The Stats Room: Are QB Targets Predictable?
The Stats Room: Are QB Targets Predictable?

This article is part of our The Stats Room series.

This article was born more out necessity more than anything else. While working my 2018 projections, I needed to know if a quarterback's targets were predictable based on the previous season. In the end, I found some predictability, but a large amount of regression exists.

As I've started the transition from baseball projections to football, the biggest hurdle is getting a decent understanding of playing-time variability. To find a solution, I had to create my own depth charts with handoff and target percentages. Basically, who's getting the touches.

With available data, I decided to base the initial target distribution on the quarterback's tendencies. A couple major red flags get thrown with this approach, but I will just have to live with them for now. While nearly every offensive snap must go through the quarterback, the coaches and other players influence the decision. Baby steps for now.

I would have loved to insert the head coach and/or offensive coordinator's previous tendencies, but I couldn't. I can't find a coaching database. All I must do is create a head, offensive and defensive coach database. It's on my to-do list. A ton of narratives could be answered with just this one database.

As for the surrounding cast of players, the solution is even harder. Someone would need to go back and guess each team's preseason intent for targeting players before the season began. It would be the same task I'm dealing with now. Preseason guesses versus actual game results.

Once the season starts,

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Zimmerman
Zimmerman writes analytics-focused baseball and football articles for RotoWire. He is a three-time FSWA award winner, including the Football Writer of the Year and Best Football Print Article awards in 2016. The 2017 Tout Wars Mixed Auction champion and 2016 Tout Wars Head-to-Head champ, Zimmerman also contributes to FanGraphs.com, BaseballHQ and Baseball America.
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