Steven Clinton, also known as “The Professor” and “Scuba Steve”, brings a unique combination of perspectives to NFL analysis and game projection. A former quality control assistant at Northwestern University and the University of Toledo who also holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics, Clinton is now an NFL film junkie who has built a projection model for game outcomes and skill player statistics for use in gambling, whether it be on game lines, over/unders, player props, or fantasy football.
Clinton’s interest in sports and the numbers associated with them was evident from an early age. His earliest interest was in baseball; as a second-grader, he would tape Atlanta Braves games that were broadcast during school so that he could watch and chart the game when he got home. His interest in baseball started to trend down around the age players were allowed to check each other in hockey; Clinton was also a devoted Colorado Avalanche fan and hockey was his primary sport. Though never a standout, Clinton played competitive hockey throughout his school years and played for the club team at Northwestern. He’s also played in some beer leagues in his adult years.
In addition to his interest in hockey, Clinton was always fascinated by the strategy of eleven on eleven football. He grew up in a household that cheered for the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers, and as much as he enjoyed playing in the free flow structure of hockey, he was fascinated by the schematic nature of set plays in football. In the years before DVR, he was known to wake up in the middle of the night to watch the 30-minute “NFL Matchups” show to better understand what was happening on the field. He was also the type of NFL draft addict who settled down early in the morning on Saturday and barely moved from in front of the television until Sunday afternoon, back before the draft was a prime-time event.
At Northwestern University, Clinton got the opportunity to delve deeper into this interest. He began working for the football team as a student equipment manager in the Spring of his freshman year. After one season in this role, he convinced the staff to allow him to become a quality control assistant, a role working hundred-plus hour weeks alongside the coaching staff that was not typically filled by undergraduates. In this role, Clinton was responsible for inputting situational data and breaking down opponent passing concepts as part of the larger process that produced scouting reports for the defensive staff. He also served as an assistant to the linebacker coach, supporting him as needed in recruiting research and day-to-day operations.
This opportunity afforded Clinton the chance to learn scheme and the art of film study from a highly accomplished staff. He was mentored particularly closely by graduate assistant Alan Wolking, who went on to become the Director of College Scouting for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Bill Rees, a former NFL Director of Player Personnel. Clinton spent three seasons on the staff under Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald, taking on more responsibilities as his knowledge of the game increased, and went on to work in a similar role for a season at the University of Toledo under Head Coach Matt Campbell, where his focus shifted to special teams and offense.
After leaving Toledo, Clinton started to do extensive NFL film breakdown and created projections for the 2014 NFL Season in Excel based on his studies. It quickly became apparent that his technology skill set would need to expand to build the tools he envisioned, which led him to enroll in the M.S. in Predictive Analytics program at Northwestern. Clinton created the first version of his model, which leverages R, Python, and a local MySQL database, for the 2017 season.
Clinton continues to rely heavily on film breakdown to inform the model and spends Tuesday through Friday breaking down four games a day (at about 2.5 hours per game) during a typical week in the NFL season. He has studied All-22 film of every NFL game since 2018 and recorded grades on every throw made in that period, which are broken down by quarterback, receiver, route, field area of reception, and a throw grade. He adjusts the model throughout the week and produces projections for game outcomes, quarterback statistics, and skill player statistics.
Clinton’s project began with a focus on fantasy football, but his focus shifted to the gambling market in 2019 as new opportunities opened on that front. He has spent the past two seasons focused on learning the ins and outs of the gambling market to supplement his football knowledge. Entering the 2021 season he intends to broaden his scope to once again include fantasy projections alongside the gambling, with a focus on providing advice for player props and DFS.
When he’s not watching film or building football models, Clinton enjoys traveling around his home state of Colorado or the broader United States. He’s a huge fan of the Pacific Northwest and Montana and enjoys trail running, yoga, and martial arts in addition to ice hockey. On the beer front, he’s a big fan of porters and stouts, but preferred IPAs in his younger years and has had many fine PBRs and Keystone Lights with the boys after a hockey game.