Artificial Intelligence Could Slash Salaries of Overpaid NFL Star Players

As computing power continues to improve, one company plans to take data analytics to the next level. They are using an artificial intelligence (AI) system to provide recommendations on player salaries for all National Football League (NFL) teams.

Cincinnati-based Pro Football Focus (PFF) is owned by broadcaster and former Cincinnati Bengals player Cris Collinsworth. The company is in business with all 32 NFL teams and 62 college programs. PFF sells player data in every game, provided in a searchable setup. The data package comes with videos.

In an interview with Fox Business Network, PFF's Collinsworth said:

"We break down every player on every play in every game. So we have this treasure trove of data that we work with."

For now, teams are using the data provided by PFF to analyze plays, make strategic changes, and recruit new players. Within a year, however, the company will leverage the immense repository of data and use it in conjunction with machine learning algorithms to more accurately predict a player’s market value.

So far, the data analytics firm has discovered that some teams are not making every dollar count.

Initial Analysis Reveals That Some Teams Are Overpaying Players by Millions of Dollars

Early results have been shocking, even to the chief executive of the company. PFF’s analysis shows that some NFL teams are paying more than they should. Collinsworth said:

"Who knew that running backs aren’t as valuable as quarterbacks in the National Football league?"

Even if quarterbacks have more value than running backs on the field, PFF found that no team has won the Superbowl with a quarterback receiving more than 13 percent of the salary cap. Based on this insight, one can easily assume that at least 10 quarterbacks are significantly overpaid.

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AI suggests many star NFL players are overpaid. | Source: Shutterstock

Examples of Overpaid NFL Players Based on PFF Numbers

  • Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is the highest-paid player in the history of the sport at $35 million per year. Wilson occupies 20 percent of the team’s $175 million salary cap. Based on PFF’s numbers, the team is overpaying Wilson by $12.5 million per year.
  • The same is true for Aaron Rodgers, who is earning $33.5 million. The Green Bay Packers team is paying the quarterback $11 million more than they should.
  • Atlanta Falcons star Matt Ryan is receiving $30 million per year. PFF data suggests that the franchise is paying the quarterback an excess of $7.5 million per year.
  • Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings is making $28 million per year. He fills 16 percent of the team’s salary cap, which means the Vikings are overpaying by $5.5 million each year.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo is still an unproven asset, but the 49ers decided to give him $27.5 million. PFF data suggests that he is earning $5 million more than he should.
  • Andrew Stafford may be the best quarterback to play in a Lions’ uniform, but he is overvalued by at least $4.5 million.
  • Andrew Luck may have thrown 39 touchdowns last year, but the Colts are paying him $3 million more than they should.
  • Derek Carr and Drew Brees are both overpaid by $2.5 million. That money could have been spent to bolster other positions.
  • Khalil Mack and Alex Smith are both earning $23.5 million. Their teams blew an extra $1 million.

Bottom Line

Overall, PFF can restore some balance in the NFL by using AI technology to disrupt player salaries. Based on data-driven analysis, teams can opt to pay according to the actual market value of the players instead of their star power. Sure, some stars may see their salary dwindle, but if they value winning more than earning millions, they’d understand that the money will likely be used to acquire more above-average players in other positions.

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About the author

Kiril Nikolaev
Kiril Nikolaev

Kiril is a CFA Charterholder and financial professional with 5+ years of experience in financial writing, analysis and product ownership. He has a bachelor's degree with a specialty in finance and lives in Canada.

Kiril’s current focus is on cryptocurrencies and funds, as he does his own crypto research and is a Product Manager at Mitre Media. He also has his personal website, InvestorAcademy.org where he teaches people about the basics of investing.

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