Revolutionizing Football with Artificial Intelligence: Next Gen Stats by AWS
The National Football League (NFL) has fully embraced the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) with their partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Through Next Gen Stats, a collaboration between the NFL and AWS, the league hopes to use intelligent algorithms and advanced data collection tools to extract valuable insights and patterns from games and player performances.
Inspired by the 2023 Big Data Bowl, an annual software competition organized by the NFL, AWS set out to create a new category of analytics focused on analyzing “pressure” in football. With the help of AI-powered algorithms, NFL analysts can now analyze player behavior on the field, capturing how aggressive a defender played, their speed, and even the quarterback’s reaction time. This granular data quantifies pressure and allows for a deep dive into the strategies that influence plays, surpassing traditional statistics.
The AWS-NFL partnership focuses on developing machine-learning models that provide data on three key areas of gameplay. First, the AI can identify blockers and pass rushers in pass plays. Second, it can quantify “pressure” during a game. And finally, it can detect individual blocker-rusher matchups. This AI-tracking technolog y provides invaluable player stats that can assist in scouting and coaching decisions, helping determine a player’s fit within an offensive lineup.
In a sport where quantifying offensive player performance and the effectiveness of rushers tackling them can be challenging, this AI technology provides a game-changing solution. Player reactions occur in split seconds, making them hard to track and measure. By understanding how close a defender gets to the offensive lineup, coaches gain insight into the strength of their plays.
To collect the necessary data, the NFL installs tools in its fields, including ultra-wide band receivers and RFID tags embedded in players’ gear. These transmitters send real-time information to a graphic neural network model (GNN), which makes the data available for analysis. Through AI, this data is transformed into meaningful insights, displayed through interactive graphics on the Next Gen Stat game landing page.
While the AI tool is hosted on AWS infrastructure, the end result is a collaborative effort involving the NFL, Zebra Technologies, and Wilson Sporting Goods. The Next Gen Stats project, which started in 2017, now offers a robust data pipeline with historical information on every pass play since 2018.
Looking ahead, AWS engineers are working on automating the identification of blockers and rushers, enabling AI models to independently identify players’ roles on the field. This eliminates manual charting prone to errors and significantly speeds up the process.
With the power of AI and the Next Gen Stats project, the NFL is revolutionizing how football is analyzed and understood.