NFL Next Gen Stats

Balancing innovation with tradition, the NFL has expanded its use of player and ball tracking to capture real-time data for every player — on every play, anywhere on the field.

NFL Next Gen Stats — developed in partnership with Zebra Technologies, Wilson Sporting Goods and running entirely on Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure — provide clubs with data to analyze trends and player performance, while enhancing the fans’ experience in-stadium, online and during game telecasts.

A tracking system is installed in every NFL venue which is composed of:

  • 20–30 ultra-wide band receivers
  • 2–3 radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags installed into the players’ shoulder pads
  • RFID tags on officials, pylons, sticks, chains, and in the ball

Altogether, an estimated 250 devices are in a venue for any given game. A team of three operators is required at every game to confirm that all tracking systems are functioning properly.

The NFL worked closely with team equipment managers to determine the best size and location of the tags in the shoulder pads. Game balls must adhere to the NFL’s specifications. Wilson, the Competition Committee and NFL quarterbacks tested different tracking devices to ensure that the chips would not impact the flight of the ball.

The tracking system captures player data such as location, speed, distance traveled and acceleration at a rate of 10 times per second, and charts individual movements within inches. The raw data is used to automate player participation reports, calculate performance metrics, and derive advanced statistics through machine learning (ML) on AWS. More than 200 new data points are created on every play of every game.

Examples of each are included below:

Performance

Classification

Advanced

Distance Traveled

Formations (offense/defense)

Completion Probability

Max Speed

Coverage

Expected Rushing Yards

Time on Field

Route Detection

Win Probability

Visit the Next Gen Stats glossary for a full overview of our stats collection.

This information has a wide range of applications across the NFL and can be used to make data-driven decisions across football.

The 32 clubs can look for ways to use data to assist in game planning. Football Operations can identify ways to improve the game. Player Health & Safety can use the data to improve the safety of the players. NFL media and its broadcast partners can find new storytelling opportunities beyond the box score.

The NFL’s Next Gen Stats technology, tracking process, and data are the results of years of testing between the league, Zebra and Wilson. In 2017, the NFL and AWS ventured into advanced analytics, leveraging AWS machine-learning technologies.
Here’s a timeline of how the technology has progressed over the years.
NFL Next Gen Stats
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