Our NFL Coaching Systems series here in the FREE fantasy football draft guide heads to the NFC West where, for the most part, we’re seeing a lot of the same systems as we’ve seen in recent years. None of these teams have had a head coaching change, however, all of the teams except for the Los Angeles Rams have a change at quarterback and that, in turn affects what we can expect from each of their respective offenses. You’ve probably gone through the 2022 fantasy football player rankings with a fine-toothed comb and have noticed that we are less-bullish on some of the NFC West players and this is simply because so much hinges on the quarterback play. Still, I’ve done a number of fantasy football mock drafts and can say with confidence that stacking a team like the 49ers, even with all of their changes, looks like it could be fruitful, especially in fantasy football best ball drafts with an overall prize.
In case you missed the previous divisions:
NFC West Coaching Systems
|Head Coach||Kliff Kingsbury||4th year|
|Run Game Coordinator||Sean Kugler||2nd year|
|Co-Passing Game Coordinators||Spencer Whipple/Cameron Turner||1st year|
|Defensive Coordinator||Vance Joseph||4th year|
|Offensive System||Air Raid Offense|
|Blocking Scheme||Inside Zone & Power|
|Kliff Kingsbury -- HC|
For better or for worse, Kliff Kingsbury is all about the Air Raid offense. He was lauded throughout the college ranks for his scheme and was credited for the development of quarterbacks like Case Keenum, Johnny Manziel during his Heisman Trophy winning season and, of course, Patrick Mahomes. But that was college and so far, his scheme has needed some adjustments here and there.
Let’s start with the basics: 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.
While the passing attack has been, for the most part, successful, the Cardinals have routinely faded down the stretch. When Tom Clements was the offensive coordinator, he convinced Kingsbury to utilize the run more to take some of the pressure off the rest of the offense and we saw Kenyan Drake blossom in this scheme. Spreading out the defense with such an up-tempo, pass-heavy scheme afforded wider running lanes and once the defense started to try and clog the middle, the Cardinals pushed everything to the outside again. Offensive line coach and now also run-game coordinator, Sean Kugler, is expected to employ similar tactics, but make no mistake, this is Kingsbury’s offense and he is not going to relinquish the pass-heavy play-calling.
Speaking of running the ball, we also need to keep a watchful eye over Kyler Murray. Not for the nonsense about him not watching video and doing his homework, but because of how he literally stopped running after injuring his should two years ago. He has not run as much since and that is definitely something defenses will keep in mind when defending against him. Again, the rotation of backs should help alleviate some of the pressure, but this offense needs the Murray they drafted to pull it off.
Defensive System: 3-4 with press-man coverage
How about another “for better or for worse?” Vance Joseph will continue to roll out his 3-4 base defense but, once again, continue to add a fourth lineman and use the wide-nine formation. It’s difficult to understand why he likes using this formation as the Cardinals defense has ranked 24th, 27th, and then 26th against the run over the last three seasons. He just doesn’t have the size in the interior of the defensive line to do this and while he’s going to try it again with Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons helping plug the gaps up the middle, they’re still going to have some difficulty here. Yes, J.J. Watt is back for another season, but he only played in seven games last year.
As for the pass coverage, Joseph likes to use man-to-man coverage. He’ll press at times to put the receivers off their routes, but this secondary may struggle with speed on the big plays against them, especially if the corners aren’t physical enough. He floated into some zone coverage in the past and we may see a splash more as this secondary is still very much in need of a play-making corner.
