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Fanalytics Podcast Episode 13: The Analytics of Paying NFL Running Backs

The Le’Veon Bell contract situation was one of the more interesting NFL stories of the past month. In today’s Fanalytics podcast, economist Tom Smith and I talk about the story from a statistical and economics perspective.

NFL running backs are an incredibly interesting position for analytics and salary cap management.  The dilemma for teams and the frustration for players comes from the nature of the position.  Running backs are often at their peak during the early career years when the player’s salary is most constrained by the leagues collective bargaining agreement.

In the case of Le’Veon Bell, he is entering the region where past carries (and touches) combined with age start to build some uncertainty about future performance.  This future uncertainty combined with the fact that running backs are a relatively inexpensive position create an interesting situation for the Steelers.  Bell may be the best running back in the league but can they “replace” a significant amount of his production at a much lower cost?

This conversation was wide ranging and had some technical elements.  Probably our most technical episode yet as terms like “hedonic pricing model” and “constrained dynamic optimization” were thrown around.  That said – it was a great conversation.  The economist (Tom) combined with the Operations Researcher (Mike) offers a unique perspective of analytics and decision making.

Hope you all enjoy the podcast and please rate and subscribe on iTunes.




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