Brains and Football

This diagram from Ben Fry, a visualization expert, is pretty cool.

The magic of good visualization: He took this unappetizing list of numbers from ESPN:
Offensive tackles: 26
Centers: 25
Quarterbacks: 24
Guards: 23
Tight Ends: 22
Safeties: 19
Middle linebackers: 19
Cornerbacks: 18
Wide receivers: 17
Fullbacks: 17
Halfbacks: 16
and converted it into the diagram on the left. The radius of the circle at each position is proportional to the average intelligence score of all the players playing that position in the NFL. Defensive players are in red and offensive players in blue.

What do I make of this? Essentially, the brain-trust on the field is the offensive line, with the tackles and centers smarter than the quarterbacks. The defensive line is next, followed by the rest of the defense. The receivers and backs are the dunces on the field. The offensive line has to carry out many plays and react to defensive blitzes, so the smartest players get assigned there. Receivers and backs need to be athletic, but don't need to do much thinking.

How do these players compare with folks in other professions? The offensive players are about as smart as journalists (average score: 26) and smarter than clerical workers (average score: 22). The receivers and backs are about as smart as your average security guard (average score: 17). Scientists (average score: 31) and programmers (average score: 29) have football players and journalists beat. Of course, this is your average player and average scientist. Tom Brady is probably smarter than you and me put together.

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