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The 5 Most Overrated Statistics In Football

by jkaylor
Apr 15, 2014 1:16 PM EDT



With the growing popularity of the NFL Draft and fantasy football, statistics, whether useful or not, are becoming more and more prevalent to fans. Here are five stats that are completely overrated:

1. Quarterback Sack

This is the flashiest statistic a defensive lineman or linebacker can pile up. It’s the stat that gets guys paid millions of dollars in free agency and earns them trips to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Here’s the problem: Let’s say we have a defensive end in this example. Our defensive end could get abused all game every game, but if he ends each game with one sack, he will be in the Pro Bowl and signing a multi-million dollar contract when he hits free agency. Say our player was in on 50 snaps a game. Should one good play out of 50 make him a star? No. The sacks are nice, but save the Pro Bowls and millions of dollars for the guys who can play the run, pressure the quarterback, and force offensive coordinators to gameplan around him week-in and week-out.

2. NFL Combine Testing

This really relates to the over-hyped 40-yard dash and bench press testing. With the exception of the personal interviews and, to an extent, the on-field workouts, most of the NFL Combine is overrated. Every year, there will be a player or players who blow away scouts with their combine numbers and get drafted far earlier than their actual game film would dictate they should. Mike Mamula started the trend at the 1995 NFL Combine and seemingly every year there is another player that fools scouts and personnel executives into drafting them far too early. When was the last time you can remember seeing an offensive lineman ever run 40 yards at a single time during a game? Or, how often does an offensive lineman go against a 225-pound defensive lineman? Probably never.

3. Gross Punting Average

Net punting average (gross yardage minus return yardage or touchbacks) helps teams win games. With the explosive returners in the NFL today, it has become more important than ever to hang the ball high or pin the ball on the sidelines. A 60-yard punt may look beautiful, but if it gets returned 40 yards it can be a game-changer. A punt downed inside the 10 yard line, as opposed to a touchback, can also be a game-changer. Touchbacks lead to an inflated gross average and kill a team’s net average. Combine hang time, distance and placement and you’ve got an All-Pro, game-changing punter.

4. Defensive Yards Per Game

This stat truly doesn’t matter. The correlation between yards given up per game and winning isn’t nearly as relevant as the correlation between points given up per game and winning. Five of the six AFC playoff teams in 2013 finished in the bottom half of the league in yards given up per game. Conversely, five of the six AFC playoff teams finished in the top half of the league in points given up per game. Points, not yardage, decide games.

5. Interceptions

The inclusion of interceptions on this list may be puzzling to some people. Here’s why it’s an overrated stat. The best cornerbacks in the league rarely get tested. Outside of Richard Sherman the last two seasons, it’s rare that you see an elite, lockdown cornerback at the top of the league leaders in interceptions. Teams gameplan around elite corners and rarely attack them. It’s why guys like Aqib Talib, Darrelle Revis, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have never led the league in interceptions.