By: Andrew Dresner
Imagine being immersed in an NFL football game when the game is in a timeout or experiencing a stoppage in play. I am not talking about the captivating commercials. Now, because of big data collection, you will have nearly unlimited access to videos and statistics, purely customizable to the game you are currently watching. This is not just looking up a player’s height and weight on Wikipedia, but now you’ll have access to the NFL Vision Database. While this is a feature that will be available for a fee, this is a one stop shop for die-hard football fans as well as fantasy football owners to further immerse themselves in football each week. Within this NFL Vision Database you will have access to video clips of each recorded statistic (Mind Blowing Stats), tagged to the player and sortable by variables such as playing surface, stadium, and weather condition.
In addition to fan experience, the NFL intends for this technology to trickle down to inform personnel and coaching decisions. The NFL is eager to use this big data collection to aid in making smarter scouting decisions and make data-driven personnel decisions, as well as to gather information on opposing teams. The scouting department will use information gathered from a prospect’s freshman year in college. Predicting the potential success of a recruit requires combining many different data sets: characteristics of previous players, both successful and unsuccessful, those who have spent time in the league, metrics from the NFL combine, where athletes perform on field agility tests, and college metrics, to represent the pool of potential talent. Simply put, the more metrics scouts can incorporate, the better understanding they have of a prospect. At the end of the day, each NFL executive or scout are trying to predict the future success of a prospect and the more information they have to draw from the better. Similarly, the effect of data can be seen already on the sidelines of each NFL team. For this past NFL season each team used Microsoft tablets for in-game adjustments. A tablet will be used to display down and distance tendencies, as well as take a pre- and post-snap pictures of the opposing offenses or defenses. Lastly, each in-game analysis can be customized to show the data that each particular coach would like to see. For example, if Bill Belichick wants to know how many times they ran the ball to the right side with Shane Vareen, he can organize his technology to reveal those clips.
Finally it’s important to note that the NFL has been using big data for many years, but only recently have the NFL and its executives decided to create an independent platform for all 32 teams to gain access to it. The future of this technology is very exciting. In as soon as next year, the NFL would like to focus this technology on player safety as well as on-field and sideline technology to eliminate the amount of game-changing blown calls. This data has the ability to increase the popularity of the game to an even higher level than where we are at today.