Who is the next Rugby League player to follow Jarryd Hayne to the NFL according to the data?

Former Australian Rugby League player Jarryd Hayne has become the story of the NFL pre season playing for the San Francisco 49ers. After 2 games, Hayne is second in the league in rushing yards (117) and leads the 49ers in average yards per punt return (21.6).

Are there other Rugby League players capable of causing the same impact in the NFL? If so, who are they? Who should NFL recruiters keep an eye on?

Bearing in mind my limited knowledge of Rugby League (and NFL for that matter)… I went to the NRL stats page and fetched some data on fullbacks like meters run, tries, points and tackles per game. I also added age, height and weight of each player. Then I build a dynamic heat map of 2014 Jarryd Hayne and all current fullbacks using R and the package d3heatmap.

The heatmap groups similar players together (see the dendrogram on the left) according to their features and stats. It turns out that Jarryd Hayne is in a class of his own. However, James Tedesco from the West Tigers and Darius Boyd from the Brisbane Broncos are very similar to Hayne. The next best option is Lachlan Coote (North Queensland). Greg Inglis and Josh Dugan are also worth to watch. All other players sit in a different group, quite distinct from Hayne.

NRL Fullbacks dynamic heatmap

The code can be found on my Git Hub page or below:


# load library
library(d3heatmap)

# load data
nrl <- read.csv("https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/13904341/NRL_fullbacks_AUG_2015.csv")

# sort by Meters Run per Game
nrl <- nrl[order(nrl$METERS_RUN_PER_GAME),]

# create player club column
nrl$PLAYER <- paste(nrl$PLAYER, nrl$CLUB, sep = ", ", collapse = NULL)

# exclude Club, Position, Field Goals, Run Meters, Tries, Goals, Games Played this season
# keep "per game" stats
nrl$CLUB <- NULL
nrl$POSITION <- NULL
nrl$GAMES_PLAYED <- NULL
nrl$RUN_METERS <- NULL
nrl$HIT_UPS <- NULL
nrl$TRIES <- NULL
nrl$GOALS <- NULL
nrl$FIELD_GOALS <- NULL
nrl$POINTS <- NULL
nrl$TACKLES <- NULL

# turn player names are column names
row.names(nrl) <- nrl$PLAYER
nrl$PLAYER <- NULL

# change column names
colnames(nrl) <- c("Age", "Height", "Weight", "Tries per Game", "Points per Game", "Tackles per Game",  "Hit Ups per Game", "Meters Run per Game")

# heatmap with player dendogram
d3heatmap(nrl, scale = "column", colors = "YlOrRd", dendrogram = "row", xaxis_font_size=10, yaxis_font_size=10)

### end ###

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