Tim Chou, a football analyst who graduated from Purdue with a major in engineering and has coached for Inglewood High, Torrance High and Golden West Junior College in Huntington Beach, talked to Bill Thill’s Sports Research class Friday about comparing the value of NFL players.
Chou, who spoke at the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, gave a presentation on “Player Value in the NFL” during the 2013 regular season to the 14-student class.
“Analytics is a new field for football,” said Chou, who never played competitive football and admittedly only gained an interest in coaching through playing the “Madden NFL” video game franchise during his college days. “A lot of our principles are from baseball and basketball, which are so far ahead analytically.”
Chou discussed the difficulties of comparing the value of NFL players due to different team strategies, strength of schedules, team vs. player success, and other variables between players.
“The not-so-fun part is grabbing data and cleaning it,” Chou said about the arduous process of transporting data from Spotrac.com to Microsoft Excel. “You have to get through that boring, grunt part to get to the good stuff.”
Eventually, with the help of analytics website “Football Outsiders,” which Chou revered as a “very metrics-driven” company, he presented his findings to the class.
Defensively, Chou was surprised to find that linebackers and safeties tend to be paid more in 3-4 defensive schemes, while cornerbacks and defensive linemen were paid more in 4-3 schemes.
“I had no explanation for this,” said Chou, who said that he expected cornerbacks to be paid heavily in 3-4 schemes due to the likelihood of more man coverage being played because of blitzing linebackers. “A lot of people [in charge of teams] are looking at sacks.”
Offensively, Chou was more confident in his results, as quarterbacks and left tackles were consistently the highest paid positions on that side of the ball.
“I don’t want to pay you for what you did last year; I’ll pay you for what you’re going to do,” Chou said.
Members of the class, consisting entirely of juniors and seniors, will fly to Boston in late February for the 2015 edition of the Sloan conference, which begins on Feb. 27.
“Absorb as much as you can,” Chou said.
The conference website can be seen here: