Most fantasy football draft guides give you the basics. You get your fantasy football player rankings, projections for the 2023 NFL season, fantasy football sleepers, fantasy football busts and plenty of NFL rookie coverage as well. Maybe you even get some fantasy football draft strategy tips as well. Good thing this isn’t your typical draft guide. At Fantasy Alarm, we’ve built champions over the years by also including a full breakdown of every team’s coaching system, both offensive and defensive. It’s one thing to draft a player because someone tells you they like them. It’s another to see exactly how a player is expected to be used in a team’s offense. And not only will this help you on Draft Day, but the knowledge you glean from our Coaching Breakdowns will also help you be a much stronger player on your fantasy football weekly waiver wire.

Why You Should Learn Each NFL Team’s Coaching System for Fantasy Football

Over the years, the growth of statistical analysis in fantasy football has been incredible to watch with numerous web sites digging into some pretty in-depth metrics to use when analyzing the performance of both NFL teams and their players. However, as we have routinely pointed out, there are many pitfalls when looking at year-to-year numbers. Things change at a rapid rate in the NFL. Not only is the player movement abundant, but the revolving doors we’ve seen for head coaches and their coordinators seem to be in a perpetual spin. This year alone, we have five new head coaches and 16 new offensive coordinators.

As a result, comparing performances between the different seasons can be an exercise in futility. A running back who found success against a particular team one year cannot be guaranteed success the following season as, not only could the opposition change defensive coordinators and systems, but said running back’s team could have gone through its own changes as well. Or, that player could be on an entirely new team and thus play in a completely different system.

There’s that word again – system. We use it often. We may also refer to it as a scheme, but the fact remains that a team’s system probably has a greater impact on a player’s production than even that player’s level of talent. You can take a running back with mediocre talent and watch him excel if the coach’s system caters to that player’s strengths. Conversely, you can take a highly-talented player, put him in a system that doesn’t feature his strengths and watch his overall production suffer.

This is why we urge you to study each and every team’s system, both on offense and defense. From a seasonal fantasy standpoint, it will help you make the right selections on draft day. When you are looking at the Ultimate Cheat Sheet (to be released July 24) and see two players you like in the same tier, knowledge of the system in which they play can prove to be the deciding factor. From a DFS standpoint, you’ll have a much better idea as to which offenses match up better against a particular opponent and be able to construct your lineup accordingly.

Before we dive into the individual teams, let’s get the basic vocabulary down so when we dig deeper within each team’s your base-knowledge makes it easier to follow. 



Types of Offensive Systems & Schemes

West Coast Offense – Derived by Bill Walsh, this scheme puts more of an emphasis on passing than running and is focused on short, horizontal passing routes to stretch out the defense and ultimately open things up for longer run plays and longer passes. Many modern west coast offenses will utilize a strong ground attack along with the short passes (the infamous dink-and-dunk) to move the chains, but also to set up play-action for more chances downfield. Plays are called using a long string of words and numbers such as “flip left double-X jet 42 counter naked seven Z quarter.”

Air Coryell (a.k.a. Vertical or Timing Offense) – A combination of both deep and mid-range passing in conjunction with power running. The system uses a lot of motion and the passing is based on timing and rhythm with the quarterback actually throwing to a spot rather than to a specific player which helps to maximize yards gained after the catch. Plays are called with three-digit number such as “jet dart 272 Y-flat train.”

Erhardt-Perkins Offense – The original formula, which dates back to the 1970’s Patriots, focused on a run-first offense with a simplified, quarterback-friendly passing game. However, when Charlie Weis joined New England, he used it as a building block to develop a more modern version which maintains the run but now enhances the multiple passing options and possibilities within a given play. Running backs, wide receivers and tight ends aren’t as much positions as they are labels for where a player lines up most of the time. Plays are called using short phrases and code words such as “Circus/Kings.”

Spread Offense -- The Spread offense is designed to do exactly as it sounds. The scheme spreads out the offense with four or five receivers, which forces the defense to match. The personnel on the field rarely changes so the offense can wear the defense down, especially with no huddle sprinkled in.

