Two days in a row with a Football Outsiders story? Sure, why not?
This one has to do with size. FO has created a table for snap-weighted size, ranking NFL teams based on their average height and weight but adjusting for snap counts. In other words, there’s a greater emphasis on players who play more snaps.
Here’s their criteria:
The difference between gauging size and age is that size actually has three factors: height, weight, and the relationship between the two. So we calculated each team’s snap-weighted height (SWH) and snap-weighted weight (SWW), and using those numbers calculated their snap-weighted body mass index (SWBMI). It’s also important to note that for most players, height and weight are measured at the combine and then rarely changed in our database. Obviously players will gain and lose weight throughout the season, but there are no weight limits in the NFL, so nobody’s updating that info.
With that data at hand, the Seattle Seahawks come in as the second-shortest team in the NFL at 73.8 inches (about 6’2”) and numero uno for weight at 252 lbs. They’re also number one in BMI. Offensively they’re 4th in snap-weighted weight but just 14th on special teams. What’s skewing the number is the defense, and even that was a bit confusing because none of their defensive positional groups ranks in the top-10 in SWW.
So what gives? Well the explanation is along the defensive line and playing the biggest of the big boys at a higher percentage than the rest of the league.
There is a very strong negative correlation (-0.803!) between the number of snaps a team gives to its defensive linemen and the weight of those players—in other words, the more linemen a team uses, the smaller those linemen tend to be. (As a result of this, there was virtually no difference between the snap-weighted size numbers of defenses that used more linemen than linebackers and those who used more linebackers than linemen.) And for a defense that used as many linemen as Seattle did, those Seahawks linemen were enormous. Seattle was one of 17 teams who used linemen on at least 30% of their defensive player snaps. The cumulative SWW of the linemen on the other 16 teams was 284.2 pounds, while Seattle’s linemen had a SWW of 293.6 pounds—nearly 10 pounds per man bigger! Take that average and multiply it by 4,856 snaps and you get more than 1.4 million snap-pounds; only four lines had more total tonnage. The Seahawks had three defensive linemen—Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, and L.J. Collier—who each racked up 600-plus snaps at 290-plus pounds. Only three other teams (the Dolphins, Jets, and Giants) pulled that off, and none of those teams used defensive linemen nearly as often as Seattle did. With all those big linemen on the field and fairly few defensive backs, you get the NFL’s biggest defense.
Come to think of it, Poona Ford is the symbol of Seahawks football. He’s 310 lbs but he’s just 5’11” which is quite short for a defensive tackle.
Does this mean anything? Well according to FO it doesn’t!
“There is virtually no correlation between snap-weighted size (in terms of height, weight, or BMI) and overall DVOA.”
But we like numbers and the Seahawks like being unorthodox, and no other team’s overall height/weight numbers have greater disparity than Seattle. Just be in awe of the number of absolute units we have on the roster.