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Going Deep

Ranking NFL Offenses By Analytics Usage

by Hayden Winks
Updated On: July 24, 2020, 6:03 pm ET

Tier 4: Behind The Curve

 

18. Lions (OC Darrell Bevell)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 28th

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 26th

Pass Rate While Trailing: 9th

Play-Action Rate: 19th

Downfield Pass Rate: 7th

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 10th

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 15th

Outside Run Rate: 10th

Shotgun Run Rate: 18th

Offensive Pace: 10th

There’s a divide with this 18th overall ranking. If I was only ranking head coaches, Matt Patricia would rank near the bottom. He’s awful with fourth down decision making (28th) and his pencil in the ear isn’t fooling me into thinking he’s some brainiac. Luckily, Patricia has an aggressive offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell, who loved to sling the ball downfield (7th) particularly when he had Matthew Stafford in the starting lineup. Assuming Stafford’s back is fine, the Lions should continue to stress defenses with an aerial attack, one that finished above average in middle of the field pass rate (10th) and offensive pace (10th). Hopefully the addition of D’Andre Swift doesn’t take the ball out of Stafford’s hand on early downs more than it already was through 10 weeks last season when the Lions were 20th in early-down pass rate.

 

19. Falcons (HC Dan Quinn)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 19th

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 15th

Pass Rate While Trailing: 3rd

Play-Action Rate: 24th

Downfield Pass Rate: 25th

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 13th

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 18th

Outside Run Rate: 23rd

Shotgun Run Rate: 24th

Offensive Pace: 8th

Going into this, I figured the Falcons would’ve ranked higher because they passed so often in 2019, but that was more out of necessity and not by choice. Atlanta only ranked 15th on pass rate on early downs, plus ranked below average in play action rate (24th) and downfield pass rate (25th). Despite having a top-10 quarterback and a strong receiver duo, the passing offense was 13th in expected points added per dropback. That’s a sign that the scheme isn’t firing on all cylinders. The rushing offense was far worse, though. For Todd Gurley to rebound, the Falcons need to ramp up their outside run (23rd) and shotgun run (24th) rates. Quinn can also be more aggressive on fourth downs (19th). 

 

20. Vikings (*New OC*)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 17th

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 27th

Pass Rate While Trailing: 9th

Play-Action Rate: 6th

Downfield Pass Rate: 24th

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 18th

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 20th

Outside Run Rate: 8th

Shotgun Run Rate: 31st

Offensive Pace: 10th

If this was purely going off of last year’s system, I would’ve put them into Tier 3, not Tier 4. But coach Kevin Stefanski is no longer around, which could make them even more run-heavy on early downs (27th) and while trailing (9th). Their lack of creativity, especially with downfield shots (24th) and pre-snap motion (20th), is holding the offense back a little bit, too. By far the biggest positives of Minnesota’s offense is their usage of play action (6th) and ability to put their running backs in space by rushing outside (8th). Overall, a run-heavy offense with an unathletic quarterback is asking for trouble, which is why I opted to put them in the “behind the curve” tier.

 

21. Bengals (HC Zac Taylor)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 11th

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 20th

Pass Rate While Trailing: 21st

Play-Action Rate: 22nd

Downfield Pass Rate: 21st

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 16th

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 21st

Outside Run Rate: 15th

Shotgun Run Rate: 9th

Offensive Pace: 7th

Because of injuries and a lack of talent, the offense was unwatchable in the second half of 2019, but there were some signs of life with Taylor’s thought processes. He was somewhat aggressive on fourth downs (11th) and with his offensive pace (7th), plus he avoided ranking below 22nd in any of the 10 metrics I’m looking at in this column. With Joe Burrow, A.J. Green, Tee Higgins, and LT Jonah Williams entering the starting lineup, Taylor’s offense should vastly improve in 2020. In particular, I’m optimistic that those additions encourage Taylor to increase his pass rates on early downs (20th) and while trailing (21st). 

 

22. Bears (HC Matt Nagy)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 23rd

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 9th

Pass Rate While Trailing: 13th

Play-Action Rate: 27th

Downfield Pass Rate: 16th

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 5th

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 30th

Outside Run Rate: 20th

Shotgun Run Rate: 5th

Offensive Pace: 22nd

If I incorporated the front office, the Bears would be much lower, but I think Nagy holds his own in terms of in-game analytics usage. He’s just been dealt a horrible hand at quarterback and with the offensive line. Nagy opted for a decent pass rate on early downs (9th) and while trailing (13th), plus uses shotgun a lot and targets the middle of the field (5th). There are a few things holding him back from jumping into Tier 3, however. The Bears weren’t aggressive enough on fourth downs (23rd) and didn't use play action (27th) or pre-snap motion (30th) nearly enough. Maybe the quarterback change sparks change.