Air Raid Offense – The system is notable for its heavy focus on passing and, if implemented in full, could result in 65-75% passing plays throughout the season. This is an up-tempo, no-huddle scheme where the quarterback has the freedom to audible to any play based on what the defense is showing at the line of scrimmage. One interesting aspect you will see here as well is that the offensive linemen are not bunched together like you see in a conventional offense. They are split about a half-yard apart which is supposed to cause defensive linemen to run further to get to the quarterback and allow for short, quick passing to neutralize blitzes. It is also used to open up wider passing lanes which should prevent passes from being knocked down or intercepted at the line of scrimmage.

Pistol Offense – An offensive scheme which became more popular in the NFL with the rise of more athletic, mobile quarterbacks. It’s less of a base offense and more of an adaptation as its formation is a hybrid of single-back formations and shotgun. The premise of the scheme places the quarterback and running back closer to the line of scrimmage (about four yards behind instead of the usual seven) which should give the quarterback an easier read and less time for the defense to react. Its success really depends on the quarterback’s ability to read the defense properly.

Types of Offensive Personnel Packages

11-Personnel – Three receivers and one tight end on the line with one running back in the backfield; this creates four vertical threats and seven run gaps at the line of scrimmage. 

12-Personnel – Two receivers and two tight ends on the line with one running back in the backfield; you still have four vertical threats while the two tight ends create eight run gaps at the line of scrimmage.

21-Personnel – Two receivers and one tight end on the line with two running backs (one is often a fullback) in the backfield; the blocking back creates a movable gap as defenses do not know where he will insert into the line of scrimmage to block. 

22-Personnel – One receiver and two tight ends on the line with two running backs in the backfield; very similar to 21-Personnel, but actually creates eight run gaps, four on each side of the center.

10-Personnel – Four receivers, no tight end and one running back in the backfield; puts plenty of speed on the field, opens up the field for mobile QBs and RPO work.

20-Personnel – Three receivers, no tight ends and two running backs in the backfield; not often used, but teams with string pass-catching running backs may employ from time to time.



Types of Defensive Systems & Schemes

3-4 – Focus on size and length across the defensive line, inside linebackers ball-hawk, outside linebackers make plays as edge defenders and there is a heavy use of defensive backs to cover in the open field which helps disguise the blitz better.

4-3 – With four lineman and only three linebackers, the defenders are each responsible for covering a gap during a run and will usually set up with a closed formation on the opposing tight end. Pre-game prep and opposing personnel will determine which side the line will close if facing a two-tight end set-up.

Cover-0 – also known as man-coverage, it is when the defense blitzes six defenders and leaves a mix of five defensive backs and linebackers to each lock onto one route-runner. This can also be broken down into Press-Man Coverage which is when the defender lines up a yard or two off the receiver to disrupt his jump off the line and Off-Man Coverage where the defender gives the receiver a bit more room and stays with him for his route.

Cover-1 – similar to Cover-0 but the defense also leaves one defender in the middle of the field to assess where the extra help is needed.

Cover-2 – a two-deep, five under zone defense used to take away vertical concepts while forcing the ball underneath to the flat or check-down option.

Cover-3 – a three-deep, four-under zone defense where both cornerbacks drop to the outside zones with the free-safety playing the deep middle.

Cover-4 – four deep defenders, two corners protecting the sideline zones and two safeties to cover the middle of the field.

One more thing to add – in the charts you will see below, the numbers are where that coach’s team ranked in each of the categories listed. The ranks are there for coaches and offensive coordinators (passing game and run-game coordinators as well) so you can see how they have progressed over the years. If their job with the team ranked lower than that of coordinator, there is no rank given as they were simply just a cog in the machine. If there is anything noteworthy to add beyond that, it will be in the offensive breakdown.

You with me? You have the basics down? Great. Now let’s get to it!

AFC East Coaching Systems

Buffalo Bills

Head CoachSean McDermott7th year
Offensive CoordinatorKen Dorsey2nd year
Defensive CoordinatorNone 
Offensive SystemErhardt-Perkins Offense 
Blocking SchemePower Blocking w/ Zone Concepts 
Sean McDermott -- HC    Ken Dorsey -- OC   
Category202020212022 Category20202021 (PGC)2022
Points232 PointsQB COACHQB COACH2
Pass Attempts1158 Pass AttemptsQB COACHQB COACH8
Passing Yards397 Passing YardsQB COACHQB COACH7
Rushing Attempts171215 Rushing AttemptsQB COACHQB COACH15
Rushing Yards2067 Rushing YardsQB COACHQB COACH7

Offensive Breakdown

Though it hardly showed in the ADP, Bills fans and fantasy owners were nervous last season as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, the architect of Buffalo’s offensive scheme and coach who helped lead Josh Allen to the top of the quarterback mountain, left to go to New York. But head coach Sean McDermott promoted then-QB coach Ken Dorsey and asked for the scheme to remain the same. Dorsey would, obviously, be allowed to put his own spin on it, but overall, things remained the same.

