Play Potential

How far can you go?

San Francisco


Technologies Used


Project Team

C Zhang

This team is looking for

Product Manager Investor


When you watch an NFL game, it’s easy to appreciate the great plays -- the 40-yard bomb down the sideline, the jukes, the nasty blocks -- but it’s much harder to appreciate all of the decision-making that makes those great plays possible. We want to help viewers appreciate both the results *and* the process. Our hack helps the average fan appreciate the decision-making that a quarterback has to make during the lifetime of a single play. At any moment in the play, we calculate a “play potential” score for each eligible receiver. This score answers the question: if they caught the ball right at this moment, how many yards would they gain? As the receiver runs through different parts of the defensive coverage, this “play potential” score changes. It would also benefit the coaches and scouts for post-game analysis. For example,if a safety makes the decision to provide more support on a receiver, that receiver’s play potential will decrease (become redder). On the other hand, if the receiver creates separation or confuses the man that’s marking him, his play potential will increase (become greener). We calculate this “play potential”score in real time (or at least within .1 seconds) and this allows us to visualize what kind of choices a quarterback has as the play is playing out on TV. You can see when a quarterback is making a poor decision (when he throws to a (red) receiver) and you can see if a quarterback missed a huge opportunity (he fails to throw to a very green receiver). This provides additional context for every other player on the field -- a pass rush can be rated on how many bad decisions they induce, the offensive line’s pass blocking can be rated on how many additional yards their protection induces (better pass blocking means better decision-making means more yards gained).