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Data Crunch: Positional Longevity

Posted Dec 19, 2013

In the 11th of our weekly ventures into data visualization, we look at the different starting positions on the depth chart to determine which ones have historically had the most and least turnover

Every week, we football fans consume the NFL through live game action, replays and highlight shows. And then we consume it again through the numbers. Whether it's via fantasy football, statistical analysis or simply the league standings, numbers help us understand and digest the game we love.

This season, Buccaneers.com wants to help you see what the numbers are saying.

Welcome back to Data Crunch, our weekly foray into data visualization that will help tell the story of Tampa Bay Buccaneers football and the 2013 NFL season as a whole. Here, we will not only dive deep into the statistics generated each week by the Buccaneers but we'll present it to you in graphical form to better convey what the numbers are telling us. These interactive graphs allow the user to identify trends, gaining a better understanding of how wins and losses are generated and where the team and individual players are headed.

Our 11th data visualization exercise of the season takes a look at the relative longevity of starters at the different positions on the depth chart in Buccaneer history. That is, which positions tend to have starters who hold on to their jobs the longest, and which ones tend to have more turnover. To analyze this, we've tracked the starters at the 13 primary starting positions (QB, RB, FB, TE, WR, G, C, T, DE, DT, LB, CB and S) through all 38 Buccaneer seasons, up through Week 13 of the current campaign. For multiple-starting positions such as linebacker and defensive end, we did not differentiate between specific starting spots, such as strongside linebacker or left end.

Overall, the offensive line positions tend to have the longest-lasting starters, though it's interesting that the center and tackle positions have much greater average longevity than the two guard spots. Center ranks as the position most likely to have a long-lasting starter, primarily due to the staying power of three successive players at that position: Steve Wilson, Randy Grimes and Tony Mayberry.

The highest amount of turnover occurs in the offensive backfield, where fullbacks average just 17.2 starts and running backs take the last spot on the list with an average of 14.5 starts. However, on an individual basis, Mike Alstott's 137 games started at fullback represent the highest percentage of the overall total at any given position. This is partially because there is only one spot for a starter at fullback, while there are two (and sometimes three) cornerbacks starting in every game and three or four linebackers starting in most contests. Otherwise, Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks would certainly be higher on the list. Click on the "Totals" tab to see that represented more clearly, as this graph represents the total starts at each position and Barber and Brooks have the largest overall blocks.

Hover over any portion of the bars to see the details of each player included in the study. The left-most block in each bar will show the player who made the most starts at that position in team history, moving towards the players with the least starts as the bar progresses to the right.