Cleveland Browns: 3 keys to understanding the use of analytics
By Joel W. Cade
The Browns drafted six defensive players in this year’s draft. Of the six, four were drafted as a part of the front seven (linemen and linebackers). Was there a common thread that links these four players together? Was there a common metric or KPI that led the Browns to these players?
The one identifiable statistic that links all of these players together is the quarterback sack. The Browns used the sack as a key performance indicator when choosing players because they are looking to pressure the quarterback. Therefore, it would make sense to draft players who have done it before. Or at least that is what the Browns are banking on.
Between the four interior players drafted there were a combined 53 sacks (using 2014 numbers for Scooby Wright). Emmanuel Ogbah had 13 sacks, Carl Nassib had 15.5, Joe Schobert had 9.5 sacks and Scooby Wright III had 15 sacks in 2014. The sack indicates a high level of performance in an area the Browns were looking to improve.
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However, even if the KPI indicates the player has a chance to be successful, that does not mean the Browns should draft him. Another part of the Browns metric shines through when the players’ backgrounds are investigated. All four of these players showed an ability to overcome great odds to be successful.
Nassib and Schobert were walk-ons at their schools. Wright was a two-star athlete with only one offer out of high school. Ogbah’s family moved to the United States from Nigeria when he was 9 years old, meaning he had to learn a new way of life at a very young age.
The Browns metric included both sacks as a KPI and emphasized perseverance as a character trait for success in the NFL. The last question was if these players fit the scheme.
The final metric serves to find players that fit the scheme established by Horton. This simple point cannot be overstated as the players drafted fit what the Browns hope to accomplish on defense.
The Browns have utilized a combination of traditional football scouting methods along with analytics to develop their roster through the draft. The traditional role has been to identify scheme and intangibles that lead to on-field success. The analytical role was to identity KPIs that translate into success on the NFL level.
By clearly defining these roles, the Browns have found a way to marry traditional football with cutting edge analytical analysis. The Browns have lived up to the spirit of their namesake by approaching a traditional game in a non-traditional way.
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And doing so has placed the Browns back into the familiar position as one of the leagues leaders in innovation. Somewhere, Paul Brown would be proud.