One thing Dorsey did want to improve was the ground game and he did just that by reducing the amount of 11-personnel (3-WR sets) formations used and trickled in more 21-personnel groupings which utilized fullback Reggie Gilliam much more. While Devin Singletary’s usage didn’t increase, James Cook saw 89 carries and averaged an impressive 5.7 yards per carry. This season we should see a continued use of the dual-RB formations especially with the addition of LG Connor McGovern and the drafting of 6-foot-5. 330-lb guard O’Cyrus Torrence. Cook’s role will increase while the Bills also added Damien Harris to handle short-yardage work. One thing to be wary of is, with these changes in place, we could/should see fewer runs from Allen as the team looks to keep him out of harm’s way.

While Dorsey’s adjustments to help boost the running game were implemented, the Bills still used 11-personnel roughly 65-percent of the time which was only down about five-percent from the previous two seasons under Daboll. That should continue as their well-proven passing attack was built on spread formations and multi-receiver sets to help stretch out the defense. A change we did see last year was Dorsey’s willingness to give Allen and the receivers more autonomy with their routes based on what they were reading from the defense. There were some miscommunications and we all know that Allen and Stefon Diggs had some issues, but they seem to have worked some things out in the offseason. 

Something else we may see this year, with the drafting of TE Dalton Kincaid is a rise in 12-personnel formations which uses two tight ends, two wide receivers and one running back, given Kincaid’s strengths as a pass-catcher. Diggs and Gabe Davis remain the top two wideouts, so, should Kincaid’s role prove successful, slot receivers Khalil Shakir and Trent Sherfield could see fewer snaps.  

Players Who Best Fit the System: Josh Allen, James Cook, Stefon Diggs

Defensive System: 4-3 base up front with Cover-2 in the secondary

Defensive Breakdown:

The Bills said goodbye to DC Leslie Frazier in the offseason and McDermott is actually going to run the defense from the head coaching chair. It doesn’t sound like he is going to change much, so we can expect a continue 4-3 base in which the Bills rotate the front-seven in an effort to keep everyone fresh. They aren’t a blitz-heavy team and usually rely on their talented edge-rushers to wreak havoc in the backfield. Von Miller was a huge part of that last year until he got hurt, so in an effort to maintain all year, Leonard Floyd and DaQuan Jones were added to the mix.

As for the secondary, McDermott will maintain the Cover-2 base Frazier lived by, but is expected to mix in some Cover-3 and disguise coverages a lot more. Frazier catered to the strengths of his aging defensive backs, but the Cover-2 is pretty old-fashioned in this pass-happy NFL. We should also see more man-coverage mixed in and have the safeties running around lending a hand on the outside when needed. 

Players Who Best Fit the System: Von Miller, Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer



Miami Dolphins

Head CoachMike McDaniel2nd year
Offensive CoordinatorsFrank Smith2nd year
Defensive CoordinatorVic Fangio1st year
Offensive SystemWest Coast Offense 
Blocking SchemeWide Zone 
Mike McDaniel-- HC    Frank Smith -- OC   
Category2020 (SF RGC)2021 (SF OC)2022 Category2020 (LV)2021 (LAC RGC)2022
Points211311 PointsTE COACH511
Pace251521 PaceTE COACH121
Pass Attempts16813 Pass AttemptsTE COACH313
Passing Yards12124 Passing YardsTE COACH34
Rushing Attempts14631 Rushing AttemptsTE COACH2231
Rushing Yards15725 Rushing YardsTE COACH2125

Offensive Breakdown

The Dolphins won the coaching sweepstakes last year when they brought in Mike McDaniel. He came up through the ranks, working for 13 years underneath Kyle Shanahan, and did some fantastic work, putting his own stamp on a well-proven and successful offensive scheme. We saw plenty of line-of-scrimmage adjustments, new-look blocking schemes, well-designed pass-plays and more RPO work to cater to the strengths of Tua Tagovailoa and until he got hurt and the team was forced to use Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson, this offense looked strong.

