NFL Offensive Schemes and Coordinators in Fantasy Football – NFC

| 4 years ago
marc trestman

NFL Offensive Schemes and Coordinators in Fantasy Football – NFC

Did you know who Dirk Koetter was before last season’s draft? If not, then you made a common mistake of overlooking each team’s offensive scheme and play caller and how they affect a player’s production. This common mistake that I still see many fantasy football managers making is drafting their players based on the belief that they are the best player left at their position. At its core, the reasoning for this seems logical: Player X is more naturally talented and had a more productive season last year than Player Y. This reasoning fails to take into account many other factors that determine a player’s productivity. Those factors range from a player’s experience and role in the offense, to the actual offensive scheme each player plays in and the coordinator who calls the plays and sets the tempo on offense.

In this article, I will take a look at the offensive schemes that have changed around the NFC and analyze what players stand to gain or lose the most ground.

Drawing back to the earlier example, let’s take a look at the impact that Koetter had for Atlanta’s skill position players in 2012:

Atlanta Offense Total Snaps Total Dropbacks Total Yards Total Points Matt Ryan Yards Matt Ryan TDs
2011 1125 651 6026 402 4177 29
2012 1170 743 5906 419 4719 32

When Koetter came in, he preached that he would bring a more up-tempo offense that uses more no-huddle, shotgun formations and more passing. All of these things came true. Matt Ryan dropped back 92 more times in 2012, while racking up 542 more passing yards and three more TDs. These numbers would be even higher had the Falcons not jetted to a 12-2 start, allowing them to rest Ryan down the stretch.

Let’s take a look at the four offenses in the NFC that have new systems and/or coordinators. In part two of this piece, we will look at the AFC.


Chicago Bears

The Lovie Smith era has finally come to an end and as (most) Bears’ fans rejoice, we look ahead to the future under new head coach Marc Trestman. Trestman was a long-time assistant in the NFL before jumping ship to the Canadian Football League (CFL) and coached the fast-paced, high-scoring offenses of the Raiders (led by Rich Gannon) and the 49ers (led by Steve Young) to name a couple. He will call the offensive plays and he brings with him his shotgun-heavy, spread-heavy, and motion offense to a Bears team that had gotten stale in their play-calling under former coordinator Mike Tice.

Trestman ran a no-huddle offense in 2002 with Rich Gannon, and he plans to use concepts that he installed into his CFL offense in the NFL such as pistol, gun, and read-zone in an effort to get Jay Cutler outside of the pocket where he believes Cutler can make big plays. Steve Young, who tallied seven rushing touchdowns under Trestman, believes Cutler will become excellent under his tutelage. At its core, Trestman’s scheme is a West Coast offense, so a lot of short throws and getting the ball out to players in space can be expected.

Player Most Likely To Benefit: Matt Forte, RB

Trestman has commented already that he wants to get Forte in motion more to get him the ball in space. Also, the West Coast offense is an offense that features high percentage throws utilizing their running backs in the passing game. While the old coaching staff had a bias against Forte in red zone, Trestman has made no mention of automatically removing Forte inside the 10-yard line. Forte should regain has status as a back-end RB1 in 2013 in his new offense.

Honorable Mention: Jay Cutler, QB

Overall: You can expect a faster-paced Chicago Bears in 2013. More plays, more yards, and hopefully more points. Trestman’s offense has the aid of Martellus Bennett, Jermon Bushrod, and Kyle Long added to the starting 11. It would not surprise me if Cutler, Forte, and Alshon Jeffrey all exceed their average draft position (ADP).


Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals said goodbye to Ken Whisenhunt and welcomed a new head coach in Bruce Arians, the 2012 offensive coordinator of the year (there is no such award, but if there was he would deserve it). To Arians, the West Coast offense is an outdated scheme that has no business in his playbook at all. Arians runs a vertical offense that uses a power running scheme, play-action, and a lot of deep and deep-intermediate routes. He once said about T.Y. Hilton last season, “He will get his shots every game.”

Arians is known for his proclivity to move his receivers around and not have them pinned to “X,” “Y,” and “Z” positions (often using his best wide receiver in the slot, as seen with Reggie Wayne in 2012). Arians is also known for preferring the one-back approach when it comes to his running game. Arians’ attacking style is great news for the type of quarterback that Carson Palmer is and should mean good things for the entire Cardinals’ offense.

