An Examination of the NFL Quarterback’s Success: Are athletic intangibles a reliable indicator of success?

Heatherly Carlson & Joo Eng Lee-Partridge, Central Connecticut State University

For many years, sports analytics have demonstrated a robust relationship between NFL draft measurements and NFL success. In particular, NFL drafts have been harnessing the power of sports analytics to predict the future value of the quarterback. However, most of these pre-draft metrics deal with the physical prowess or prior physical achievements of the quarterback.

While these measurements may provide some estimate of the quarterback’s predicted value in the NFL, we are proposing looking at other intangible variables to provide an alternate indicator of future value. Some potential intangible variables that could predict to QB success include character risk, injury resilience, psychological variables, environmental variables, adversity, cognitive ability, motivation and leadership experience.

Heatherly explores the relationship between the player intangibles and quarterback outcome measures such as number of playoff game appearances, number of years as starting QB and whether they have ever taken their team to a playoff game. They use both supervised and unsupervised machine learning to provide insights in QB success and QB intangible variables and provide recommendations for future QB drafts.