NFL Wideout Valuation

If you’re into the game, you probably have a rough idea about how the National Football League assigns values to its players. A little analysis provides unexpected insights.

Each dot in A and B denotes one of 106 NFL wide receivers in 2019. A’s plane shows the value the league assigns to them. It’s a function of their league years, receptions per game, and draft round (P-values of 7.70E-17, 5.84E-08, 0.02%, respectively, and 6.61E-25 for the entire equation, with an adjusted R^2 of 66.7%). Here, we’ve set the round to 1, years to 4, and receptions per game to 3.04. For those valued features, the NFL awards a wideout with $5 million/year.

B shows us how others can get the same. If we keep league years at 4, we find that if we increase the receptions to 6.09, a 3rd-round wideout (note lower plane) can get as much as a 1st-rounder.

That’s twice the receptions for the same salary.

Knowing this informs decisions. If too-high valuations for 1st-rounders come from long contracts too often, perhaps GMs should seek shorter terms. If a 3rd-rounder receives an extended period offer at a low rate but knows he can perform, maybe he should negotiate for bonuses for his excellent work.

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