For this set of articles I’ll be looking at NFL teams, their offensive coordinators and how their coordinating has or might impact their team’s offense and in turn our fantasy expectations. I’ll be using the OC info compiled by Mr. Jeff Brubach, which tries to look at the last three seasons of a coordinator’s offensive output.
Other divisions so far: NFC East | NFC North
Let’s start with the world champs. The Seahawks have now had offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for three seasons, so we have a good set of data to peruse.
It’s pretty obvious that Bevell plays to his strengths, which play to the team’s overall strength, the defense. The last two seasons, while the defense has dominated and they’ve brought along the young Russell Wilson, they ran the ball 55% his rookie season and 53.3% his sophomore season. That is a slight trend towards more passing, but still an anomaly in this pass-happy league, which averaged 56.5% pass to 43.2% run last season.
The Seahawks will continue pushing to get more out of Wilson, but with their dominating defense his total passing numbers will not have much room to rise unless there is a rash of defensive injuries that keep the Seahawks needing to come from behind. Wilson should continue to find his fantasy upside with his legs. His 539 yards rushing ranked third for quarterbacks last season, but he was only able to come away with one touchdown. With Marshawn Lynch entrenched as the goal line back Wilson only had two rushing attempts inside the five-yard line.
As far as Lynch is concerned, you can’t get much safer. He has averaged exactly 300 rushing attempts his last three years to go along with 11.7 rushing touchdowns. This fact will not change if he stays healthy and the defense continues to keep the offense close or in the lead. Of course that workload has been large and a breakdown will happen at some point. With this offense you don’t want to lose out on those carries if you own Lynch and he gets hurt, so backing him up with Christine Michael looks like a must.
Wide receivers and tight ends have not had much fantasy success in Bevell’s offense. Last year Golden Tate had the best fantasy season of any Seahawks’ receiver under Bevell’s time there, with 64 receptions, 898 yards and five touchdowns. The receptions and yards were both highs under Bevell while the touchdowns didn’t quite meet the previous high of seven. Tate is gone and we will see the targets spread out once again. Percy Harvin should be in line for Tate’s role, while Doug Baldwin will get an uptick, but volume will not be their friend. Harvin should be used in the run game enough to buoy his stats, but he’ll need to average a decent amount of carries each week for him to truly break out in Bevell’s offense.
We saw what the Seahawks offense could do on multiple occasions, including the Super Bowl, last year. Maybe they’ll ramp up their offense some, but I don’t believe they’ll change their whole system just to put up more points as long as they are winning.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, followed Jim Harbaugh from Stanford in 2011 and has been calling plays ever since. Much like the Seahawks, the 49ers rely on defense and the run game, but to a slightly lesser extent with a 51% to 49% run to pass ratio.
It’s pretty easy to compare the Seahawks and 49ers, but San Francisco is a little more conducive to fantasy receiving numbers since they don’t spread the ball around as much as the Seahawks. If you are the #1 option in the receiving game, you will get your targets. Of course once you drop below that #1 option the pickings get much thinner. This isn’t Peyton’s Broncos we are talking about.
Colin Kaepernick had 416 pass attempts last season, which ranked him 20th in the league. That number most likely won’t change much this year as long as the defense stays near the top, but like Russell Wilson, Kaepernick gets a good chunk of his fantasy value through his legs. He had a similar yardage total to Wilson, but scored four touchdowns. Those yards and touchdowns helped him sneak into the top 10 of many scoring systems even though his passing numbers were suspect.
All signs point to Roman continuing to stay with the same breakdown if he can, so we can rely on them running the ball 500 times and if Frank Gore can stay healthy, he’ll get 250- 275 attempts while Kaepernick becomes the de facto #2 running back. They have a million capable backups, but there is no clear cut handcuff or much precedent for how they would be used if Gore were to go down, but Carlos Hyde looks to be the frontrunner for the Frank Gore role in Roman’s offense.
As I was saying before, the #1 receiver has good fantasy upside for the 49ers. Last season we saw Michael Crabtree go down early and the two main targets became Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. Your clear fantasy winner was Davis who hauled in 13 touchdowns, but his two previous seasons under Roman had resulted in a combined nine touchdowns and a decrease in yards per catch while he took a back seat to Crabtree. With Crabtree healthy for 2014 it will be difficult for both him and Davis to put up good fantasy numbers and Roman’s history looks as though the wide receiver will be the preferred target.