Reviewing 2014: Scrimmage participation by playing position

This is another in a short series of article in which player participation data from the 2014 season is reviewed from various aspects. This article reviews information regarding 2014 scrimmage play participation by (1) draft round and (2) career longevity, and also comments on any significant trends over the past few years. Trends are reviewed back only to the 2012 season as that is the starting point for the collection of scrimmage play information. The source of information for this analysis is the weekly “Game Book” published by the NFL.

Scrimmage Participation Data by Draft Round

The purpose of this analysis is to determine whether certain positions are more reliant on earlier round picks. This could occur because certain positions (e.g., Quarterback) are more valuable than others or because certain positions are more difficult to evaluate than others.

To put this review into the proper context here is the percentage of scrimmage plays by draft round for the past three seasons:

As can be seen the change from year to year has been relatively minor. Probably the only trend worthy of comment is the increase in scrimmage play participation by undrafted free agents. This has been largely offset by a decrease in participation by first round choices. There is no apparent reason for this shift and it looks like more of a blip than a major trend.

This information was then reviewed to determine where the most significant differences by playing position occurred. As you can see, there was little overall change from 2013 to 2014. Following is a discussion by playing position.

Quarterbacks

  • The highest percentage of scrimmage plays from first round draft choices is at quarterback, with the percentage more than double the average (52.1% in 2014 and 53.8% in 2013).
  • Quarterbacks also have a much higher percentage than the average and compared to other positions for the first three rounds
    • 79% of scrimmage plays are by players taken in the first three rounds (81% in 2013)
    • Next highest is wide receivers at 59%
    • Average of all positions is 54% (55% in 2013)
  • Quarterbacks had the lowest percentage of scrimmage plays by undrafted free agents
    • 9% of scrimmage plays are by undrafted free agents (10% in 2013)
    • Defensive linemen are next lowest at 14%
    • Average of all positions is 18%

Running Backs

  • The percentage of scrimmage plays from first round choices is higher only than tight ends
    • Slightly more than 14% were from first round running backs (21% in 2013)
    • Average for all position is over 24%
    • A decline in the drafting of first round running backs is the probable culprit here
  • There were a higher percentage of scrimmage plays by undrafted free agents for all positions except fullback (which are excluded from this article due to the limited activity by fullbacks)
    • Over 23% of scrimmage plays were from running backs (20.5% in 2013)
    • 18% was the average for all positions
  • There was a higher percentage of scrimmage plays by 2nd round running backs than any other position
    • Almost 20% by running backs (21% in 2013) versus 16.5% for all positions

Wide Receivers

  • The percentage of scrimmage plays by 1st round selections is about average
    • 2013 was significantly below average with 19% for wide receivers versus 25% average for all positions)
    • Influx of high quality first round receivers in 2014 caused the increase
  • The percentage of scrimmage plays by 2nd round selections were above average and lower only than running backs
    • 18.7% for WRs, 19.6% for RBs and 16.5% overall (17% in 2013)
  • Excluding QBs, WRs taken in the first three rounds have the highest percentage of plays from scrimmage at 59.4% (versus average for all positions of 53.9%), an increase from 55% in 2013
  • Excluding QBs, WRs taken in round four and five had the lowest percentage of plays from scrimmage
    • 11.8% for WRs, 3.7% for QBs, 17.3% for all positions (15% in 2013)

Tight Ends

  • TEs has the lowest percentage of scrimmage plays by first round selections at 13.5% (18% in 2013)
    • Average was 24.4%
    • Largely due to limited number of TEs drafted in the first round
  • TEs had the highest percentage of scrimmage plays from round four through six selections
    • 32.5% versus average of 22.9% for all positions (31% in 2013)
  • Participation by UDFA TEs is slightly higher than the average


Offensive Line

  • Offensive linemen were pretty close to the average in all rounds
  • The percentage of scrimmage plays from undrafted free agents are a little lower than average for all positions
    • 17.0% for offensive linemen and 17.9% for all positions
    • Probably due to more lineman being drafted

Defensive Line

  • Defensive linemen trail only QBs in the percentage of scrimmage plays from 1st round selections
    • 27.8% for defensive lineman versus 24.4% for all positions
  • Defensive linemen are ahead of only QBs in the percentage of scrimmage plays from undrafted free agents
    • 14.0% for defensive linemen versus 17.9 average for all positions


Linebackers

The percentage of scrimmage plays from linebackers drafted in the first round are lower than the average of all positions
  • 22.2% versus 24.4% (20.9% in 2013)
  • The percentage of scrimmage plays from linebackers is pretty consistent with the average for all positions in rounds 2 through 7
  • The percentage of scrimmage plays from undrafted free agents is lower only than fullbacks and running backs
    • 21.7% versus 17.9% for all positions (23.5% in 2013)

  • Cornerbacks

    • The percentage of scrimmage plays from corners drafted in rounds two through four are considerably below the average
      • 31.4% for corners versus 40.1% for all positions (36.6% in 2013)
    • The percentage of scrimmage plays from corners drafted in rounds five through seven are better than average
      • 27.5% for corners versus 17.7% for all positions (23.5% in 2013)
    • The percentage of scrimmage plays from undrafted free agents is somewhat lower than the average for all positions
      • 16.9% vs. 17.9% for all positions (14.0% in 2013)

    Safeties

    • The percentage of scrimmage plays from 1st round safeties is a little lower than the average
      • 22.7% for safeties versus 24.4% for all positions (21.3% in 2013)
      • Probably due to fewer safeties drafted in the first round
    • The percentage of scrimmage plays from undrafted free agents is lower only than linebackers, running backs and fullbacks
      • 19.9% for safeties versus 17.9% for all positions (21.4% in 2013)

    Send a request by email (to draftmetrics@gmail.com) if you would like full information by playing position.

    Scrimmage Participation Data by Career Longevity

    This data measures scrimmage participation by the number of years a player has been in the league. The principal focus is on which positions contribute early in a player’s career and which positions “burn out” the quickest.

    Here are the overall percentages of scrimmage participation by years in the NFL:

    Highlights regarding player career longevity follow:

    Highest Percentage of Scrimmage Plays from Rookies

    • Running Backs 16.5%
    • Wide Receivers 15.0%
    • Offensive Linemen 14.9%

    Lowest Percentage of Scrimmage Plays from Rookies

    • Defensive Linemen 6.5%
    • Safeties 6.8%
    • Tight Ends 10.1%

    Highest Percentage of Scrimmage Plays from Players in First Two Seasons

    • Running Backs 34.2%
    • Tight Ends 29.6%
    • Linebackers 28.1%

    Lowest Percentage of Scrimmage Plays from Players in First Two Seasons

    • Quarterbacks 16.0%
    • Defensive Linemen 17.4%
    • Safeties 23.7%

    Highest Percentage of Scrimmage Plays from Players in Seasons Seven and After

    • Quarterbacks 43.7%
    • Defensive Lineman 23.9%
    • Safeties 23.4%

    Lowest Percentage of Scrimmage Plays from Players in Seasons Seven and After

    • Running Backs 12.7%
    • Corner Backs 17.5%
    • Linebacker 18.4%

    There are no real surprises here and the following conclusions can be reached:

    • Inexperienced running backs tend to start early and they are useful for a relatively short time
    • Defensive linemen tend not to start as rookies
    • Quarterbacks take longer to start but, for successful players, they tend to last longer
    • Safeties have lengthier careers than most positions, possibly indicating that the mental aspects of the position may be relatively more important than the physical aspects

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