McDaniel’s primary spin on Shanahan’s offense comes in the form of a wide zone blocking scheme. The difference between a normal outside zone scheme and that of a wide zone is that, in outside, the runners are moving towards the sideline and trying to get around the defense to get up the field. In wide zone, the scheme sets up to spread the defense first and then figure out where to push up field, whether it’s further outside or a cut-back closer towards the middle. McDaniel also likes to utilize his fullback and we saw Alec Ingold deployed in the same fashion as Kyle Juzszcyk was in San Francisco; something to keep that in mind when looking at the receivers behind Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle as they utilized a 21-personnel formation 45-percent of the time. We should see the typical rotation of backs between Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson, but be on the lookout still for Dalvin Cook as he’s been rumored to Miami throughout the offseason.

The passing game is all about that YAC. Yes, yards after the catch is a major focal point of this west coast style of passing. Expect to see a lot of slants and crossing routes where Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle can catch the ball out in space, in-stride and use their speed to rack up extra yardage. As for the tight end, the usage just wasn’t the same for Mike Gesicki as it was back when McDaniel had George Kittle, so while you should expect to see that TE drag route run where he mirrors the movements of the quarterback, it’s tough to put your fantasy faith into Durham Smythe. He’s not being drafted in fantasy leagues, so don’t worry about him on draft day, but maybe keep an eye on him early in the season just in case.

Players Who Best Fit the System: Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle

Defensive System: 3-4 base with multi-front looks and a Cover-2 base with a mix of Cover-3

Defensive Breakdown: 

Last season, Miami’s defense ranked 16th overall in DVOA – 10th against the pass but just 29th against the run – so they went out and got the absolute best to help revamp things. Enter Vic Fangio. He is the master of disguise when it comes to the defensive line and edge rushers and will instantly transform the Dolphins into one of the top units in the league. While he remains based in a 3-4 set-up, Fangio uses plenty of multi-front looks and holds off on revealing where the pass-rush is coming from until after the snap. He’ll give the illusion of thinning out the line and when teams try to run the ball, they are stuffed by a wealth of linebackers who were scheming against it the whole time. As such, he doesn’t blitz very often which prevents the defense from over-committing.

The secondary will start off in Cover-2, but with the way Fangio likes to move his safeties around, you will see some Cover-3 elements, but mostly a Cover-4 scheme so they can take away the big plays downfield. The secondary is working four deeper zones while the front-seven handles everything up front. Adding Jalen Ramsey is going to help the outside coverage a whole lot more.

Players Who Best Fit the System: Jalen Ramsey, Xavien Howard, Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips



New England Patriots

Head CoachBill Belichick24th year
Offensive CoordinatorBill O'Brien1st year
Defensive Coordinatornone 
Offensive SystemSpread/Motion 
Blocking SchemeZone/Power Hybrid 
Bill Belichick -- HC    Bill O'Brien -- OC   
Category202020212022 Category2020 (HOU)2021 (ALABAMA)2022 (ALABAMA)
Points27617 Points1854
Pace182419 Pace12448
Pass Attempts312621 Pass Attempts231332
Passing Yards301420 Passing Yards4624
Rushing Attempts3822 Rushing Attempts316447
Rushing Yards4824 Rushing Yards317128

Offensive Breakdown

Much to the chagrin of the rest of the AFC East, Bill Belichick welcomes back new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien who is expected to revamp the scheme and make things easier for quarterback Mac Jones and a lot more difficult for defenses. O’Brien likes to primarily use 11 and 12-personnel packages as his base, but does a lot of pre-snap motion to disguise what he plans to do. The spread/motion offense stretches out the defense and gives Jones more time to assess where the defense is expected to be moving. With an increased use of RPO in O’Brien’s scheme, Jones is going to have a lot more options as the play develops.

One thing to keep in mind is that this offense will actually use the pass to set up the run, something the Patriots have not done in quite some time. Jones will come out throwing early and often, but don’t expect the deep passing we saw last year. O’Brien is going to shorten things up and use more of a timing-based passing game where Jones will actually throw to a designated spot on the field where he expects his receivers to be. That will enable him to hit them in stride and have them pick up yards after the catch. This is the system they used at Alabama when O’Brien had Jones there, so running this offense shouldn’t be tough.

