Every NFL player wears sensors on his shoulder pads in every game, and those sensors track every move a player makes, resulting in a treasure trove of data: Which player runs the fastest? Which player slows down as the game goes on? Which cornerback sticks the closest to the wide receiver he’s covering? Which defensive lineman gets across the line of scrimmage most often?
The problem is that the NFL has been stingy with the data: Teams are given information about their own players, but not about players on other teams. So tracking data has been of limited use for scouting opponents or making decisions about free agent signings.
That’s all about to change: Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports that league-wide tracking data from 2016 and 2017 will be distributed to every team in April. And starting during the 2018 season, teams will receive league-wide tracking data every week.
Teams differ on how much importance they place on tracking data. Some view it as a potential game changer. Others think it doesn’t provide much information that they don’t already know based on their own scouting and tape study. Now that every team is getting access to every other team’s data, we’ll find out if the teams that take it seriously get significant advantages from it.
Unfortunately, the NFL has no plans to make the data available to the general public. Plenty of hard-core fans would love to see that kind of data, but the league, other than occasionally picking out an interesting “Next-Gen Stat” to publish, will still keep the data under wraps.