PFF WAR: Modeling Player Value in American Football

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Abstract

Eric Eager, Pro Football Focus
George Chahrouri, Pro Football Focus

Abstract

Player valuation is one of the most important problems in all of team sports.  In this paper we use Pro Football Focus (PFF) player grades and participation data to develop a wins above replacement (WAR) model for the National Football League.  We find that PFF WAR at the player level is more stable than traditional, or even advanced, measures of performance, and yields dramatic insights into the value of different positions.  The number of wins a team accrues through its players’ WAR is more stable than other means of measuring team success, such as Pythagorean win totals.  We finish the paper with a discussion of the value of each position in the NFL draft and add nuance to the research suggesting that trading up in the draft is a negative-expected-value move.

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