By Syndicated From External Source on August 17, 2019
Native American voters, once overlooked, seek role for 2020 … so the census cannot accurately measure their voter registration as it would for black, …
Five years ago, I surveyed the many changes brought to the tight end position during the era of Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, whose parallel ascents to the top of the historical rankings mirrored the game’s turn toward more receiver-like talents in the role. During the 15 NFL seasons from 1999 to 2013, either Gonzalez or Gates finished among the top five in tight-end receiving yardage every single year.<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="1" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/tight-ends-are-killing-it-lately-but-are-they-as-important-as-they-used-to-be/#fn-1" data-footnote-content="
Both ranked among the top four in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2013.
“>1 During that same span, the share of league receiving yards going to tight ends increased dramatically, from 12 percent to 21 percent.
It was a tight end revolution. But by now, the primary instigators have moved on. Gates is sort of still around — maybe — but Gonzalez retired after the 2013 season. And Rob Gronkowski, the greatest tight end of the era after the primes of Gonzalez and Gates, hung up his spikes in March. In their place, new statistical monsters have emerged. In fact, 2018 saw both of the two greatest yardage seasons by tight ends in NFL history:
After producing an eye-popping 2,713 yards between them, George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers and Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs are clearly the new standard-bearers for the superstar tight end. So is this the start of another Gonzalez/Gates-style dynasty at the position? Or something different entirely? And might they be joined by even more elite tight ends in 2019?
There’s no question that the stat above — a record-breaking double for single-season yardage — grabs your attention right away. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that Kittle and Kelce had the two most valuable tight end seasons of all time last year. According to Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement metric, which measures a player’s production in terms of how much it adds to the team’s chances of scoring on any given drive (and adjusts for strength of schedule and era), Kittle was only the 44th-best single-season performer at the position since 1986, their earliest season of data. And instead of being the second-best all-time, Kelce ranks 60th, while Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz, who last year posted the 11th-best season for a tight end since 1986 in terms of yardage, ranks just 282nd in DYAR.
|Yards Rank||Player||Season||Team||DVOA||DYAR||DYAR Rank|
While the best yardage seasons by Gronkowski, Gonzalez and Gates ranked among the most valuable since 1986 according to DYAR — thanks in large part to enormous per-play efficiency (as measured by Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, Football Outsiders’ rate-stat answer to DYAR) — Kittle and Kelce were less efficient in their monster seasons. This is true relative to other tight ends but also just in the sense that all passes to a tight end are less efficient now than they used to be, both compared with the average pass and (especially) relative to the average offensive play.
From 2006 (the first season of ESPN’s expected points added data) through 2011, the average pass attempt to a tight end added about 18 percent more EPA per play than the overall average for all passes. Since 2012, the average tight end target has been worth only 14 percent more EPA than an average pass to any position. At the same time, passes make up a larger share of offensive plays than in the past,<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="2" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/tight-ends-are-killing-it-lately-but-are-they-as-important-as-they-used-to-be/#fn-2" data-footnote-content="
Going from 50.8 percent of all plays in the first half of our data to 52.7 percent in the latter half.
“>2 which only further reduces the edge in effectiveness that a tight end target has relative to the average NFL offensive play.
Simply put, it’s harder to stand out as a great tight end these days. Gonzalez and Gates used to excel by creating mismatches, forcing defenses to choose between committing undersized defensive backs against their towering frames or using slower linebackers in coverage against their speed. But defenses have adapted by emphasizing quicker linebackers and developing hybrid safeties who can defend the run while still keeping stride with receiving tight ends. At the same time, tight end prospects are emphasizing pass-catching skills more than other aspects of the job, creating a whole league full of quasi-receivers at the position.
You can see this trend in how tight ends are being deployed. Only 44 percent of total receiving yards went to tight ends who lined up from the traditional tight end spot at the end of the offensive line (including playoffs). Kelce picked up 906 yards from lining up as an oversized slot receiver, and 41 percent of overall tight end receiving yardage was gained that way in 2018. Kelce also hauled in 240 more yards — best in the league among TEs — while split out wide, from where about 13 percent of all tight end yardage was accrued. (That’s nearly double what the share was at the beginning of the decade.)
Perhaps the balance of all these changes explains why, after massive gains in the share of receiving yardage filtered to tight ends between the 1990s and early 2010s, that number has stagnated in recent seasons, fluctuating between 19 and 20 percent each year since 2013. Tight ends are still among the most efficient options on the field, but teams might be maxing out just how much of a receiving load they can ask the position to carry. Ertz set a new tight end record last season with 156 targets; Kelce (150) and Kittle (136) weren’t far behind.
The next tight end to join them atop the yardage (and workload) list might be O.J. Howard of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who ranked third in DYAR behind Kittle and Kelce last season despite being targeted for a third as many passes. Howard had a league-leading DVOA of +44 percent in 2018, and he actually ranked ahead of Kelce in ProFootballFocus’s metrics because of superior blocking grades. Howard seems due for a greater role in Tampa’s offense than before, though, and if his elite TE peers are any indication, that might mean a big dip in efficiency. Then again, Howard also embodies the kind of deep-threat mismatch a modern tight end is increasingly required to be, with an average depth of 11.47 air yards per target last season, which ranked second only to Gronkowski.<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="3" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/tight-ends-are-killing-it-lately-but-are-they-as-important-as-they-used-to-be/#fn-3" data-footnote-content="
Despite seldom being asked to split out wide.
