What does success look like?
Yeah, there’s that, any excuse to put that picture in. That’s the overall success, the aim for the season. Weekly success? Winning the game. Nothing else matters, right? An ugly win against the Patriots counts just as much as a beat down of the Ravens at the end of the day. Maybe seeding implications give some wins more weight than others but if you get enough of them then seeding doesn’t really matter. Just focus on this week, win the game that you’re playing. How many times have you heard coaches and players repeat this mantra?
So how do you achieve this weekly success? Score more points than the opposition! Easy, right?
Well, it wasn’t easy this week. The first half of the game the Chiefs moved the ball up and down the field pretty much at will. The second half they were stuck in the mud for large portions. Enough to give the Raiders a lead that even Patrick Mahomes couldn’t overcome.
This week I’ve started to look a bit deeper into NFL stats, I’m still learning but stick with me here. NFL Stats has a definition for the “Success” of a play.
On 1st down–a gain of 4 or more yards;
On 2nd down–a gain that at least halved the distance to go;
On 3rd down–a conversion for a new set of downs.
Seems reasonable doesn’t it? NFL Stats also has another couple of interesting numbers.
Expected Points Added (EPA) is how many more points you should expect to get after the result of a particular play. If it’s 1st and 10 at your own 25 and you have a 3 yard run, you aren’t that much more likely to add points from this drive so your EPA doesn’t go up much. If it’s 1st and 10 at the opposition 45 and you pass for 40 yards then your chances of scoring go up significantly and your EPA jumps quite a bit.
Win Probability Added (WPA) is how much more or less likely you are to win the game after the result of a particular play.
Coaches appear to be overly focused on play-level success (represented by Success Rate) and not focused enough on drive-level (represented by EPA) and game-level success (represented by WPA). They’ll spend late nights in the film room dissecting every possible match-up for the slightest advantage on a single play, but they’ll ignore the numbers that suggest they pass more or go for it on 4th down. They’re looking down at the sport from a 10-foot ladder when they should also be looking at it from the 10,000-foot level.
So who gives the Chiefs the best chances of winning? Lets look at the run game first
I set the minimum carries at 5 here, so at least we’re looking at players who run the ball on a reasonably regular basis.
The first thing that stands out is the 3 primary running backs all have about the same Success Rate, so if Andy is looking at who carries the ball each play, it hasn’t made a great deal of difference to the success of a play as to who it was.
The second thing that stood out to me is that when the 3 primary running backs run the ball we are LESS likely to score points from that drive. I’ll have a look at some point to see how that stacks up against the rest of the league but that doesn’t strike me as ideal.
Lastly, the player that has increased the chances of winning the game the most is Darwin Thompson. He’s made key plays on the few times he has been used. Clyde Edwards-Helaire running the ball has no effect on the chances of winning the game…
So what about the pass game? I set receptions to 10 or more otherwise Byron Pringle and Eric Fisher become our leading weapons!
Hands up if you thought our No 1 receiver in all categories would be Mecole Hardman?!
I was blown away by this, I’d consider Hardman an ok player but 71% of his receptions are considered a success. Hill and Kelce are slightly better than 50/50, Watkins is reliable too at a 69% Success Rate.
What about EPA? Every time Hardman catches the ball you’re expecting 1 more point from that drive. Hill is slightly less but similar. These are the 2 biggest difference makers to your chances of scoring points.
Who gives you the best chance of winning? Hardman again slightly better than Hill. Not wanting to bash Clyde the Glide but in the passing game he has no effect on your chances of winning the game too.
So if you want to win the game, give Mecole the ball. Not what I was expecting to be writing here!