As for running the ball, expect plenty of that still, especially when the Patriots have the lead. O’Brien likes to run plays out of the same formations he uses for passing so defenses are going to have their hands full. Rhamondre Stevenson will see the bulk of the touches, but keep in mind that O’Brien likes to mix things up to the point where defenses aren’t exactly sure who has the ball. Not enough to worry about drafting Stevenson in fantasy, but enough to frustrate his owners at times when suddenly Pierre Strong gets the ball or Jones himself takes it into the endzone. 

Players Who Best Fit the System: Rhamondre Stevenson, Mike Gesicki, Hunter Henry

Defensive System: 4-3 base with multi-front looks and a mix of both Man and Zone Coverage

Defensive Breakdown:

While Steve Belichick will be the defensive play-caller, make no mistake – this is still Bill Belichick’s scheme. Last year, I gave you the nerdy Star Wars analogy of how Darth Maul (Brian Belichick – safeties coach) and Darth Vader (Steve) carried out the orders for Emperor Palpatine and that remains in full this season. His scheme usually features a 4-3 formation up front, but we’ve seen a variety of different looks throughout mini-camp and OTAs already. They key to know is that Belichick and his minions change up their defense to counter whatever the offense is throwing at them. They take away the opposition’s top weapons and adjust the front-seven and secondary coverage scheme accordingly. Versatility among the defenders is key and the personnel is assembled as you would expect.

Players Who Best Fit the System: Christian Barmore, Matthew Judon, Davon Godchaux



New York Jets

Head CoachRobert Saleh3rd year
Offensive CoordinatorNathaniel Hackett1st year
Defensive CoordinatorJeff Ulbrich3rd year
Offensive SystemWest Coast Offense 
Blocking SchemeOutside Zone 
Robert Saleh -- HC    Nathaniel Hackett -- OC   
Category2020 (SF)20212022 Category2020 (GB)2021 (GB)2022 (DEN)
PointsDC2829 Points11032
PaceDC73 Pace323213
Pass AttemptsDC136 Pass Attempts121718
Passing YardsDC2015 Passing Yards81821
Rushing AttemptsDC3226 Rushing Attempts241516
Rushing YardsDC2726 Rushing Yards9819

Offensive Breakdown

While I may joke and say Aaron Rodgers is the new offensive coordinator of the Jets, I’m probably not too far off. Hackett will implement his west coast-style offense and call the initial plays. We will see a lot of three and four-receiver sets, lots of play-action and increased route trees for the receivers to dip into as the offense reads the defense. But the autonomy at the line of scrimmage belongs to Rodgers. He will take Hackett’s play as a suggestion and do whatever he wants based on what he is seeing. We may eventually see the receivers have more autonomy to change their routes, but until Rodgers is 100-percent comfortable, what he says on the field goes. That will undoubtedly favor Allen Lazard and maybe even Randall Cobb, but even Rodgers isn’t too stubborn to know that he and Garrett Wilson need to be on the same page at all times.

In order for the play-action to be effective, the Jets are going to need to do exactly what they did last season before Breece Hall, Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker got hurt. The need to establish a strong ground game, specifically a strong outside zone rushing attack. Robert Saleh watched the benefits of this unfold in San Francisco and will push Hackett and Rodgers in that direction. If the Jets can maintain a strong ground presence it will open everything up for Rodgers to do what he does, and this Jets team will show marked improvement from last year. 

Players Who Best Fit the System: Aaron Rodgers, Breece Hall

Defensive System: 4-3 with a mix of Cover-1 and Cover-3 zone

Defensive Breakdown:

The Jets are using a four-man front, partly because the scheme fits what Saleh and DC Jeff Ulbrich like to use, but mostly because their defensive line lacks the run-stoppers they need. They brought in Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods to help bolster the middle of the defensive line and Quinnen Williams should be elated by his new contract, so hopefully this clogs up the middle. C.J. Mosley remains but will hopefully not be needed as heavily to stuff the run. 

The secondary will continue to work in man-coverage (Cover-1) with a Cover-3 zone mixed in. Sauce Gardner helps to shit down one side of the field with D.J. Reed on the other, but the key could be the addition of Adrian Amos to lend a hand to Jordan Whitehead. They traded for Chuck Clark but he tore his ACL in camp already, so it’s going to be up to Amos and Whitehead to patrol the middle of the field. Not an easy task, but given how well Gardner keeps one side of the field in line, they should be able to handle the rest.  

Players Who Best Fit the System: Quinnen Williams, C.J. Mosley, Sauce Gardner