Either way, despite the record-setting numbers, Kittle and Kelce aren’t necessarily better than their TE predecessors — just different. And they might have company at the top soon. But if today’s top tight ends are less dominant relative to league average than in the heyday of Gonzalez and Gates, it might just be because the whole position has gotten better and is being asked to do a lot more, while defenses are more geared to stop them than ever.
Welcome to The Riddler. Every week, I offer up problems related to the things we hold dear around here: math, logic and probability. There are two types: Riddler Express for those of you who want something bite-size and Riddler Classic for those of you in the slow-puzzle movement. Submit a correct answer for either,<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="1" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/which-billiard-ball-is-rigged/#fn-1" data-footnote-content="
Important small print: For you to be eligible, I need to receive your correct answer before 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday. Have a great weekend!
“>1 and you may get a shoutout in next week’s column. If you need a hint or have a favorite puzzle collecting dust in your attic, find me on Twitter.
From Corey Grodner, balance a bunch of billiard balls:
You have 12 billiard balls. To the naked eye, they all look identical, and in your hand, they all feel identical. One of the balls, however, is slightly heavier or slightly lighter than the others, but you don’t know which ball or whether it is heavier or lighter.
You do, however, have a balance scale. You can place any equal number of balls on each side of the scale, and the scale will tilt if one side differs in weight. (Note: There is no use in weighing different numbers of balls against each other — the weight difference is so slight that if the scale has more balls on one side, that side will always be heavier.) However, you can only use the scale three times.
How can you determine which ball is different, and whether it is heavier or lighter?
From Dave Moran, in which we revisit his classic Riddler technicoloring game:
Almost three years ago, we first introduced in this column a two-player map-coloring game played with writing utensils and a piece of paper. It works like this: Call the two players Allison and Bob. On each turn, Allison draws a simple closed curve on a piece of paper. Bob then colors the interior of the “country” that curve creates with one of his many crayons. If the new country borders any existing countries, Bob must color the new country with a color different from the ones he used for the bordering countries.
For example, the game might begin with Allison creating Country 1, Bob coloring it green, Allison creating Country 2, Bob coloring it pink, and so on.
In this edition of the game, suppose Allison wins when she forces Bob to use a seventh color. How many countries must Allison draw to win?
For context, Allison won the original game a few years ago when she forced Bob to use a sixth color. In that instance, she needed to draw eight countries.
Extra credit: Is there an upper limit on the number of colors Bob can be forced to use? If so, what is it? If not, why not?
Congratulations to 👏 Amanda Pierson 👏 of Washington, D.C., winner of last week’s Riddler Express!
Last week, the Puzzle Party National Committee was organizing a series of debates for the 20 candidates running for its presidential nomination. Twenty was too many to fit on a stage at once, so in each round of debate the PPNC would separate the candidates into two panels of 10. Candidates, by PPNC rule, were only allowed to criticize those candidates with whom they shared a stage. But the PPNC wanted to provide ample opportunities for such shade-throwing. What was the minimum number of rounds of bifurcated 10-candidate debates such that each candidate got an opportunity to personally attack every other candidate?
The minimum number of rounds was three.
For example, in the first debate, the panels are set like this:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
In the second debate, like this:
1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19
2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20
And in the third debate, like this:
1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20
2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19
Scott Wickham offered a helpful explanation for how to arrive at such an arrangement: Split the candidates up into what effectively becomes four teams of five people. They’ll move together as a unit. You can then think of the debates as a round-robin tournament, where each “team” plays the other three teams once — therefore enabling candidates to see the other 15 people on stage over the course of three debates, as well as the four people they are paired with in every debate.
Let the shade fly!
Congratulations to 👏 Orestis Papaioannou 👏 of Nicosia, Cyprus, winner of last week’s Riddler Classic!
Last week, you pondered the constructive possibilities of a pond you owned (with a radius of 1 yard) and your large collection of thin boards (each 1 yard long). Specifically, you wondered: How many boards were necessary in order to cover the center point of the pond with a board? To avoid falling in the water, the ends of each board needed to lie on either the banks of the pond or on another previously placed board.
You could cover the center point with as few as 12 boards.
That arrangement looks like the image below, as constructed by solver Tim Black, who also wrote a lovely blog post about how his brain and his computer combined forces to arrive at this solution. The main idea is to build a sort of scaffolding inward from the banks of the pond that is both large enough to eventually build into the center but sparse enough to avoid using too many boards. One helpful way to approach this, as with many Riddlers, is to work backwards — start with the board that will reach the center point and build your scaffolding out from there.
Solver Zach Wissner-Gross tried ever so hard to construct an 11-board arrangement, but demonstrated in the animation below that 11 boards just aren’t quite enough.
I really, really tried to get 11 using a symmetric arrangement. As you can see, the two central beams are never a distance 1 apart. So close, and yet so far! pic.twitter.com/dnkDX4T82L
— Zach Wissner-Gross (@xaqwg) August 14, 2019
And why stop with just this one pond? This puzzle’s submitter, Erich Friedman, has assembled a collection of efficient center-covering board arrangements for ponds of various sizes — and not just circular ponds but triangular, square and pentagonal ponds as well.
Have a great weekend. If the weather’s nice, you can find me down at the local pentagonal swimming hole, a pile of boards under my arm.
Well, aren’t you lucky? There’s a whole book full of the best puzzles from this column and some never-before-seen head-scratchers. It’s called “The Riddler,” and it’s in stores now!
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