Unlocking the Potential of Special Teams Data: New Tools and Techniques for Analysis
Whether it's a game-winning field goal, a well-executed kickoff return for a touchdown, or a punt that pins the opposing team deep in their own territory, Special Teams can have a significant impact on the game of Football. In spite of their importance, the Special Teams unit is often overlooked in the world of Statistical Analysis.
Within this article, I would like to review my methods of analysis and discuss the new techniques I will employ in the future to achieve a higher quality of analysis.
Firstly, I would like to address Kickers. I believe that I've accurately determined which statistics are important when evaluating the performance of a professional Kicker; Field goals made, field goal percentage, PAT percentage, field goal distances, and their longest field goal.
Moving forward, I would like to start documenting misses as a whole, as knowing exactly how many kicks (field goals and PATs) a kicker has missed will allow us to determine how reliable a kicker is down the stretch. I will also begin to track the number of Game-Winners a kicker has attempted throughout the season. This will allow us to evaluate a "Clutch" factor in kickers, or how well a kicker performs under extreme pressure, which is obviously helpful in determining how good a given kicker is.
Punters are often considered one of the most difficult positions to evaluate in Football. This being said, I have come to understand the importance of careful statistical analysis in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of a punter's performance. Previously, I've been tracking statistics such as average yards per punt, net yardages, punts inside the 20, and the 10 yard line, and Punts over 50 yards. These statistics provided a solid foundation for evaluating a punter's performance, but I believe that there is still room for improvement.
Moving forward, I plan on making some changes to the statistics I track in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of a punter's performance. I plan to focus on the number of punts landing inside the 10 yard line rather than the percentage, as this will provide a clearer picture of how often a punter is able to place the ball in this particular area of the field. I will, however, begin to track the percentage of punts that travel over 50 yards, as this will provide insight into a punter's leg strength. One of the more interesting statistics I plan on tracking in the future is fair catches. When a punt is being returned, a Returner has the option of a fair catch, and usually does so, when they do not believe they have an opportunity to return the punt. This is can be due to a multitude of reasons, the most common being that the Coverage team has managed to get their Gunners to the Returner very quickly. Tracking the fair catch statistic will allow us to determine a rough estimate of a Punter's average hang time, which is a statistic I have been unable to track until now.
The following section will be discussing a major announcement coming in 2023! I am going to begin a complete Special Teams Power Rankings. This means incorporating not only Field Goals and Punts, but also Kickoffs, Returns, and Coverage Teams.
Kickoffs are a significant part of Football and directly influence your opponent's starting field position, which in turn can have a significant effect on the outcome of any given game. In order to accurately evaluate the performance of a kickoff specialist, I plan to track the following statistics; the number of Kickoffs, the average yards per Kickoff, the number of touchbacks (when the ball is kicked into the endzone), and Onside Kick Attempts. These statistics encapsulate what I believe to be important when evaluating Kickoff specialists and will give us a better understanding of their performance, and in turn, identify the strongest performers in the league.
What is one of the most exciting parts of Football? The Return Game. The thrill of watching a returner take one to the house is unmatched. Returners are a critical part of the Special Teams Unit and it is essential to evaluate their performance accurately. I intend to track several key statistics including the number of returns and average yardage gained for both Kickoff and Punt Returners. In addition to these base-level statistics, I will also be tracking Return Touchdowns, Longest Returns, and Returns over 40 yards. These statistics will allow us to identify the most efficient and consistent returners throughout the league.
Who do you look to when Returners are running mad? Your Coverage Team. The lesser-known special teams unit, and quite possibly the least covered aspect of the sport. These are the guys who play football for, let's face it, a position on the roster. They are constantly trying to prove their worth to the club and often play with an increased level of passion for the sport.
To cover the Coverage Unit, I will be judging them as a whole, while keeping an eye out for breakout players throughout the league. Punt/Kickoff Return Yards Allowed will be a major statistic when evaluating the group's ability to limit the above-mentioned stars. In addition to this, I plan on documenting several other interesting statistics, such as Return Touchdowns Allowed, Penalties Accrued, Blocked Kicks, Recoveries, and the Total Number of Special Team Tackles. This will allow us to evaluate the teams' aggressiveness and overall level of teamwork.
In conclusion, we have reviewed the current methods of statistical analysis used to evaluate the performance of special teams players in Giridion Football and also discussed new techniques that will be employed in the future to achieve a higher quality of analysis. The new methods, such as documenting misses, game-winners, and fair catching, as well as introducing a more complete "Special Teams Power Rankings" that include kickoffs, returns, and coverage teams will provide a more accurate and comprehensive evaluation of Special Teams' performance as a whole. This Power Ranking will also serve as a guide for not only fans but coaches and players as well, to better understand the importance of special teams in the game of football. With all that said, I am confident that I will be able to provide you, the reader, with a more interesting, accurate, and insightful breakdown of all things Special Teams in '23.
Thank you for reading and I look forward to your feedback. If you are at all interested in how I became interested in the statistical analysis of football, please check out this article regarding the subject.