John Idzik and Nike SPARQ Scores

Rich Schultz

The Seattle Seahawks have become known for drafting and signing freakishly athletic players. It turns out that there is a method to their madness. Their Strength and Conditioning Coach, Chris Carlisle, helped develop Nike's SPARQ rating system, which the Seahawks appear to be using to find athletic freaks. Speed kills, but more importantly, SPARQ looks at explosiveness for your given size. This is why smaller players tend to score worse on it, because SPARQ looks for guys that just defy the laws of physics, in the words of Danny Kelly over at Field Gulls. As Danny said, "You have to have talent, obviously, but bigger/faster/stronger DOES matter a LOT in the NFL." That's what SPARQ measures.

Although the exact formula for SPARQ is proprietary information and not subject to public dissemination, Field Gulls was able to essentially reverse engineer the formula and has calculated the scores for this entire past draft class. Where exact scores were not available, Field Gulls was able to approximate them. If you are looking at that document, the number to focus on is pSPARQ, which is a weighted number towards the players' position grouping. It's also interesting to look at players' z-score, which is how many standard deviations the player has from their position grouping. It's notable to me that many of the highly ranked players are undrafted free agents, which shows that they are freak athletes but not necessarily good, polished players.

Danny mentioned to me that since the system has been executed in Seattle through Pete Carroll, that John Idzik might have brought a version of it over to the New York Jets. As a result, I wanted to look at the 2014 draft class and compare each player to the average pSPARQ of their respective draft position.

POSITION POS. pSPARQ PLAYER PLAYER pSPARQ
WR 108.3 Jalen Saunders 97.0
Shaq Evans 117.2
TE 105.3 Jace Amaro 120.6
OG 90.0 Dakota Dozier 74.3
OLB 112.1 IK Enemkpali 103.7
ILB 109.4 Jeremiah George 123.4
CB 110.9 Dexter McDougle 118.0
Brandon Dixon 109.5
S 111.2 Calvin Pryor 107.8

As you can see, there doesn't seem to be a strong correlation between what the Jets have done and SPARQ scores. With the exception of Dozier and Saunders (who is an exception because, as I've said, small players score poorly), the draft class is generally around their respective averages. On the whole, the class is above average among all players, but I don't think it's conclusive enough to say the team is definitively using SPARQ scores to judge draft prospects. It will be interesting to see what the team does in the future under John Idzik and if the connection between draft picks and SPARQ scores becomes more highly correlated.

Note: Scores were not available for Quincy Enunwa, Tajh Boyd, or Trevor Reilly.

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