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The value of embracing data analytics

John Harbaugh News Conference

Ravens general manager in waiting Eric DeCosta is ready to embrace data analytics when he takes over the helm. While not an entirely revolutionary approach, in a data-driven world professional sports have lagged behind in collecting, analyzing and extracting insights from data.

In February, the NFL’s Competition Committee approved a plan that will give every team access to in-game player-tracking data for players on all 32 rosters, not just data for their own players. For the past two seasons teams have been given information on their franchise’s personnel. In April, Baltimore and the rest of the league can expect to receive league-wide historical data from the 2016-2017 seasons. Moving forward, league-wide data will be distributed on a weekly basis starting next season.

While some teams have been more proactive in data analytics than others, this change in data distribution forces every team to get on board or lose an even greater edge to early adopters of the practice. Eric DeCosta’s commitment to leveraging data-rich player information is comforting for the Ravens. As coaching staffs and front offices around the NFL grow younger, the race to understand and convert player data into meaningful game planning will grow.

Talent evaluation is still very much an inexact science, but as sensors and wearables become more advanced, scouts and general managers will be armed with more useful and enriching sources of information to compile their draft boards, evaluate free agents and make rosters decisions.