The NFL Draft – a gateway to the promised land for many top college football players in the US. Each year, over 250 (253 this year) players are chosen through the draft by the 32 teams of the NFL. Those who follow the NFL closely will know how rigorous the process of player assessment is. At the scouting combine (an event ahead of the draft allowing teams to assess players’ athletic abilities) players are put through intensive testing. Height, weight, arm length, bench press strength, vertical jumping, broad jumping and even hand size are measured. On top of this, numerous drills specific to each player’s chosen position are on show; performance in these are crucial. And then there’s the 40-yard dash – often the most-watched event of them all at the combine.
The results of combine are comprehensive and give teams a good idea of what sort of players are on offer. But teams are always keen to know more; a team’s general manager wants to be as sure as possible before offering millions to a player that could make or break a team. This is where the IoT comes in. In recent years, new technology has been integrated into the process. Detailed player data is now available for teams. Here’s why it’s important and how it is already affected the upcoming draft at the end of this week.
1.Player power measurement
As we mentioned in our post earlier this year on how Super Bowl 50 could have been called the IoT Bowl, teams can now assess a player’s power and speed with incredible accuracy. They measure this through Under Armour’s E39 compression shirts. 2011 was the first year this technology was used ahead of the NFL Draft, helping teams make informed decisions on a player’s power. And in the NFL, power speaks volumes.
2. Player tracking
A player’s performance on the field at college plays a big part in the evaluation process; impressive game tapes from big college games can often be more valuable than even a stellar combine workout. However, teams now want to know even more than what the game film reveals. Some college teams now offer on-the-field player tracking, thanks to Zebra Technologies Corp., a provider of real-time location solutions. At the beginning of this year, this technology was made available to college teams in the playoffs. Teams can now track their players using these Zebra sensors (embedded within shoulder pads) measuring their positioning, accumulated distance, speed, acceleration, deceleration and orientation. Throughout games, coaches can monitor these measurements closely – and now, when assessing players, teams can request this data to help inform their evaluation of a prospect.
3. Player health history
Concussions at the professional, collegiate and high school levels, are a big issue now. As a result, the NFL has taken many steps to help prevent, diagnose and treat concussions more effectively, and improve the overall safety of the game. Many helmet manufacturers have rethought helmet design with the aim of reducing the risk of concussions through specialized shock absorbers rather than traditional padding. Other manufacturers, such as Riddell have taken steps towards making the game and player safety more connected. In 2007, Riddell launched its Revolution IQ HITS (Head Impact Telemetry System) which monitors and records impacts sustained during games and training. Players have since been able to keep records of the impacts they take. Potential teams can now, on request (if available), see this data to help them assess whether a player is healthy enough to be drafted into the NFL (some players unfortunately are not). HITS, however, isn’t perfect, as it can’t tell if a player has actually been concussed or not; it can only tell how hard they’ve been hit.
Other solutions such as Shockbox offer a similar form of monitoring and are becoming more widely adopted. It’s now likely that, in the next few years, all players at a collegiate level will be required to wear sensors like this, which in turn will provide even more data for NFL teams to assess ahead of upcoming drafts.
What do you think? Has the IoT changed the NFL Draft process significantly? Or would you say there’s more work to be done? Let us know your thoughts by tweeting to us @Gemalto, or leave a comment in the section below. And to find out more about the IoT, see how we’re unleashing its power here.