For Whom is Preseason Most Important?

Filmstudy For Whom is Preseason Most Important?

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Among NFL fans, collective optimism is rarely higher than it is this week.

From a fan’s perspective, every player has something to prove over the next month, but I thought it would be fun to create a simple system that tries to quantify the importance of these games for each player on the roster.

For each player there are 2 important factors for the preseason.  I’ve defined and rated those as:

  • Variation (Var):  This is a 0-to-5 rating of how much a player’s preseason performance could impact his playing time and the quality of the position.  The largest score will apply to a positions where the starting job is not yet determined, then down from there for rotational positions (DL, RB, nickel, etc.), then key backups, then special teams.
  • Hope:  How much of a chance does the player have, given his own skills and the quality of competition, to make an impact?  Again, these are my judgments and I’ve rated them 0-to-5.
  • Importance (Import):  I’m calculating this a simply the product of Var and Hope.  This is intended to be a single measure of how important this preseason is (to the team) for this player.  The maximum is 25.  The minimum is 0.

All established regulars, players with clear roles, and specialists have a preseason importance of 0, because the quality of their play in the preseason won’t impact their role come September.  There are also a mess of players I think have little or no chance to make the team.  I won’t make comments on most of them in reviews of preseason games.

The table below is sorted in declining order of importance score as defined above and includes preseason notes/goals for each player with an importance score of at least 2:

One explanation I need to add relates to option value.  A player is tied to his initial team for four seasons.  If not a 1st-round selection, those years are very cheap and the remaining years of the initial four are important to manage for cap purposes.  As it relates to this structure, I frequently refer to players having more or less option value.  Generally speaking, a player with more years of team control does not need to play as well as a direct competitor to be as valuable.

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Ken McKusick

About Ken McKusick

Known as “Filmstudy” from his handle on area message boards, Ken is a lifelong Baltimorean and rabid fan of Baltimore sports. He grew up within walking distance of Memorial Stadium and attended all but a handful of Orioles games from 1979 through 2001. He got his start in sports modeling with baseball in the mid 1980’s. He began writing about the Ravens in 2006 and maintains a library of video for every game the team has played. He’s a graduate of Syracuse with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Math who recently retired from his actuarial career to pursue his passion as a football analyst full time. If you have math or modeling questions related to sports or gambling, Ken is always interested in hearing new problems or ideas. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @filmstudyravens. More from Ken McKusick
Tucker: M&T Sec 527
Tucker: M&T Sec 527

Great article - love the format (kinda "Racing Form"). Well-told on Jensen, who has been an international Man of Mystery so far IMO. Fair assessment of LaQuan Williams' ( my man, Poly Pride!) best shot


Thanks, guys. I was planning to do what I have been doing for several years which is grade the players cumulatively through the preseason using a +3 to -3 scale.


Welcome back Ken, it's starting to feel more like football now. The spreadsheet is a nice idea. The locks and not likely are easy to identify, it's the guys on the bubble or competing for a starting role that's intriguing now. Do you plan on updating it as the preseason progresses?

rob g
rob g

Welcome back, Ken! Looking forward to your analysis this season.


Thanks, I was actually thinking "racing form" when I wrote it.


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