It’s draft season and with it comes hope for every NFL franchise. They bad teams are hoping to use the draft to makeover their roster and set them up for future success. The good teams are hoping to add that one difference maker to put them over the edge and give them a shot at the Super Bowl. As a fan, it can be tough to take the emotion out of analyzing the moves of your favorite team, but here is a strategy to consider, most of which use cold hard data, before you criticize too much.
Offense over defense – Offensive success correlates more to team wins than defense. I’ve looked at, what I think, are two of the most important team metrics; DVOA and red zone scoring (TD only). Both correlate very well to overall team wins and conceptually this makes sense. What’s nice about these stats is the offensive and defensive contributions can be isolated. Comparing the offensive and defensive contributions to team wins, both offensive metrics correlate a good amount higher than defensive. What this means is a team with a good offense should have more wins than a team with a good defense. A good example of this in action is the most successful team of the current generation, the New England Patriots. In the recent years that have taken to trading away all their defensive talent. Yes, there are salary cap considerations but they have retained their offensive talent so it would make sense that they are following this strategy.
Now that’s not to say to only focus on offense and just sign undrafted free agents to play on defense. What it means is that a team should prioritize having a good offense over having a good defense. And I would further break it down to be a team should prioritize having a good offense over having a good defense apart from pass rush. I haven’t looked into the numbers on this to see if this theory actually is valid but I feel the concept behind it is sound. Assuming a team has adopted the above philosophy it’s unrealistic for them to have a dominate defense. I believe that if a team puts a few recourses into having a good pass rush and is not absolutely terrible elsewhere on the defense they can be a bend but don’t break defense. The reason this is important is it goes back to the red zone metric described above. On defense, you want to reduce the amount of red zone TD’s given up per game based on this metric. I believe that if you have a good pass rush, a team will be able to have a low red zone td percentage which will lead to few red zone TDs conceded. The reasoning for this is in the red zone the space a defense must defend is a lot less. With each defender having to defend a smaller zone (assuming zone defense will be played as it is unlikely for a team that doesn’t have great corner’s to be playing man) it should take longer for receivers to get open, allowing more time for the pass rushers to get home. If you have a good pass rush this should be a recipe for stopping teams once they get to the red zone.
There was a lot of theories and numbers outlined above, but what you should take away from it is if your team goes into this season with a good offense and pass rush, chances are they are going to be in playoff contention. And as a fan, what more can you ask for!