Does Landing Spot Matter? Reviewing the Astronauts' Landing Spot Grade



"Volume is king! Follow the volume, the rest is fluff," we say. Volume and situational assessment are the core of re-draft analysis, but when it comes to rookie prospecting, we fail to connect this sentiment back to Landing Spot. For many, "Landing Spot" is an abstract concept that never solidifies into a tangible tool. It usually involves getting excited about Aaron Rodgers' next number 2 receiver and laughing at players who get stuck on the Browns or the Lions. Jalen Reagor bad, AJ Brown good, Landing Spot must not matter. Where most see an ambiguous marginal benefit that ultimately confuses the prospect evaluation, I saw opportunity. The thing that you think is arbitrary, is in fact, a great tool for assessing the other thing that you claim to care about the most.


As I always say, "Measure what is measurable, and make measurable that which is not so."


There is immense value in simply putting a number to something. Subjective ideas exist in the abstract world and they float around confusing people until somebody says, "No. Let's test this." That's science.


Before we breakdown the science of the Astronauts' Landing Spot Grade, let's take a philosophy detour.

 

The value of rookie Landing Spot garners discussion every offseason because:


1) It is complex. Beyond the entanglement of coaching, scheme, and teammate talent, real humans with different personalities are motivated by different things. Measuring all that information may seem daunting.


2) Landing Spot value is relative to talent:

The peak of Landing Spot value is not at the margins, but in the middle. A great player elevates his teammates. He's so great, he actually improves the conditions of the Landing Spot. A good player benefits from a good situation, but a bad situation will not harm him - he will create opportunity for himself (AJ Brown). On the other hand, the bad player is so bad that it doesn't matter what kind of opportunity is available to him. He is not talented enough to take advantage of his situation (Jalen Reagor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside). But the middle of the talent spectrum - players drafted in rounds 2-4, that is where Landing Spot matters most. If these players landed on a depth chart where they had to compete with high-volume vets, we'd expect them to carve out a tertiary role, rather than steal a job. But when these players get the opportunity, they become productive fantasy assets.


Consider #RunningBacksDon'tMatter. It's not that running backs literally do not matter (the player replacing the running back was usually a running back *until 2021). It's that rushing success is connected to the gameplay of no less than 5 other teammates and there is enough talent in the NFL to replace the productivity of expensive, big-name runners. For the sake of our Landing Spot illustration: if a player hits an adequate talent threshold, he can take advantage of the opportunity afforded to him alongside the strength of the rest of the team/scheme.

 

This "Opportunity" does not have to exist in ambiguity. Neither does the entanglement of coaching, scheme, or teammate talent. What may sound daunting or tedious to some, a rocket scientist is happy to measure. So over the past few years I've been building and testing a Landing Spot model for rookies. Turns out, it's so objectively great that if you're not using one, you're just a flat-earther. We can continue to live in the abstract confusion or we can measure, record, objectify, and improve.


Our Landing Spot Grade evaluates three components of a prospect's first NFL team:

  • Opportunity (75%) - measures competition along the depth chart & available volume

  • Teammates (20%) - measures the quality of directly relevant teammates using past success and volume statistics

  • Scheme (5%) - measures franchise stability and schematic fit