Exploring FTN Data: Playmaker Score

FTN's Brett Whitefield uses FTN Data to introduce Playmaker Score, a way to quantify a pass-catcher's contributions around the game.

Jul 06, 2021, 2:10 PM EDT

Playmaker Score: A weighted composite score, normalized on a scale of 0-100, which quantifies a pass-catcher’s ability to make extraordinary plays relative to opportunity. Taken into account are explosive plays, deep receptions, work after the catch, created receptions and separation. Traditional stats like first downs, touchdowns and drops also factor into the score slightly.

Introducing our newly developed stat, “Playmaker Score.” I am very excited to unveil this to the world as it is my baby. My cohorts and I have been developing it for quite some time. This stat is designed to tell a story of a wide receiver's performance beyond just volume. We tested and adjusted the formula and the weighting of each metric in order to include all play styles and transcend offensive scheme. We didn’t want just one type of pass-catcher dominating the stat while at the same time wanted to emphasize players that do multiple things well. While no stat or metric paints a perfect picture -- this one included -- we feel pretty good about this and its ability to tell the story. Let's take a look at the top five from 2020 (min 75 opportunities). Spoiler alert: A.J. Brown is good.

Scale:

0-39 = Poor to below average
40-59 = Average to above average
60-79 = Good to very good
80-100 = Elite to HOF playmaking

  1. A.J. Brown (83.4): In the development stage of this stat, A.J. Brown’s absurd 2019 and 2020 seasons gave us fits trying to find a scale that worked. Brown’s score here shows just how good he really is. He does just about everything -- generating separation, forcing missed tackles, making absurd catches, racking up explosive and deep receptions and constantly producing positive plays. Every time he touches the ball there is the potential for something special to happen.
  2. Justin Jefferson (80.3): Jefferson’s rookie season put him in elite territory right out of the gate. He excelled with making acrobatic catches and was an explosive play waiting to happen. Jefferson made the most of his 125 targets in 2020.
  3. Travis Kelce (76.6): Despite seeing absurd volume in 2020 with 145 targets, Kelce made the most of it, leading the NFL in explosive plays with 33, which factors largely in his score. Per usual Kelce created positive plays at an insane rate and was an absolute demon after the catch, especially for a tight end. Kelce was the only tight end to rank inside the top-20 in 2020.
  4. Will Fuller (76.6): Fuller barely made the cutoff due to lower volume, but the Fuller we saw in 2020 was pretty great. He transformed his game a bit from being a deep-threat-only player to a guy capable of being a go-to receiver who could frequently move the chains and get in the end zone. He also did a great job limiting his drops.
  5. Tyreek Hill (75.6): The second player from the prolific Chiefs offense. Hill is one of the rare players in the NFL who can take it to the house on any given play whether a deep ball through the air or via run after the catch. In 2020 he ranked second in both forced missed tackles among WRs (18) and deep receptions (13).

Follow along the whole Exploring FTN DATA series here