Introducing the turnover assist stat

By Michael Lounsberry

Football is the ultimate team sport, with the success of each play needing complete cooperation from every player on the offense or defense to properly execute their role. The NHL, MLS, and NBA all have an assist statistic, but the NFL only keeps track of assisted tackles and assisted sacks. I wanted to find a way to give defenders who have made plays that resulted in a turnover, but didn’t come up with it themselves, a trackable stat that goes beyond the box score. This is where turnover assists come in.

I’ve defined turnover assists as plays where one defender assists another player on the defense in coming up with a turnover. Actions that count as assists include pressures on plays where there is an interception, deflected or defensed passes that are intercepted, and forced fumbles that are recovered by a teammate.

League Leaders in Turnover Assists
Rank Name Team Deflected Passes Pressures Forced Fumbles Total
T-1 Danielle Hunter Vikings 0 3 3 6
T-1 Shaquil Barrett Buccaneers 0 2 4 6
T-2 Nick Bosa 49ers 0 5 0 5
T-2 Matt Judon Ravens 0 3 2 5
T-2 Whitney Mercilus Texans 0 2 3 5

 

Looking at the league leaders in turnover assists, we see players who are primarily used as pass rushers, which isn’t surprising. Impressively, Hunter and Barrett have double the turnover assists of the entire Chargers defense, and the same number of assists as the Panthers. 

Most turnover assists come from pressures and forced fumbles, things that pass rushers specialize in creating, but what about the players on the back end of the defense?

League Leaders in Turnover Assists (DBs)
Rank Name Team Deflected Passes Pressures Forced Fumbles Total
1 Jabrill Peppers Giants 0 0 3 3
T-2 Adrian Amos Packers 2 0 0 2
T-2 Stephon Gilmore Patriots 2 0 0 2
T-2 Darnell Savage Packers 1 1 0 2
T-2 Budda Baker Cardinals 1 1 0 2
T-2 Patrick Peterson Cardinals 1 0 1 2
T-2 Minkah Fitzpatrick Dolphins/Steelers 1 0 1 2
T-2 Brandon Carr Ravens 0 2 0 2
T-2 Devin McCourty Patriots 0 1 1 2
T-2 Jonathan Jones Patriots 0 0 2 2
T-2 Nickell Robey-Coleman Rams 0 0 2 2

 

Some of the top defensive backs in the NFL this season have not only come up with their own turnovers, but have helped their teammates produce them as well. Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, and Jonathan Jones of the New England Patriots all have come up with two assists for their defense. Of the Patriots 36 takeaways, 19 of them have come off an assist from a teammate. This is no surprise given that Gilmore ranks third in Pass Defense Points Saved and McCourty ranks 17th.

As a defense, the Patriots rank second in turnover assists, trailing only the Vikings who have assisted on 20 of their 30 takeaways. Led by Danielle Hunter’s 6 assists, the Vikings have had 12 different players assist on a turnover so far this season, tied with the Steelers for the most in the league. The Vikings will need their defense to keep working together if they are to get through a difficult playoff field in the NFC this postseason.

The full teams leaderboard is below.

Turnover Assists by Team
Ranking Team Total Above/Below

Average (11)

1 Vikings 20 9
2 Patriots 19 8
T-3 Steelers 18 7
T-3 Buccaneers 18 7
5 49ers 17 6
T-6 Seahawks 16 5
T-6 Ravens 16 5
8 Colts 15 4
9 Texans 14 3
T-10 Saints 12 1
T-10 Rams 12 1
T-12 Cowboys 11 0
T-12 Browns 11 0
T-12 Broncos 11 0
T-12 Bears 11 0
T-16 Packers 10 -1
T-16 Giants 10 -1
T-16 Chiefs 10 -1
T-16 Bills 10 -1
T-16 Bengals 10 -1
T-21 Redskins 9 -2
T-21 Lions 9 -2
T-21 Jaguars 9 -2
T-21 Eagles 9 -2
T-21 Cardinals 9 -2
26 Raiders 8 -3
T-27 Titans 7 -4
T-27 Jets 7 -4
T-27 Falcons 7 -4
T-27 Dolphins 7 -4
31 Panthers 6 -5
32 Chargers 3 -8

 

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