The Player Athletic Index (PAI) Analytics Intuitive to the Football Mind

Tracking Football is a start-up data and analytics company. We offer in depth independently verified data, which is a supplement to teams traditional scouting and evaluation. Tracking Football is spearheading football’s movement in the use of athletic analytics. The PAI is an easy to interpret score that gives a raw athleticism measurement based on objective data. The score is in use at the NFL, college and high school levels.

At its core, the PAI is an early indicator of raw athleticism as it relates/correlates to football. First, let’s take a step back. Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Noble prize in economics, says two important facts about our minds, “We can be blind to the obvious and we are also blind to our blindness.” Furthermore, he discusses how our initial judgement process creates automatic responses and goes on to say biases cannot always be avoided. An example of an automatic response being a scout or recruiter immediately impressed with a blazing 40 or an athlete’s body type being a predictor of a certain level of ability on the football field. This is where the PAI helps recruiters and scouts, by looking past biases.

The PAI is an objective measurement based on a historical and comprehensive database. It takes a player’s height, weight, position, track data, multisport data and compares it to history. The database encompasses 30,000 plus D1 football athletes. In essence, the score tells a football mind what all that hard data means in reference to football performance. It differs from other scores that might be used because of its apple to apple comparative ability. No one knows what Mike Singletary’s Sparq score was or for that fact Adrian Peterson’s score. These two athletes do have PAI scores which gives reference points.

To dig deeper, the PAI is on a scale of 0 to 5. What a decade of data has shown is that 3.0 is the cut off which separates the more athletic players from the rest. Using the PAI, adding verified athletes by D1 team and conference, there is an interesting trend. The PAI total rankings by conference start to correlate to win/loss records.

One specific problem statement has been answered by the PAI. In Bruce Feldman’s book “Meat Market”, his question was, “What is fast? More precisely what is the best gauge of football speed?” The PAI takes not only the speed i.e. 100-meter dash time but also a player’s height, weight, and position to create a tradeoff score. The tradeoff doesn’t stop with skilled positions or events like the triple jump. It takes into account the trenches. An example that makes a great deal of sense to most scouts is what happens when a similar size DT goes against an OL. We can imagine who would win the explosive battle upon the snap of the ball if the OL was a 40-foot shot putter vs Ndamukong Suh who demonstrated the athleticism to throw the shot 61’04”.

Let’s pull a well-known example from the data. J.J. Watt in high school received a 4.1 PAI on the 0 to 5.0 scale. Some people say, “That’s a no brainer.” Which in turn I remind them he was an unheralded recruit coming out of high school. The PAI identified him in high school as an exceptional football athlete. An additional question asked, “Why is he not a 5.0 in the system?” The reason is simple. His weight was very light for his position by D1 standard. The PAI values not only track/multisport data but the height and weight by position. His NFL calibrated PAI is much higher than his high school score which again reflects his draft eligible weight.

The PAI is not a substitute for traditional scouting and film. It is a great positive and negative screen to help focus film time on players with confirmed athleticism. NFL scouts are currently using the PAI score to look for great later round picks and UDFA. The value of identifying undervalued players can have an immense impact on a team’s wins and salary cap. Coaching and football skills are extremely important to the game. The PAI helps identify higher caliber athletes from the outset which helps maximize overall team performance.

Next time someone talks about your team’s great new player. Sign up for a free account and ask what is his PAI?