If I’ve learned one thing working with Howard Bender all these years, it’s this: scheme matters. There is a plan. This isn’t backyard football where you yell “hut” and everyone just runs around all willy-nilly until the QB throws it to his best friend. Of course, plays can devolve into that at times. We’ve all seen it. 

But in every huddle a play is called with an intended purpose. Some coaches call a lot of screens, some call deep throws, some use fullbacks, some use blocking tight ends. And if you aren’t incorporating that into your fantasy football rankings, you’re going to be shocked when that first Sunday rolls around. And the beauty of football is that we DON’T know what plays will be called (well, except for maybe the Tush Push). In most other cases, however, that secret is between the OC and the huddle. 

We aren’t going to know the gameplan until it unfolds. But we can get an idea of what the general scheme of the offense is. And we can also analyze which schemes are most conducive to fantasy football success. Like Kyle Shanahan’s scheme in San Francisco, for instance. You’ve probably heard the term “coaching tree” before. What that describes is essentially a family tree of coaches – at the top, you have a coach and beneath him, all of his assistants branching out. 

When an assistant leaves to take another job, we say he’s from that coaching tree. Successful coaches have branches of their coaching tree all around the NFL and that’s certainly the case lately for Kyle Shanahan. And the newest one, New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak, could open up the door to fantasy success for Saints players in 2024. Especially for a guy like Rashid Shaheed. Let me explain.




New Orleans Saints Scheme 2024

The Shanahan scheme is known for outside zone runs, crossing patterns and pre-snap motion. It also leans into unique personnel groupings – most notably the use of a fullback. But the key aspect that makes it work so well is versatility. All of the weapons can block, catch and run. And they line up all over the formation. 

You never know if George Kittle will stay in to block or use his 4.52 speed to beat you. Whether Christian McCaffrey or Deebo Samuel will motion into the backfield for a handoff or run a wheel route. It keeps the defense guessing. It’s become clear in watching teams implement this scheme that two early cornerstone pieces are an athletic left tackle and a fullback. The 49ers have Trent Williams and Kyle Juszczyk, the gold standards. 

When Mike McDaniel left the 49ers to coach the Dolphins, the very first thing he did was pay a hefty price tag for the top free agent left tackle in Terron Armstead. They also signed the top fullback available in Alec Ingold. When Bobby Slowik left to be the offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans, they already had Pro Bowl tackle Laremy Tunsil then quickly signed fullback Andrew Beck. Notice a pattern?




The Fantasy Football Implications

Last year, the three leaders in fullback snaps were those three players we just mentioned: Kyle Juszczyk in SF, Alec Ingold in MIA and Andrew Beck in HOU. And, when you bring a fullback into the game, you are rarely taking out the tight end or the running back. It’s almost always the WR3 coming out. And, in the cases of Juszczyk and Ingold, these guys are playing nearly 40-50% of the game. 

That’s a big reason why no wide receiver on the 49ers or Dolphins outside of the top two played more than 50% of the snaps – which can highly consolidate the snaps and targets among the other weapons. Take the 49ers for instance. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk played 495 snaps which was 46.4% of the season total. Blocking tight end Charlie Woerner played 312 which is 29.3%. We are talking a combined 75% of the snaps here. And these two combined for only 20 total targets (with Juszczyk only taking five carries). 

By having guys on the field that don’t soak up touches, it consolidates them among the top weapons in the offense. If you take all the carries and targets available to the 49ers position players, Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk accounted for ~80% of them. On a team like the New England Patriots, the top four guys accounted for under 50% of the touches. What’s most interesting about this is that, per Pro Football Focus, the 49ers actually registered the fewest pass attempts of any team in the league. 

Yet they produced the RB1 in fantasy, the WRs 14 and 15 and the TE5. That’s the power of consolidation. You saw it with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in Miami. Nico Collins was an afterthought for fantasy for two years but he, Tank Dell, Dalton Schultz and even Devin Singletary were all fantasy-relevant for stretches last year under Bobby Slowik. And now, the Shanahan coaching tree is branching its way out to New Orleans.




The Saints Implementation

In free agency this year, the Saints quickly signed fullback Xander Horvath who had previously played with the Chargers and Steelers. For good measure, they also re-signed Adam Prentice to compete with him. Plus, Taysom Hill has played his share of fullback as well. In the 2024 NFL Draft, they used their first round pick on athletic left tackle Taliese Fuaga

Klint Kubiak immediately made the same early moves that Mike McDaniel and Bobby Slowik did in building their version of the Shanahan offense. We’ve already written about why this is great for Alvin Kamara and even Kendre Miller. They don’t currently have a true “two way” tight end that can block and run routes at a high level like George Kittle in SF or Dalton Schultz in HOU. The Dolphins didn’t last year either, using Durham Smythe primarily, but will try Jonnu Smith this year. 

Juwan Johnson was in line to be the top pass-catching tight end before injuring his foot so, while he’s out, we’ll see Jesper Horstead and Dallin Holker likely battle for that role early on along with blocking tight end Foster Moreau. Juwan Johnson might be worth a stash but that’s not overly exciting for fantasy. Where the excitement comes is at the WR position. As we discussed, the use of a fullback can heavily consolidate the snaps and targets among the top two wide receivers. 

We had Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, then Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, then Nico Collins and Tank Dell. The Saints did not go out of their way to add new pass catchers this offseason – in fact, they let Michael Thomas walk. Chris Olave is guaranteed one of those roles and he goes off the board in the second round of fantasy drafts. The other spot is up for grabs. 




Rashid Shaheed: 2024 Fantasy Football WR

The top three options for that role opposite Chris Olave right now are veteran Cedrick Wilson, second year player A.T. Perry and flanker/return man Rashid Shaheed. A.T. Perry at 6’5” is more of a split end and doesn’t offer the versatility needed for the role. Wilson, after playing with Miami under Mike McDaniel for two years, does know the scheme which creates a path for him that we can’t ignore – we’ll have to keep our eye on this battle in training camp. But the most exciting option would be Shaheed.

If you want to talk about versatility and explosiveness, Shaheed is the guy. Over his two years, he’s had 10 catches of 40+ yards including 58- and 68-yard touchdowns. He’s taken 11 carries including a 44-yard touchdown run. He also has over 1,200 return yards including a 76-yard punt return. If you want a glimpse at how the Saints feel about Saheed and what he brings to the table, just watch this clip of Derek Carr calling for a Shaheed deep ball and Shaheed delivering on it.

Obviously, Klint Kubiak will have his own version of the scheme and there is no guarantee that it looks anything like SF or MIA. Plus there is no guarantee that Shaheed gets that full-time gig opposite Chris Olave. But, if he does, the upside is tremendous. On sites like RT Sports and FFPC, Shaheed is going in the 12th round and beyond

Even on Underdog, a half-point PPR best ball site which is by far Shaheed’s best format, you can get him in the ninth round. Dynasty evaluation sites, like FantasyCalc and PeakedInHighSkool, indicate that he can be had for a mid-to-late future second round rookie draft pick. And I’ll tell you this: if things break right for Shaheed with his skillset in this scheme, that’s the last time his price will be anywhere near that in any format.

If you want to know exactly where Howard Bender and I are taking Shaheed in drafts, that's easy - both of our rankings for all formats are in the Fantasy Alarm Draft Guide! That's available now and, if you like this type of analysis, you'll love the content that comes with that all summer long leading up to kickoff!