With nearly 1,700 different players, the NFL is home to a highly diverse sample of the human population. Many players grew up in US metropolis cities like Los Angeles or New York, but some were born in the exact middle of nowhere. They went to different schools. They are different colors, shapes and sizes. They have different jobs, and accordingly are paid different amounts of money. We call the United States a melting pot. The NFL is no different.
To understand more about the fascinating people who have made it as professional football players, we took an unofficial census of the entire league, and held it under a microscope. Most of the data collection was performed during the preseason, so it is not guaranteed to have remained 100% accurate. However, we have done our best to stay up to date with roster cuts and other changes to the NFL player landscape.
The most interesting of our findings are included below.
Analyzing Each Position
Here we will take a closer look at each individual position. First, the distribution of each position across the league:
It isn’t really surprising to see so few fullbacks. They are a dying breed in today’s game. On the other end of the spectrum, we see a ton of offensive linemen. That’s because during a game, and in the most standard of formations, there are four of them on the field (not including the center or tight ends). How are each of these types of players paid?
No surprises here. The quarterbacks run away with the highest average paycheck by more than $1.3 million. Granted, they are pretty important folks. Each of these positions have different responsibilities, some of them more taxing than others. The following chart will detail the durability of players at each position by showing their average experience.
It’s hard being a running back in the NFL. Every time you get the ball, you become the target of every single player on the opposing team. Same goes for wide receivers. In addition, with increased age comes decreased speed. It is simply a fact of NFL life. The window of success closes quickly for running backs and receivers that don’t produce from the get-go. Defensive backs, too, are susceptible to short careers if they start to lose their superior speed.
Kickers, on the other hand lay waste to the rest of the league in terms of durability. They occupy one of two positions that have their own penalty call to protect them from malicious or poorly-timed hits (The other is quarterback). Three of the top ten most experienced players in the league are kickers.
Where Do They Come From?
The chart below shows the number of current NFL players born in each of the United States. As many of us already know, California, Texas and Florida produce the most NFL players and by a long shot at that.
While California, Texas and Florida all produce in large numbers, they are not the most efficient states when it comes to producing NFL players. The top 10 most efficient NFL player-producing states are shown below:
Louisiana produces the most players per 100,000 people, at 1.54. In second place is Hawaii, with a player production rate of 1.08 per 100,00 people.As for the big three (California, Florida and Texas), their production rates are still all relatively high. Florida produces at a rate of .828 per 100,000, Texas at .660 and California at .568.
The least productive states that have produced more than one player currently in the league are Arizona (.244), Nevada (.217) and Massachusetts (.159).
As far as cities are concerned, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Miami and Los Angeles have combined to produce an impressive 147 current NFL players. There are 607 cities that have only produced one current NFL player. Here are the top ten player-producing cities overall:
Similar to our analysis of the top player-producing states, the cities that produce the most players are not necessarily the most efficient. The most efficient player-producing city in the United States is Kellyton, Alabama. What? You haven’t heard of it? Kellyton is one of those middle of nowhere towns. The closest large city, Montgomery, is more than an hour away. With a population of 217, just one NFL player produced by Kellyton would be remarkable, but they went ahead and produced two. That’s 9.2 NFL players for every 1000 Kellyton residents.
The two players produced in Kellyton? Alonzo Tweedy and Justin Tuck, both of whom play for the New York Giants. Yeah, two time Pro-Bowler and two time NFL Champion Justin Tuck was born in Kellyton, Alabama. Incredible.
Race In the NFL
First let’s take a look at the general distribution of race in the NFL.
Clearly, the black population is dominant in the league. There are more than twice as many black NFL players as there are players of a different race. Black is the most common race at every position except for center, kicker, long snapper, offensive lineman, punter, quarterback and tight end. For each of the aforementioned positions, white is the most common race.
Below you will find charts displaying the concentration of black and white players (the two largest populations) on each team:
With 26, the Minnesota Vikings have the highest concentration of white players. The Indianapolis Colts have the highest concentration of black players with 44.
The chart below shows the average salaries of NFL players of each race:
The average salary for hispanic players is padded by guys like Tony Gonzalez ($7,000,000), Tony Romo ($17,071,429), Mark Sanchez ($11,650,000) and Arian Foster ($8,700,000). Their perch atop this list is not surprising after seeing those numbers.
The Player Factories
Most of the players currently in the NFL went to a college here in the United States. Some schools produce more NFL-worthy athletes than others. Let’s take a look at the schools with the strongest presence of players in the NFL.
Currently, there are 41 former USC Trojans playing in the NFL. Carson Palmer, Ryan and Matt Kalil, Reggie Bush, Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing, Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez, Troy Polamalu and Fred Davis are some of the more recognizable current players to come out of USC. LSU also has 41 players in the NFL, featuring guys like Dwayne Bowe, Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson and Stevan Ridley.
USC may have produced the most current NFL players, but how do these players stack up in terms of average salary?
Players from the University of Miami (Florida) have the highest average salary when compared to players from the other top ten NFL player-producing schools. They earn an average of $3,207,848 a year, for a grand total of $118,690,381 per year. That’s a lot of cash.
Do different schools accel in producing certain positions? You bet they do.
Center: Ohio State, Penn State and USC (3 Each).
Offensive Lineman: Iowa (8)
Tight End: Oregon and Stanford (5 Each)
Wide Receiver: Miami (Fla.) (6)
Fullback: Stanford (2)
Running back: California (5)
Quarterback: USC (4)
Defensive End: Georgia (7)
Defensive Tackle: LSU (4)
Linebacker: USC (9)
Cornerback: LSU, Oregon State, South Carolina and Texas (5 Each)
Safety: LSU (7)
Kicker: Florida State (3)
Punter: Tennessee and UCLA (2)
Vets and Rooks
Adam Vinatieri, kicker for the Indianapolis Colts, has been in the NFL for 18 years. He will celebrate his 41st birthday on December 28th. Damontre Moore, rookie defensive end for the New York Giants will celebrate his 21st birthday on September 11th. That is nearly a twenty year difference between the oldest and youngest players in the league.
That is quite the age range for a league of professional athletes. How does age and experience affect the other variables we’ve discussed? To start, let’s just look at the age distribution across the NFL.
This data would indicate that years 23-25 are clearly the peak ages for NFL players. Will the salary distribution chart tell the same tale?
That’s odd. The first significant spike in average salary correlates with the first significant drop in number of players. Age 26 must be the cutoff point when players have either proven themselves worthy of a big boy contract, or they are deemed expendable. Of course this is not the case in every scenario, but it is interesting to ponder (He turns 26 in February).
That does it for our analysis of the Unofficial 2013 Player NFL Census. We hope you enjoyed it, and are walking away with some new knowledge. For requests regarding our data, or media inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s to another excellent NFL season!
Concept Development: Brett Cohen, Andrew Powell-Morse
Created by: Andrew Powell-Morse
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