Player Most Likely to Benefit: Larry Fitzgerald, WR

In 2012 it all came crashing down for Fitzgerald, who finished with his worst full season as a pro and a 71 receptions/798 yards/4 touchdowns line. Horrible offensive line play, quarterback play, and play-calling were all to blame for his demise. The Cardinals have made a great attempt to fix that by improving their offensive line and quarterback, and adding Arians as their play caller. Arians plans to use Fitzgerald in all three wide receiver positions, a plan he executed with Reggie Wayne last season, leading to a 106/1,355/5 campaign.

Fitzgerald has said he’s in “prove-it mode” this year, and Arians says he’s targeting “over 100 catches and 10-15 touchdowns” for Fitzgerald in 2013. While the TD numbers seem lofty, Fitzgerald should be able to get back to 100-plus catches and a lot of yards. Fitzgerald is a high-upside WR1 in my book because of the Cardinals’ new offense and Arians’ creative scheming.

Overall: Carson Palmer should also improve on his 2012 campaign under Arians, but the quarterback pool is far too deep this season for him to emerge as anything more than a high-end QB2. I would look out for Michael Floyd to make an impact in this offense; he’s a nice wide receiver flier.


Philadelphia Eagles

We have long awaited the arrival of Chip Kelly in the NFL and now we will finally see how his offense translates to the big league. In 2012, his Oregon Ducks averaged a snap every 20.9 seconds (the fastest team in the NFL was New England with 24.9). In organized team activites (OTAs), the Eagles ran their offense almost “exclusively” out of the shotgun formation. ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, who believes the offense will be ineffective, described Kelly’s offense as a “movement offense by the quarterback, off the run-action, off the read-action. A lot of short, quick passes, dart routes, bubble screens. Very few plays down the field with NFL passing concepts.”

I tend to believe that Kelly will incorporate more NFL passing concepts, and the offense will look more like the 2012 Redskins’ scheme. Kelly even mentioned back in April “in this league you have to be able to throw the football accurately.” Having said all that about throwing the football, Kelly’s running backs in 2012 averaged 39.2 rushes per game. What we know for sure is that the Eagles’ offense will be spread-based, up-tempo, and likely to run more than Andy Reid’s 2012 Eagles because quite frankly any new offensive system would run the ball more.

Player Most Likely to Benefit: LeSean McCoy, RB

Quite simply, the change in offense from Reid (whose backs rushed the ball on average 20.2 times per game) to Kelly (39.2 times per game) is enough to improve McCoy’s value. When you add in the fact that he’s re-dedicated his body this offseason, the addition of Lane Johnson at right tackle and Jason Peters at left tackle again, McCoy should be locked in as high-upside RB1.


Carolina Panthers

The Panthers retained their head coach, but lost their offensive coordinator and have promoted from within Mike Shula to run the offense. Shula wants to de-emphasize the zone-read offense that often got the Panthers’ offense and Cam Newton in trouble in 2012. During mini-camp and OTAs, the Panthers did not practice much zone-read option at all. The plan is for a more conventional offense that utilizes more base runs to the running backs. These changes are a good thing for the Panthers’ offense as Newton had a 97.4 passer rating under center versus an 82.9 in the shotgun. At the same time, head coach Ron Rivera has promised a more up-tempo offense in 2013, so we can expect more no-huddle and more plays.

Player Most Likely to Improve: Cam Newton, QB

While whoever ends up winning the lion’s share of carries in that backfield might end up being the true winner under Shula, it has been impossible to predict up until this point who will emerge out of Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, and Mike Tolbert. Newton has a chance to improve on his strong 2012 finish with a faster paced offense and more opportunities under center. Over the final six games, Newton combined for 14 touchdowns and only two turnovers, while operating under a more simplified offense as the Panthers phased out the zone-read option. Newton finished last year as fantasy’s fourth-best QB, and I expect him to be in the top 5 again in 2013.

Overall: Carolina’s offense should be much more efficient in 2013, which is good news for all of its skill players.


Other Offensive Scheme/Play-Calling Notes:

–       Sam Bradford is playing in the same offensive system for the first time in his career.

–       Josh Freeman is in year two of offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s offense, which draws its roots from Kevin Gilbride’s offense, which focuses on option routes for its receivers. Timing and chemistry are needed between its receivers and quarterback. WR Mike Williams made note of this in early June and has said Freeman seems to be more in sync this year.

–       Bill Callahan is likely to call plays in Dallas which should mean a greater focus on rushing the football.

–       Sean Payton is back in New Orleans as play caller. Expect more rushes for Darren Sproles and more targets for Jimmy Graham. Overall, the Saints will run more plays “in space.”

Dan Schneier is a staff writer for PFF Fantasy, a former FOX Sports NFL scribe, and an auction format enthusiast.

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