My High School Teacher Was Right

by A.J. Coltrane

I had a teacher in high school who said that [paraphrasing] “football is only about being fast and big.” That quote has stuck with me all this time..

Yesterday I searched for a graph showing speed vs weight results at the NFL Combine and came up empty. FiveThirtyEight obliged today.


speed vs weight

The image is taken from a twopart piece that documents how the Madden player ratings are created. Unfortunately, Walt Hickey seems to be a complete non-athlete. He can’t throw, kick, or catch. (During tests, he kicked the ball 11 yards, and threw it 20. If you click on part two of the piece you can see his sad “kicking and throwing motions”.) I would have preferred that they at least tested a reasonably competent amateur, like a guy in his 20’s who was nothing special, but good enough to start at linebacker at a medium-sized high school (or something). Anyone closer to average might have provided more informative results.

Still, the articles are an interesting snapshot of the process of how the ratings are assigned.

The graph offers three takeaways:

1.  Note the Quarterback position. (purple) They’re just a little slower and lighter than everyone else.

2.  The offensive and defensive linemen cluster into two groups. The lighter group can run a little bit. The heavier group, not so much.

3.  A regression line wouldn’t wind up quite linear — it tails downward towards the right-hand end. Evidently there’s a limit to how much weight the human body can carry and still retain any mobility.

I didn’t quite believe Mr. Marsh in high school. Now I believe he had a point.

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