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Moneyball Rules

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2015 3:29 am
by Pudge
How I grade All-22 tape.

In 2009, I developed a system for reviewing Atlanta Falcons games that I called “Moneyball.” This name has nothing to do with Sabermetrics and baseball, but simply because it’s catchy and the grading system uses monetary values to represent itself. The more money a player earns, the better.

The basis of the system is fairly straight-forward. For positive plays, a player will earn a certain monetary value (typically $1). For a negative play, a similar monetary value is taken away.

As the years have progressed, I’ve added more categories in which I grade. So here is the system as it stands in 2015…

The emphasis is on moving the chains and creating big plays.

1st Down = $1
3rd Down Conversion = $1
Long (20+ yards) Completion = $1

First downs that occur on third downs are not counted twice. So a player will earn $1 if he gets a 1st down on 3rd & 2, and the same goes for 2nd & 10.

Touchdown Pass = $2
Longer (40+ yards) Completion = $2

It is assumed that all big plays (20+ yards) are first downs. Also touchdowns can be counted twice. For example, if a QB throws a 46-yard touchdown pass, he will earn $4 instead of the normal $2.

Interception = -$1
Poor Throw = -$1
Sacked = -$1

What constitutes a “poor throw” is a fairly liberal interpretation. Essentially any incompletion that is not as a direct result of pressure from a defender, broken up by a defender, throwaway, or dropped pass will be considered a poor throw on the quarterback’s part. In instances where it is borderline between those things (such as a drop), I will usually give both parties (quarterback and receiver) the benefit of the doubt.

If an interception is the result of a poor throw, then that will be added so that it is worth -$2. If an interception results from a dropped or tipped pass, then it will only be -$1 because I do not feel it is right to penalize the quarterback overly.

Sacked penalty only applies to when it is the fault of the quarterback that he was sacked (e.g. holding onto the ball too long).


Carry of 5 or more yards = $1
First Down = $1
3rd Down Conversion = $1
A Carry which includes 5 yards or more after contact = $1

Why 5 yards? First, it’s a nice round number that is higher than the NFL average per carry (which is roughly 4.2 yards per carry) and it is partially due to success rate.

As it is with quarterbacks, first downs and third down conversions are not counted twice.

Why 5 yards or more after contact, well simply because again it’s a round number. What constitutes contact? It’s sort of subjective, but I look to see if the defender was able to make a square hit on the ballcarrier. Basically any attempted tackle that should bring down the runner but doesn’t will start where the contact occurs.

Long (10+ yards) Run = $2
Touchdown = $2

Again touchdowns can be counted twice.

Missed Hole = -$1

Missed holes are represented when a back is stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage, and it is not the fault of the blocker. Examples include when a back runs into the back of his lineman when he should have bounced outside, or tried cutting back into the teeth of the defense. It does not happen very often however.


First Down = $1
3rd Down Conversion = $1
Long (20+ yards) Catch = $1
Yards After Catch of 10+ yards = $1
Longer (40+ yards) Catch = $2
Touchdown = $2

These are basically the same from quarterback, except factoring in yards after the catch (YAC). If a receiver runs for 10 or more yards after the catch, he earns an extra $1. Also touchdowns and YAC can be counted twice.

And yes it is possible for a receiver to earn yards after the catch AND yards after contact as a runner (from above). For example, if a running back catches a ball in the flat, breaks a tackle and then runs for 10 more yards, he will earn $2.

Dropped Pass = -$1

Drops are subjective. Generally I’m only counting those where the receiver gets both of his hands on the ball and weren’t thrown behind/ahead or too high/low to give the receiver a reasonable chance of making the catch.

Offensive linemen don’t get enough credit, so the main way they earn their money is through key blocks.

Key Block = $1

You can key blocks on any of the following plays:

10+ yard Run
20+ yard Catch
1st Down on Run/Catch
3rd Down Conversion on Run/Catch
Touchdown (Run or Catch)
Pass Protection

When assessing key blocks, I try to reduce it to the least number of linemen, preferably one. The focus is on the blocker(s) who spring the runner/receiver for the big play, conversion, or score.

If two players block the same player that key block will be split between the two blockers ($0.50 for both).

Pass protection is considered when a blocker is able to pick up or chip a pass rusher at the last second which buys the QB enough time to deliver a completion. But that completion must be one that counts towards an earning (such as a 1st down, big play, or 3rd down conversion).

No Sacks Allowed = $1
No Pressures Allowed = $1

Beacuse there aren’t a ton of key blocks during the course of the game, if a starting lineman goes an entire game without allowing a sack or pressure, he’ll earn credit.

What is a sack? Sacks are only considered times when a quarterback is passing.

What is a pressure? Pressures are when a pass rushers forces the QB to deliver the ball early, flushes him from the pocket, or disrupts the pass in a way that causes an incompletion.

