Graphs of NFL arrests since 2000 show interesting trends

With the sensational Aaron Hernandez arrest still dominating much of the sports new cycle, the topic of NFL players and their off-the-field behavior is once again getting a lot of attention.

As with a great many awesome pieces of online content, I discovered the following graphs about NFL player arrests from the feed of brilliant author and content aggregator David Grann (seriously, follow this guy for constant quality links).

Yep, the Bengals are as bad as we thought they were.

Yep, the Bengals are as bad as we thought they were.

The first chart shows the total number of players arrested, by team, since 2000. Not surprisingly, the Cincinnati Bengals sit atop the charts, as their mid-2000s binge of arrests bloated their overall number. Tied with Cincinnati are the Minnesota Vikings, who famously racked up a few arrests with their “Love Boat” scandal in 2005.

The most notable thing about this chart is that only one of the worst 10 teams in terms of player arrests has won a Super Bowl in that time period (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003). Not to go all Peter King on you here, but there is something to be said for hiring intelligent, hard-working, high-character football players. The New York Giants, New England Patriots (although the Aaron Hernandez situation is growing uglier by the hour), Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers – winners of eight of the 14 Super Bowls since 2000 – all rank in the bottom half of the league in player arrests over that span.

The Wild, Wild (AFC) West

The Wild, Wild (AFC) West

Next, and just for fun, I included the graph that features a divisional breakdown of arrests. The AFC West edged the AFC North 106 to 102 in total arrests by virtue of having all four West teams in the upper half of the chart. What’s most spectacular about this is that Oakland has the least arrests over that span in the AFC West, despite the team’s reputation as a haven for malcontents and miscreants.

Conversely, the NFC West only has half the arrests of the AFC West, so there doesn’t seem to be a geographical link. Overall, the AFC had 365 arrests to just 290 for the NFC.

Lastly and, perhaps, most interestingly, is a graph featuring arrests by position:

Hey NFL teams, maybe keep a closer eye on your D.B.'s extracurricular activities.

Hey NFL teams, maybe keep a closer eye on your D.B.’s extracurricular activities?


Cornerbacks and safeties dominated (inasmuch as one can be dominant at getting caught breaking the law) all other position groups in arrests. Of course, high-profile players like Adam “Pacman” Jones and aforementioned “Love Boat” mastermind Fred Smoot fall under that category, so it isn’t all that surprising that these guys would top the chart.

Cornerback is an extremely valuable position in the NFL, so it’s a little surprising that the disparity between that position and others is so high. Nearly 18 percent of all NFL players arrested from 2000 to now have been defensive backs. Please, NFL teams, I implore you, have someone chain your cornerbacks and safeties to an armchair after every team activity and keep them from ever seeing the world outside of a football field. It will end up better for everyone.

Not surprisingly, quarterbacks had the fewest arrests with 12. This could be due to the quarterback typically being regarded as the leader and, almost without fail, smartest player on the field. Due to their intelligence and standing as generally high-profile players, quarterbacks seem to avoid the back seats of cop cars most often in the NFL.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has hammered players for getting arrested over the last several years, and the number has subsided somewhat from the spike of 2006-2008 (average of 64 arrests per year, compared to 39 over the last six years of Paul Tagliabue’s tenure as Commissioner). Still, players have been arrested an average of 49 times per year from 2009-2012, and 2013 has already seen 33 arrests. It might be time for Goodell and NFL teams to crack down even more.


Follow me on Twitter @KeithMullett


About Keith Mullett

Keith is an Ohio-based sports and pop culture junkie who began writing for MSF in June 2011. His ramblings about sports, music, movies and books can be further enjoyed by following him on Twitter @keithmullett.

In addition to his work for MSF, Keith operates a blog called Commercial Grade, in which he critiques television commercials from the perspective of the average viewer.


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