Los Angeles Rams
|Los Angeles Rams|
|Head Coach||Sean McVay||6th year|
|Offensive Coordinator||Liam Coen||1st year|
|Defensive Coordinator||Raheem Morris||2nd year|
|Offensive System||West Coast Offense|
|Blocking Scheme||Outside Zone/Power Hybrid|
|Sean McVay -- HC||Liam Coen -- OC|
|Points||11||23||8||Points||ASST. WR COACH||ASST. QB COACH||KENTUCKY OC|
|Pace||3||16||11||Pace||ASST. WR COACH||ASST. QB COACH||KENTUCKY OC|
|Pass Attempts||3||12||10||Pass Attempts||ASST. WR COACH||ASST. QB COACH||KENTUCKY OC|
|Passing Yards||4||13||5||Passing Yards||ASST. WR COACH||ASST. QB COACH||KENTUCKY OC|
|Rushing Attempts||18||7||23||Rushing Attempts||ASST. WR COACH||ASST. QB COACH||KENTUCKY OC|
|Rushing Yards||26||10||25||Rushing Yards||ASST. WR COACH||ASST. QB COACH||KENTUCKY OC|
While this offensive scheme is all Sean McVay, we’ve actually witnessed an interesting evolution over the four years he’s been running the show. From Day 1, he was all about the West coast offense and the 11-personnel formation which spreads out the defense and improves the running lanes in a power-blocking scheme. He found tremendous success back then, but in Year 2, defenses started to learn that it was Mcvay, not Jared Goff, reading the defenses and once Todd Gurley’s arthritic knee became a problem and he couldn’t lean on him, things started to suffer. Defenses often waited until there were just 15 seconds on the play-clock to make their adjustments. The helmet speaker is shut off at that point and McVay could no longer relay the right information.
We saw more of that in Year 3, but with Gurley being handled with kid gloves, McVay made the change to more 12-personnel formations which utilizes two tight ends and doesn’t spread the offense out nearly as much. What we saw from that was more passing to Tyler Higbee and less work for Cooper Kupp due to no slot receiver in the formation.
Then in 2020, McVay finally opted to bring in an offensive coordinator, something he’d been going without for the first few seasons. Kevin O’Connell worked closely with McVay and they continued to switch between 11 and 12-personnel formations. The lack of a true training camp put a strain on the team’s running plans, but as we saw late in the season, Cam Akers was finally utilized more and the Rams offense became significantly more balanced.
Last season, we saw more of the same in the beginning of the year, but there was a lot more trust between McVay and Matthew Stafford than there ever was with Goff. Stafford’s pocket presence was stronger, his instincts better, and when defenses started to take away the outside against the Rams wide zone formation, Stafford had the presence of mind to adjust on the fly and make the necessary plays. However, as the season went on and defenses began to take away the outside and still hold enough players back in coverage, the team adjusted to use more inside zone runs. Remember when Sony Michel became a thing? Yeah, that’s what it was. It proved to be incredibly successful and you can expect new offensive coordinator Liam Coen to employ more inside running right from the start. It’s why I’m so bullish on Cam Akers as he will be front-and-center in both inside and outside zone work. McVay will still call the plays, but Coen wants to keep things a little more balanced and how does anyone argue against it after winning a Super Bowl with this scheme?
Defensive System: 3-4 base with multi-front looks and match-zone coverage
The defense will continue to look the same, schematic wise as second-year defensive coordinator Raheem Morris ran the same scheme Brandon Staley ran before he left for the Los Angeles Chargers. We are looking at a 3-4 bases with multi-front looks. Having Aaron Donald in the middle affords the Rams with a number of other options without concern they will be burned by the run. The linebackers are also versatile enough to join in either the pass-rush or the coverage.
The match-zone coverage is largely Cover-2 but switches around with whatever changes the offense makes at the line. If a receiver goes in motion or a TE moves off the line, the defense will counter with an adjustment of the zones to ensure there is no missed coverage among all the pre-snap motion many offenses employ. This also adjusts should Morris prefer to have Jalen Ramsey shadow an opponent’s top wideout.
San Francisco 49ers
|San Francisco 49ers|
|Head Coach||Kyle Shanahan||6th year|
|Defensive Coordinator||DeMeco Ryans||2nd year|
|Offensive System||West Coast Offense|
|Blocking Scheme||Outside Zone|
|Kyle Shanahan -- HC|
With the announcement by Kyle Shanahan that stated, “This is Trey Lance’s team,” the offensive scheme was immediately altered. It is still very much based in the West coast scheme, but we’re going to see more of what Shanahan did when he was with his father back in Washington and they had Robert Griffin III as their quarterback. You could also say that this is a throwback offense to what Greg Roman ran back when Colin Kaepernick was under center in San Francisco.
You can expect to see a lot more spread formations as well as plenty of RPO work out of the pistol formation. Pistol, as a reminder is like a mini-shotgun, so Lance will have multiple options and a few extra moments to read and react. This would have been more intriguing had Deebo Samuel not said that he doesn’t want to return to the “wide-back” position he played last year, but Elijah Mitchell and rookie Tyrion Davis-Price could really blossom out of this formation. You still have your plodding back in Jeffery Wilson to mix in there, but again, this offense is much more about the outside zone work.
