Goodbye 2016, Hello…2020?


Some of you may know my work through my articles here on DLF or my early work with the ORANGE Report but many of you likely are unaware that I also released a new report last offseason called The DOPE Charts. The reason for creating that piece was due to my love and overall enjoyment developing new and creative ways to display data. The piece was a collection of charts that attempted to display football data in new, unique, and innovative ways. Overall, the DOPE Charts wasn’t as well received as I had hoped but it’s a product that I’m very proud of nonetheless.

I still believe that data is best understood and appreciated when its displayed in a pleasing manner. In this way, I feel that infographics are the best intersection of displaying a great deal of data but making it each to understand and pleasing to read.

When I set out on my journey to create my first, serious infographic I thought about several data sets that might make an interest infographic but the more I thought about it the more sense it made to do an infographic on projecting the future of the NFL. Dynasty fantasy football, at its core, is all about attempting to predict the future and profit from those predictions.

This year it seems that the end of the dynasty season and the end of the calendar year fall especially close so what better time of the year to reflect on what has, or could have, been while looking forward to what could be or is likely to occur? First, let’s see what I came up with:

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There are a few projections or predictions that immediately stand out to people I’ve showed this to before publishing, namely the receptions projection and the expansion predictions. There are sound and logical reasons for each of these questionable entries.

First, the NFL receptions record currently stands at 143 and was set by Marvin Harrison in 2002. Even in the high paced clip of the NFL, that record has managed to stay in place for 14 seasons. Harrison was targeted with an absolutely insane 35 percent of all of the Colts passes that season, a number that seems insurmountable given today’s level of talent. Take Odell Beckham Jr. for instance, he will likely finish the season as the most targeted player in the NFL but he accounts for only about 28 percent of the Giants’ passes this season. The second most targeted player is Mike Evans who has a similar team target rate of a touch over 29 percent. If Beckham was targeted with 35 percent of his team’s passes he would need to catch 71.5 percent of all of those passes just to reach Harrison’s total, he’d need to catch nearly 75 percent of his targets to break the 150 receptions mark. Currently, Beckham catches roughly 60 percent of his targets. Meanwhile, if Evans was similarly targeted with 35 percent of his team’s passes he would need to catch 75 percent of all of those passes just to reach Harrison’s total, he’d need to catch nearly 80 percent of his targets to break the 150 receptions mark! Evans though only catches 56 percent of his passes.

These reception rates and targets aren’t likely to inflate to the needed levels anytime soon. However, passing is increasingly becoming a larger part of all NFL offenses. It seems that this is the only way the levels needed to reach the 150 receptions mark will be reached, through organic growth of the passing game leaguewide.

How about the expansion predictions? What of those?

Well, we all know that London is not only being heavily considered for an expansion team in the near future, but is being groomed for this as well with four games being held in London this season and another four scheduled for the 2017 season. Now consider this, London is one of the five most successful host cities in the world, that’s including current NFL cities. Additionally, a state-of-the-art stadium featuring retractable grass and turf fields is being built in Tottenham and will be available for games to be played in it for the 2018-19 season. The NFL has already committed to playing two games each season at the facility and have had significant input on the design process. London will have a team in the near future and the 2023 season is 21 years since the creation of the last expansion franchise, the Houston Texans, the longest stretch between the creation of expansion teams in the league’s history.

London will mark a new round of expansion though, opening the door for as many as four additional teams over a 20-year span, much like the NFL grew at a similar rate from 1950 through the 1970’s. Many believe that Mexico City will be the next city to be granted an expansion team following the creation of the London franchise, I disagree though. It is my belief that Mexico City is the matching book end to London with two additional franchises sandwiched between those two cities.

The first city to be granted a team after London will be Toronto. I believe this because the city of Toronto has hosted NFL football in the recent past from 2008 through 2013 when the Bills played a home game in the city each season. Toronto was also viewed as an option for the Rams prior to moving to Los Angeles. Toronto boasts a population of 2.4 million making its potential fan base the fourth largest of all current teams, and fifth largest after a London franchise. Toronto is expected to double its population in the surrounding metro area over the next two decades and is one of the largest, fastest growing and most affluent areas in Canada. Finally, it makes for a solid addition to the NFC, likely North, after London is added to the AFC, likely East.

After Toronto, San Antonio will be the second expansion team in the United States located in Texas in as many iterations. San Antonio is the seventh largest city, in terms of population, in the United States. It was also seriously viewed as a viable option for the Raiders before settling on Las Vegas. A franchise in this city would be a perfect springboard into Mexico City as San Antonio would make for an excellent cross-border rivalry.

Mexico City’s pollution, safety issues, lack of a state of the art facilities and economic issues all make this a likely candidate for the NFL to bring along slowly while hoping one or more of these issues work themselves out over the next two decades. A massive population of over 21 million people in the metro area (the 10th-largest metro population in the world and largest in North America) make this a mouth-watering candidate, especially when it is essentially in the NFL’s backyard, but the concerns currently outweigh the benefits and appear to be present for the foreseeable future. This is why I have expansion to Mexico City much later than most might view it likely.

So how about it? What projections or predictions do you think I missed on? Which are spot on? Do you have any that you feel should be added? Let’s see how right or wrong we are in a few years!