NFL teams are about to be bombarded with data that could change the way they scout opponents and evaluate free agents.
The NFL's Competition Committee recently signed off on a plan to release in-game player-tracking data on every NFL player to all 32 teams, and it's anticipated the league will begin releasing the data this spring, people with knowledge of the plan told NFL.com on Thursday. These people spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan had not yet been communicated to clubs, which had access to data only on their own players the past two seasons. The plan is to send league-wide data from 2016 and '17 to every team beginning in mid-April, and teams will receive the league-wide data on a weekly basis during the 2018 season, according to these sources.
While some NFL coaches and scouts remain skeptical of the value, access to league-wide data has "massive scouting potential," said an analyst for one NFL team that has been using the data. "More new metrics. Understanding if certain fields are slower or faster. Fatigue and injury prevention. Seeing which players are really explosive but maybe don't make plays because the scheme is bad."
The NFL has gathered the data since 2014 through tiny sensors in players' shoulder pads -- a partnership with Zebra Technologies that also generates the Next Gen Stats that networks have integrated into broadcasts.
Some teams have dedicated more resources to analyzing the data than others, and thus figure to get far more use out of the league-wide data. That has led to pushback in recent years from less-invested clubs about distributing any data because of the potential competitive impact. But after the Competition Committee's approval, the full data release is expected to proceed this year.
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