Every year the top football prospects are surrounded by a great deal of fanfare. Fans and coaches alike keep a close watch on the National Signing Day pageantry. Tracking Football is known for our objective data analysis. Following our mantra, we looked at the classes of players to analyze how soon some of the top prospects started to contribute on the field.


Tracking Football wanted to take an analytical approach to players that play in their freshman year at Power 5 schools. Using our database, we pulled the signing classes of schools going back to 2014. We defined freshman year as either “true freshman” or “redshirt freshman.” Our first goal was to understand what positions are more likely to play early. Our second goal was to determine if there was an athletic variable that can be measured by our PAI score. Our hypothesis was higher PAI scores (bigger, stronger, faster) that would show a correlation to earlier playing time in their D1 careers when compared to players with lower PAI scores. Needless to say, we were not disappointed.


The Center position was most likely to play early, followed closely by O-line as a group. Other position groups have larger numbers, however, as a percentage of the total, the Offensive linemen were at the top. Additionally, the average PAI for those playing early was a 3.3 (refer to the graph below for context).



To put it in simpler terms, those who play early have an average PAI score closer to what a decade of research says the NFL Draft average PAI is versus the Power 5 average.



As we dug deeper into the data we found fascinating observations. For example, Offensive Guards have a higher PAI average when compared to the remaining O-Line positions. What we discovered was by looking at just the objective athleticism piece of the puzzle, those who play early have a PAI score above the Power 5 average of 3.0.


*Research credit – Scott Tomsa