Football is a sport that isn't as analytics driven as others. For the most part, the eye-test can suffice. It's fairly easy to tell if a running back has great vision, can break tackles and/or possess breakaway speed. It's not difficult to separate the good quarterbacks from the bad. Figuring out which guys can win battles up front is an easy process too.
But when searching for small advantages, analytics does appear to have a place in football. ESPN The Magazine put together a feature on the franchises in the major four sports and how or if they use analytics. In the NFL, no team is considered all-in on it. Twelve teams are dubbed skeptics and four doubt the process wholeheartedly.
Nine teams are believers. The Ravens are one of them.
From the feature:
"The Ravens are among the NFL's leaders in analytics, employing two analysts with topflight credentials and training in the business world, academia and applied statistics. What's more, the analytics staff gets significant support and buy-in from the front office and coaching staff.
"Sandy Weil, a Yale and Carnegie Mellon graduate with Wall Street experience, has been the team's director of analytics since 2012. Eugene Shen, a Harvard and MIT grad with years of experience in applying advanced metrics to the financial markets, works directly with the coaching staff."
The Ravens conduct various studies, including one that can ruffle some feathers among more conservative-minded fans. For instance, if the Ravens have the ball on an opponent's 1-yard line, there's a great chance they'll go for it on fourth down. The reasoning is that as long as the Ravens have a good defense, the probability of stopping a team that has to go 99 yards down the field is high. Therefore, if they don't score a touchdown from the 1 on fourth down, they like the chance of getting the ball back without surrendering any points.
While the Ravens may not rely on analytics to evaluate individual players — such as how it's done in baseball — there are certain areas where it can benefit a football team.