 

23. Jets (HC Adam Gase)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 14th

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 19th

Pass Rate While Trailing: 23rd

Play-Action Rate: 17th

Downfield Pass Rate: 8th

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 24th

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 29th

Outside Run Rate: 28th

Shotgun Run Rate: 14th

Offensive Pace: 16th

Gase seems to align with analytics principals more so than I anticipated. He’s near league averages in fourth down aggressiveness (14th) and pass rate on early downs (19th), plus is willing to sling the ball downfield (8th). Gase’s play action rate (17th) and overall offensive pace (16th) aren’t horrible either. Where Gase can certainly improve is by implementing pre-snap motion (29th) and letting Le’Veon Bell rush more on the outside (28th) where there’s more space to break off bigger plays. I also wonder if Gase didn’t want to sign Bell because he’s quietly a “running backs don’t matter” truther. With all this said, Gase didn’t rank higher than 8th in any of the 10 metrics I looked at for this column. Not great.

 

24. Raiders (HC Jon Gruden)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 16th

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 25th

Pass Rate While Trailing: 25th

Play-Action Rate: 23rd

Downfield Pass Rate: 30th

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 3rd

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 24th

Outside Run Rate: 16th

Shotgun Run Rate: 26th

Offensive Pace: 24th

Is Gruden calling a conservative offense (30th in downfield pass rate) because he wants to or because of Derek Carr? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. Either way, the offense was arguably too run-heavy last season, particularly on early downs (25th) and while trailing (25th). I also figured Gruden was calling more play action passes (23rd) than they were. Perhaps the Marcus Mariota signing lights a fire under Carr and the offense becomes more aggressive across the board. Until that happens, the Raiders will be at a disadvantage weekly.

 

25. Texans (HC Bill O’Brien)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 20th

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 17th

Pass Rate While Trailing: 25th

Play-Action Rate: 16th

Downfield Pass Rate: 12th

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 8th

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 16th

Outside Run Rate: 21st

Shotgun Run Rate: 3rd

Offensive Pace: 14th

It’s hard to separate O’Brien the GM from O’Brien the coach for these analytics rankings. Trading one of the truly elite receivers for an expensive running back was so sub-optimal that I dinged O’Brien here, even though his offense is closer to league average in the 10 above metrics. My biggest in-game concern from last season was the fact that O’Brien only ranked 17th in pass rate on early downs and 25th in pass rate while trailing despite having Deshaun Watson at quarterback. There’s really no excuse for that. 

 

26. Giants (*New Coach*)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 8th

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 12th

Pass Rate While Trailing: 8th

Play-Action Rate: 26th

Downfield Pass Rate: 22nd

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 9th

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 23rd

Outside Run Rate: 26th

Shotgun Run Rate: 12th

Offensive Pace: 8th

Another surprise during my research was to see the 2019 Giants ranking so highly in the three most important metrics -- fourth down aggressiveness (8th), pass rate on early downs (12th), and pass rate while trailing (8th). The offense also targeted the middle of the field at an above-average rate (9th) and played with pace (8th). That’s all great, but will OC Jason Garrett keep things that way? Doubtful. Perhaps Garrett installs more play action (26th), but I envision New York joining team #EstablishTheRun far more in 2020. That’s why I moved the Giants into Tier 4. 

 

27. Steelers (HC Mike Tomlin)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 30th

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 24th

Pass Rate While Trailing: 5th

Play-Action Rate: 31st

Downfield Pass Rate: 14th

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 17th

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 12th

Outside Run Rate: 27th

Shotgun Run Rate: 7th

Offensive Pace: 27th

Tomlin has openly been against using analytics for in-game decisions, and last year’s rankings in the 10 metrics above further prove that there’s plenty of room for growth. Of course, losing Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown played into Tomlin’s questionable pass/rush splits (24th in pass rate on early downs), but his complete disregard for fourth-down analytics (30th) is a legit concern. The same can be said with the Steelers’ 31st ranking in play action rate. Tomlin is obviously one of the best “player’s coaches”, but he’s a bottom-half coach when it comes to implementing analytics on game day.

 

28. Chargers (HC Anthony Lynn)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 27th

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 16th

Pass Rate While Trailing: 11st

Play-Action Rate: 25th

Downfield Pass Rate: 2nd

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 7th

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 7th

Outside Run Rate: 6th

Shotgun Run Rate: 15th

Offensive Pace: 32nd

The offense will look completely different given the quarterback change, but the Chargers have never been analytically inclined. In fact, they just hired their first analyst this offseason. Lynn’s offense represents the Chargers’ lack of analytics. He was far too conservative with his fourth-down decision making (27th) and offensive pace (32nd), plus didn’t incorporate play action (25th). To his credit, the Bolts did take shots downfield (2nd) and moved receivers around before the snap (7th) at high rates. We’ll see if that continues with Tyrod Taylor plugged into the starting lineup. Unfortunately, I anticipate this offense transitioning away from deep passes and instead running the ball more than it should. 