Sacks and pressures are considered separately. So a blocker can have a game where he gives up a sack, but doesn’t give up a pressure (and thus earning him $1 in addition to any key blocks he may have made). Like sacks, a player can have a half-pressure. If two defenders both pressure a quarterback on the play, they will split it just like they would if they both sacked him on the play and the subsequent blockers will do so too.

Sacks Allowed = -$1
Missed Blocks = -$1

A missed block is considered when a running back is hit at or behind the line of scrimmage via the fault of a blocker missing his assignment. Like key blocks, I will attempt to try and reduce it to the lowest amount of players possible. For example if all five blockers miss their blocks, I will likely only consider the defender that hit the ballcarrier first (and thus the blocker assigned to him). If two players fail to block the same player, then they will share credit for the sack, pressure, or missed block.

This is applicable to the passer, rusher, or receiver.

Two-point conversion = $1

Unlike many of the offensive plays, defensive plays can be counted multiple times. The emphasis here is turnovers and preventing offenses from moving the chains.

Tackle For Loss = $1
Tackle on 3rd Down = $1
Run Stuff = $1
Sack = $1
QB Pressure = $1
QB Hit = $1
Pass Defended = $1
Interception = $2
Fumble Forced = $1
Fumble Recovery = $1

Tackles for loss are considered when a defender tackles the ballcarrier at or behind the line of scrimmage. A tackle on third down is credited when a player makes a stop on third down that results in a fourth down punt, essentially meaning it results in a turnover (on downs). If the offense kicks a field goal, it won’t count.

Run stuffs are a new measure I’ve come up with. Basically they are tackles that result in no success for an offense. If you are familiar with success rate, then you’ll understand this measure. On 1st down, if a defender makes a tackle that results in less than 30% of the yards needed to get a first down, it will be considered a stuff. So a 2-yard gain on 1st & 10 is a run stuff, but a 3-yard gain is not. On 2nd down, if the defender stops the ballcarrier for less than 40% of the yards needed to get a first down, it will be considered a stuff. A 1-yard gain on 2nd & 5 will be considered a stuff for the defender, but a 2-yard gain will not.

Sacks and pressures are the same rules mentioned above under blocking. It only counts as a sack when the quarterback is tackled in the act of throwing. If he decides to tuck it and run, it will be considered a tackle for loss instead. Again, a pressure only counts when the pass is incomplete.

Hits are fickle. In the NFL, if a pass rusher strips the quarterback, it counts as a sack. But here, it will count as a QB hit and a forced fumble. Unless he actually takes the QB to the ground, it will not be considered a sack. A hit is the only instance where a quarterback can complete a pass and a pass rusher still earn $1.

Passes defended include when a defender hits the receiver after the catch and forces a drop.

Blown Coverage on 3rd Down = -$1
Blown Coverage on Long (20+ yard) Pass = -$1
Blown Coverage on Touchdown = -$2
Missed Tackle that Results in a First Down = -$1
Missed Tackle that Results in a Touchdown = -$2
Key Blocked = -$1

There will be occasions when a team is in zone coverage and I’ll struggle to figure who was at fault for the blown coverage, but I’ll try my best to attribute blame.

Key Blocked is the inverse of key blocks mentioned above.

If an offense opts to go for it on fourth down, any tackles or blown coverages will be treated the same as they would be if they had occurred on third down.


Fiedl Goal Made (under 50 yards) = $1
Field Goal Made (over 50 yards) = $2
Field Goal Missed (under 45 yards) = -$1
Field Goal Missed (under 35 yards) = -$2
PAT Missed = -$1

I tend to think that a 48-yard field isn’t a chip shot, so I don’t think a kicker should be blamed too much for missing it. But I also don’t think he should be given extra credit for making it either.

Touchback on a Kickoff = $1


Punt Placed Inside the 10-yard line = $1
Punt Placed Inside the 5-yard line = $2
Fair Catch Inside the 20-yard line = $1

Touchback = -$1
Blocked Punt = -$1


Punt Return of 20+ yards = $1
Kickoff Return of 35+ yards = $1
Touchdown = $2


ST Tackle on Punt Return under 5 yards = $1
ST Tackle on Kickoff Return under 20 yards = $1
Blocked Kick = $1
Onside Kick Recovery = $1

Botched Snap/Hold = -$1

These apply to every player.

Fumble = -$1
Fumble Lost = -$2
Penalty (Less than 15 yards) = -$1
Penalty (15+ yards) = -$2

If a defender picks off a pass or recovers a fumble, and then himself fumbles it will not be counted against him. Unless he loses the fumble and turns it back over to the offense, then it will be counted against him.


Because there are times when a pass rusher gets pressure, but due to the failure of the defensive back or an outstanding throw by the quarterback, it will result in a completion. These will be considered Hurries. Also moments when a defender’s pressure forces the QB to move off his spot in the pocket will also be considered hurries. These will not earn any money, but will be noted as an official statistic.