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November 18, 2011

The Best NFL Kick Returners Ever!


Using Tableau is a never-ending journey of learning and today was no exception.  It began with this chart from the Chart of the Day:

Overall, this chart is well executed, except I would have sorted the players in descending order.  But I wanted to take it one step farther, so I downloaded the data from and got to work in Tableau.  I wanted to be able to compare:

  • Not only the combined kick returns, but also the top punt returners and kickoff returners separately.  I wanted to know which players were the best in each category. 
  • Players that played for one team versus more than one team
  • A player’s kick return ability compare to his punt return ability

Finally, I wanted to be able to filter each chart by the Top X Players for that chart.  This is where parameters come in handy.

I started this post by saying I learned a few things.  I learned to:

  • Make the user experience easier by creating a list of instructions like Steve Wexler at always does. Hover over the NFL logo to see the instructions for this viz.
  • Filter by a Top X parameter when there’s more than one item on the color shelf (like on the Total TDs chart).  Check out this discussion on the Tableau forum for an explanation (thanks to Joe Mako for the link and help making it work with a scatter plot).

To answer the question in the title of the viz, Devon Hester is very dangerous…a clear outlier, he’s a player that is “numerically distant” from the rest of the players.


  1. Nice Viz. I wonder if you could size the bubble by average return, if that was available? Could point out another dimension of dangerous.

  2. Good one Jon. I hadn't thought of adding data beyond what the Chart of the Day folks used.

    The data is available on if you want to give it a shot.