How to Build an NFL Team

Peyton Manning is the most valuable player in football according to the research.

Peyton Manning is the most valuable player in football according to the research.

WARNING: Stats heavy, lots of numbers and math:

How do you build the perfect football team?  It’s a complicated, but by using what I have learned in a few statistics classes and Madden ratings I think I might be onto something…

Madden ratings are not perfect but they are the only numerical value assigned to player talent.  I created a spread sheet of every NFL teams’ wins alongside their ratings at each position.  I then took each position and found its correlation to the amount of total wins a team has over the course of a season. Here’s what I found:

Position correlation to wins:

  1. QB (.53)
  2. C (.36)
  3. WR (.29)
  4. CB (.27)
  5. TE (.26)
  6. DE (.24)
  7. LB (.11)
  8. DT (.03)
  9. RB (-.09)
  10. 10.  S (-.17)
  11. 11.  T (-.23)
Madden ratings may not be perfect but they are the only quantifiable statistic for talent.

Madden ratings may not be perfect but they are the only quantifiable statistic for talent.

It’s not a surprise that quarterback is the most closely tied to a team’s success but the numbers do bring up some questions.  Why are the top 3 most important positions on offense if defense wins championships, and how is tackle the least important position even to the point where it hurts a team to have a good one?

After some further thought it starts to make sense.  With all the new safety rules in the NFL defense has become less important because all the penalties effect good defenses more then bad ones.  The added safety rules take away some of the intimidation factor that good defenses had in the past. More importantly, often times the only way an offense can move the ball on a good defense are through penalties. A bad defense is going to give up yards weather they are penalized or not.

The negative correlation for tackles is a little more difficult to understand.  The NFL has a salary cap, so teams have to distribute their money throughout their roster.  Tackles, especially left tackles, are some of the highest paid players on the field.  Good left tackles make the most money so the amount of money the team has left for the rest of the roster is lower resulting in a weaker roster.   Unlike other highly paid positions like quarterback, the value that a left tackle provides is not enough to offset the cost.

Max Unger is one of the top 5 centers in the NFL.

Max Unger is one of the top 5 centers in the NFL.

After getting the correlations I created an optimal rating for each position for each team.  I then added up all the instances that a team was below the optimal rating to create “distance from optimal” (DFO) score. If a team was above the optimal level, no extra points were rewarded.

Now you’re probably thinking,” why not just add up the Madden Rankings?”  The correlation from total madden rankings to wins was .41 which means there is a 97.5% certainty level that the total rankings affect wins.  DFO score had a -.59 correlation to wins, which means with 99.5% certainty the lower the DFO, the better the team.

The reason why DFO works better is because of the old adage “you’re only as good as your weakest player.”  By using DFO teams are penalized for having weak spots on rosters and the weight of the penalty is determined by the importance of each position.  By simply adding all the rankings up a team with a perfect WR corps and a garbage quarterback will receive the same amount of points as a team with both optimal levels, which should not be the case.

Here are the optimal ratings for each position:

QB: 92  HB: 84  WR:89  TE:87 T:85 G:83 C:90

DT:85 DE: 89 LB:87 CB:90 S:83

The Patriots have the NFL's best DFO in 2013.

The Patriots have the NFL’s best DFO in 2013.

I then took what I learned from last year and applied it to this year’s Madden ratings to find which teams are the most likely to win games.

Predictions for this year (DFO)(project. W-L):


  1. Patriots (40) (14-2)
  2. Broncos (47) (12-4)
  3. Bengals (49) (12-4)
  4. Texans (63) (9-7)
  5. Chiefs (65) (9-7)
  6. Dolphins (65) (9-7)
  7. Colts (83) (7-9)
  8. Ravens (85) (7-9)
  9. Titans (85) (7-9)
  10.  Steelers (87) (6-10)
  11.  Chargers (104) (5-11)
  12.  Bills (106) (5-11)
  13.  Browns (107) (4-12)
  14.  Jets (107) (4-12)
  15.  Jaguars (111) (3-13)
  16.  Raiders (124) (2-14)


  1. Seahawks (41) (13-3)
  2. 49ers (49) (12-4)
  3. Vikings (50) (11-5)
  4. Saints (53) (11-5)
  5. Bears (53) (10-6)
  6. Packers (58) (10-6)
  7. Cowboys (58) (9-7)
  8. Giants (58) (9-7)
  9. Falcons (70) (8-8)
  10.  Redskins (73) (8-8)
  11.  Lions (74) (8-8)
  12.  Buccaneers (74) (8-8)
  13.  Panthers (77) (7-9)
  14.  Eagles (79) (7-9)
  15.  Rams (98) (6-10)
  16.  Cardinals (107) (4-12)

There are other major variables not accounted for like coaches and injuries but as far as projecting wins off players’ talent, this is as good as it gets.


“@RealTommyMorris show me the numbers”

About tommymorrismedia

USC '12, Co-host Executive Producer Unsportsmanlike Conduct. Play-By-Play KXSC for football, basketball, and baseball.

Posted on October 4, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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