Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

10 Jan 2014

Is there ever a point where statistics get used too much in a debate?

I'm trying to determine Greg Olsen's true skill level at tight end, and according to DYAR and DVOA he does not appear to have all-pro potential.
So…..I look at Anquan Boldin's stats for 2012 and he looks average. But in reality, he was so much more than average. Is it correct to say that no statistic can REALLY confirm a players true skill level? Beyond a reasonable doubt? I ask this because some bloggers are so entrenched stats, and will not entertain any other arguments at times. At times it turns into an excuse to talk down to what I consider to be potentially valid arguments. I love this site and the statistics it provides, don't get me wrong, but is it innapropriate to once in a while go with the old "eyeball test"?
A penny for your honest thoughts on this issue,



Posted by: 49erFaithful1976 on 10 Jan 2014

1 reply , Last at 17 Jan 2014, 12:42pm by benbu75

In short, yes.
by benbu75 :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 12:42pm

The problem that I see with a purely statistical analysis is that stats tend to place everything in a vacuum and on an even playing field. For quantitative exercises that has value, but for qualitative analysis, it fails to tell the true story. The disconnect comes when people try to use quantitative data as a sole basis for qualitative analysis. Real life is phenomenological; it doesn't just exist on paper. The best analysis will always use some combination of quantitative and qualitative data to support its argument.

In your case, you want to know, "What was the value of Greg Olsen to the 2013 Carolina Panthers?" The numbers will tell you some of that, but his value to his team cannot be determined by comparing his numbers with Jimmy Graham or Tony Gonzalez. You have to dig deeper and find out what he did, when he did it, and how that contributed to or detracted from the success of the team. Having the stat sheet in front of you with Coaches Tape on Rewind helps put everything together. Referring to the analysis of advanced stats websites like Football Outsiders or Pro Football Focus can help. The best analysis probably lies in some combination of all three.