions do not seem to affect winning and losing as much as the rest?

Using data from all 32 teams in the 2020 regular season, I calculated the correlation between winning percentage and performance quality for every position.

Frankly, the results were extremely surprising. Positions I deemed among the most important had some of the lowest correlations with winning percentages, whereas positions I deemed relatively unimportant ranked near the top of the list.

My perception of positional value has certainly changed a bit after seeing how these numbers came out.


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Michael Nania is the best analytical New York Jets mind in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania@jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania

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Psi
Member
Psi

These stats imply two major trends 1) Winning QBs are likely getting the ball out faster thus lessening the impact of the Edge players and stressing the CBs more. Good CBs (likely the man to man types) negate that advantage a bit. Bad CBs get u beat. 2) Good DTs are likely to un-nerve the quick timing QBs more than Edge players – who have further to go to get to the QBs, plus DTs are more likely to affect the running game more. LBs and S are most negatively affected by quick passing and pass happy offenses. It likely… Read more »

davesro34
Member
davesro34

Nice article, although it’s hard to take too much concrete from it. It would be interesting to see how much this analysis would vary year over year, or maybe how it would look averaged over several years. That might factor out some of the noise from team schedules and certain position groups happening to be correlated with each other in a given year.

revis24_
Member
revis24_

Funny because Edge, TE, Guard, and LBer are our weaker positions. If the CBs can surprise along with good play from Wilson we could surprise people this year.

abagchee
Member
abagchee

CB is our weakest position