Monthly Archives: April 2017

Inducting (Another) New 3-Sigma Athlete

I wrote the last induction post in April 2015, welcoming Connecticut corner Byron Jones into the club. This is what i said at the time.

The name of this blog is 3 Sigma Athlete, which refers to the rare NFL player who stands three standard deviations above the NFL standard pSPARQ at a given position. I’ve written before about the 3 sigma athletes who are currently in the NFL: J.J. Watt, Calvin Johnson, Evan Mathis, and Lane Johnson.

On the day that this site was launched, Mathis was the one to think of the 3sigma club.

What is a 3 Sigma Athlete?

3 sigma athletes don’t show up very often. 3 standard deviations from the mean corresponds to the 99.87th percentile. It isn’t 1 in 1000, but it isn’t far off, either. In 2014, no players were added to the 3sig club, though Seattle’s 6th-round pick, Garrett Scott, did just miss, falling short by an impossibly small margin.

In the last two years, Calvin and Mathis retired. Kristjan Sokoli was tentatively in the club (if he stuck at offensive line), but he’s playing DL in Indy. That left us with three members of the club: J.J. Watt, Lane Johnson, and Byron Jones.

We now have a new member to induct; Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu. I’ve waited to announce as we didn’t have his Combine 10-split and his pro day short shuttle time was difficult to pin down. Values between 4.09 and 4.30 have been reported, and I wasn’t comfortable finalizing Obi until i knew he’d stick. With the full data back now, he’d be a 3sig even with the short shuttle lower bound of 4.30. With the more widely reported 4.09, he lands at 3.3 sigma, clearly the best safety athlete of at least the last 19 draft classes.

Obi is yet another case study in how teams value elite athleticism. Jones wasn’t a notable prospect until he set a world record in Indy, and he went in the first round. Melifonwu might end up going just as early as Jones, and there wasn’t any buzz suggesting that before the Combine. It’s not hard to see a team like Dallas or Seattle, each with a history of targeting uber-athletes, targeting him at the end of the first round.

As I said two years ago, the 3 sigma club is just trivia, but it’s fun trivia. Congrats to Obi. We really do need to get him a t-shirt.