As for the passing attack, we’ll see a lot of the short, high-percentage passing throughout the game which will feature Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and tight end George Kittle. Deebo and the running backs will likely be the most featured in the underneath routes while Aiyuk stretches the field. Kittle will be mixed into both, but anyone who has watched Shanahan in San Francisco knows how much he favors that tight end drag route where Kittle mirrors Lance’s movements so when the defense commits to the runners or other receivers, Kittle is often left in single-coverage downfield.
Defensive System: 4-3 with Cover-3 zone and Cover-1 man
Rather than re-invent the wheel following the departure of Robert Saleh, the 49ers promoted from within and handed the DC reins over to DeMeco Ryans, the former Philadelphia linebacker who spent three seasons as Saleh’s linebackers coach. He didn’t have a whole lot of coaching experience, but he knew the system in place and did not deviate from the plan.
This season they will, once again, continue with the 4-3 scheme as Saleh was adamant about his defensive line taking care of business up front and leaving seven back in coverage. The linebackers will do their fair share of blitzing, but this has never been a heavy-blitz scheme. Ryans will rotate in personnel for when he wants to apply more pressure to the QB, but he also wants everyone onboard and interchangeable so the coverage isn’t easily identified by the personnel on the field.
|Head Coach||Pete Carroll||13th year|
|Offensive Coordinator||Shane Waldron||2nd year|
|Defensive Coordinator||Clint Hurtt||1st year|
|Offensive System||West Coast|
|Pete Carroll -- HC||Shane Waldron -- OC|
|Category||2019||2020||2021||Category||2019 (LAR PGC)||2020 (LAR PGC)||2021|
|Pass Attempts||23||17||31||Pass Attempts||3||12||31|
|Passing Yards||14||16||23||Passing Yards||4||13||23|
|Rushing Attempts||3||19||27||Rushing Attempts||18||7||27|
|Rushing Yards||4||12||11||Rushing Yards||26||10||11|
Last year was definitely a rough one for the Seahawks as there were constant disagreements with how the offense should work. Head coach Pete Carroll always favored an Air Coryell style with a power-running game and Russell Wilson had settled into a routine while often being allowed to do his thing – extend plays with his legs and make something happen downfield. But they brought in former Rams passing-game coordinator Shane Waldron who wanted to implement a more West coast style of passing and run a much more up-tempo scheme. Carroll eventually came around. Wilson did not and now he’s in Denver, leaving Waldron to fully implement exactly what he wants. Of course, he now has to do it with Drew Lock and/or Geno Smith, but that’s not the full-point here.
Carroll still demands an effective ground game, so Waldron will be abiding by his boss’ wishes. He’ll utilize a zone-blocking scheme, but given how bad the offensive line is, you can expect a lot more outside zone work. They just don’t have the big bodies to push around the defensive line and open up those running lanes. Rashaad Penny fits this much better, but drafting Kenneth Walker, obviously shows, Waldron needs/wants to do both.
The passing scheme, unfortunately, fits Geno Smith better than it does Lock. Smith can handle the three-step drop, get rid of the ball quickly and hit his receivers on the short, high-percentage passes. He’s not a great quarterback and he doesn’t profile as a starter, but the scheme does seem to fit him a little better as Lock is aggressive and likes to take his shots downfield a lot more. The expectation is that Lock should start, which means Waldron is finding ways to corral that aggressiveness, but we’ll see how effective it will be once the games begin.
Defensive System: 3-4 with Cover-3 zone
Carroll promoted defensive line coach Clint Hurtt to defensive coordinator and Seattle has immediately flipped to a 3-4 base as Hurtt believe you can be much more versatile when you don’t have four guys with their hands in the dirt. He believes it will help disguise a lot of the blitzing he and Carroll want to do as they move linebackers and edge rushers back and forth between pressuring the quarterback and clogging up passing lanes.
We will see a lot of Cover-3 zone with a mix of some Cover-2 in which the defensive backs will fall into their zones by identifying the routes being run as opposed to patrolling the zone and watching the quarterback. We could see a little more ball-hawking, but this scheme could have issues with quarterbacks who extend plays with their legs and the receivers pivot off their original routes while watching where they are then being directed to. This is a far cry from the old Legion of Boom, but it remains a work in progress and could conceivably get better with time.
- Ultimate Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet
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