The NFL is comprised of players of all different sizes, shapes, and colors. We wanted to take a look at the data and share it for all. We have combined many data sources to find unique metrics such as ethnicity and SPARQ score (a NIKE measure of athleticism). Any improvements or questions, please let us know. This analysis looks at every player who was on an NFL roster during the 2017–18 season.
Let’s take a look at the different positions and how they measure up.
The 40-yard dash is the quintessential measure of speed in the NFL. No surprise that the lineman are the slowest positional group. Cornerbacks are slightly faster than Wide Receivers (averaging a 4.473 vs. a 4.476)
OK, you may be fast, but what if there was a score that combined Speed Power, Agility, Reaction, Quickness (SPARQ). Created by Nike, the SPARQ score is a combination of a number of combine measurables. For reference the higher the number the more athletic you are (154 is the highest recorded SPARQ score). Unsurprisingly, kickers (K) and punters (P) are not the best athletes.
These are the 15-highest player cap hits by position, which is a proxy for positional value. The Quarterback is the most valuable position, and top QBs get paid like it, with an average cap hit of $13 million. When drafting in the NFL, it is a no-no to draft a Running back in the first round. There is an abundance of top-level running talent that teams can find at a fraction of what it would cost to sign any other marquee player. Fullbacks are the only position in the NFL with a cap hit of under $1 million. Many teams don’t carry fullbacks, so it is a supply-demand imbalance.
Running Backs and Linebackers are some of the most physically demanding positions in the NFL and they also have the shortest shelf life (2.7 years). Quarterbacks, Kickers, and Punters stay in the league on average for over 5 years, propped up by stalwarts like Tom Brady (18 seasons) and Adam Vinatieri (22 seasons).
While a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30 is considered obese by the CDC, most NFL players are elite athletes to whom this scale is not applicable. Though it is informative, as BMI is simply a weight to height ratio that most are familiar with. No surprise that the big boys upfront, the Lineman, have the highest BMIs.
The NFL is 66% black, but there are statistically significant differences within the positional groups. Notably, there is a disproportionate dispersion of white players on offense vs. defense, with Centers and Quarterbacks each at 82% and 78%, respectively. There are 0 white Cornerbacks currently in the NFL.
Running Back is the shortest position in the NFL, averaging a height of 5’10. Wide Receivers average a full inch over the height of Defensive Backs (6’1 vs 6’0). The tallest NFL position is the Offensive Tackles at 6’4.
The team graphs are weighted averages by snaps played. So the more a player played, the more he will affect these metrics.
The SPARQ of teams shows that Defense comprises the athletes. Only Philadelphia had a more athletic offense than defense. The Super Bowl champion Eagles athleticism stemmed from the QB (Carson Wentz) and Offensive Line, which was the most athletic line in the league (2nd was the Super Bowl opponent — Patriots). The least athletic offense was the Baltimore Ravens with an average SPARQ score of 95. Minnesota and Atlanta had the most athletic defenses, while Washington was at the other end of the defensive spectrum.
During the 2017 seasons Jacksonville had the largest defensive cap hit of $70 million in total ($39 million on the defensive line!). The Browns whole defense was only a $27 million cap hit. On offense, the multi-year franchise tagged Kirk Cousins cost Washington $24 million, causing the total offense to have the highest cap hit of $68 million. Because Andrew Luck wasn’t technically on the roster for Indianapolis, the Colts only used $33 million on active offensive players (Luck sat out the season, but was a $19 million cap hit).
The 0–16 Browns were by far the youngest team in the league, with the offense and defense averaging under 25 years of age. The Cardinals offense and Panthers defense were the grey beards in the league in 2017.
The leanest defense in the NFL in 2017 was the San Francisco 49ers, while the Ravens played with the most beef. On offense, Buffalo and Oakland had huge offensive lines and big Wide Receivers as they had the bulkiest squads.
New England and San Francisco had the shortest offenses with a plethora of scat backs, slot receivers, and stocky Offensive Linemen. Tall Quarterbacks with taller O-lines have Pittsburgh and the Chargers as the tallest teams. The Chargers also had the shortest defense.
Teams had a median of 68% black players. Oakland had the most black players take snaps at 85%, while Minnesota was on the other end of the spectrum at 49.3%
If you are looking to make it in the NFL, the SEC is for you. With over 300 players on NFL Rosters, about 1 out of every 5 players in the NFL is from the SEC.
Known for their feisty defense, many defensive LSU Tigers have geauxn on to the NFL. If you are a signal caller looking to break into the NFL, USC and Michigan are the Universities with the most NFL QB talent.
Any other stats you want to see? Let us know as we may do a follow-up.