 

29. Broncos (HC Vic Fangio)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 29th

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 21st

Pass Rate While Trailing: 16th

Play-Action Rate: 20th

Downfield Pass Rate: 29th

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 22nd

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 8th

Outside Run Rate: 12th

Shotgun Run Rate: 22nd

Offensive Pace: 20th

Denver was far too conservative in all aspects last season. Fangio wasn’t aggressive enough on fourth downs (29th), rarely dialed up shots downfield (29th), and finished below-average in pass rate on early downs (21st). The Broncos also played at a slow pace (20th) and didn’t use play action enough (20th). With an influx of skill-position talent coming into the offense, it’s possible that Fangio and the Broncos climb these analytics-based rankings in 2020. I just have reservations that a defensive-minded coach unleashes the offense, one that just paid Melvin Gordon and is led by an inexperienced Day 2 quarterback. 

 

30. Seahawks (HC Pete Carroll)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 25th

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 20th

Pass Rate While Trailing: 23rd

Play-Action Rate: 11th

Downfield Pass Rate: 4th

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 30th

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 22nd

Outside Run Rate: 19th

Shotgun Run Rate: 6th

Offensive Pace: 24th

Yes, the 4th-down aggressiveness (25th), pre-snap motion percentage (22nd), offensive pace (24th), and middle of the field pass rate (30th) are all bad, but what is absolutely inexcusable is the Seahawks’ 20th ranking in pass rate on early downs and 23rd ranking in pass rate while trailing. Unless I missed something, I’m pretty sure Russell Wilson is the quarterback, so at bare minimum, the Seahawks should be top-10 in both pass rate categories. Seattle would be a cemented top-five scoring offense if they let Russ cook.

 

Tier 5: Willfully Ignorant

 

31. Jaguars (HC Doug Marrone)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 32nd

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 22nd

Pass Rate While Trailing: 13th

Play-Action Rate: 32nd

Downfield Pass Rate: 27th

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 25th

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 32nd

Outside Run Rate: 9th

Shotgun Run Rate: 23rd

Offensive Pace: 30th

For an offense that was so adamant about running the ball and lining up under center, it’s truly baffling that the Jaguars were dead last in play action rate last season. Unacceptable. That’s not their only dead last ranking either. Marrone was the worst with fourth down decision making and utilized pre-snap motion the least. Their 30th-ranked offensive pace was nearly the worst, too. It’s a mystery to me how Marrone kept his job this offseason. Perhaps OC Jay Gruden makes this offense more pass-heavy, but this organization is worth betting against nine out of 10 times. It’s that simple.

 

32. Washington (*New Coach*)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 31st

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 31st

Pass Rate While Trailing: 19th

Play-Action Rate: 21st

Downfield Pass Rate: 26th

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 2nd

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 10th

Outside Run Rate: 7th

Shotgun Run Rate: 21st

Offensive Pace: 31st

This franchise is helpless, on and off the field, for as long as owner Dan Snyder is around. That’s exactly why the minority owners want out, even though owning a sports franchise is the biggest money maker imaginable. Washington’s most recent failure on the field is with their handling of Dwayne Haskins’ rookie season. There were obvious disagreements about who should be starting at quarterback, which left Haskins entering games he wasn’t prepared for, and even when he was named the starter, the scheme left him out to dry. Washington was second worst in 4th-down aggressiveness and pass rate on early downs, plus played at the second-slowest offensive pace because of their infatuation of putting 15 carries per game into a 34-year-old Adrian Peterson’s belly. Things will get better with the coaching change, but Washington is years and years behind even league-average processes.

 

 

My Fantasy Football Content

1. 2019 Yards Per Carry Plus/Minus Rankings
2. 2019 Rushing Efficiency Rankings
3. 2019 Receiving Efficiency Rankings
4. 2019 Expected Passing TD Rankings
5. 2019 Expected Rushing TD Rankings
6. 2019 Expected Receiving TD Rankings
7. 2019 Big-Play Rushing Rankings
8. 2019 Expected Yards After The Catch Rankings
9. 2019 Deep Target Efficiency Rankings
10. 2019 Expected YPA Rankings
11. 2019 Expected Fantasy Points (WR)
12. 2019 Expected Fantasy Points (TE)
13. Reviewing Late-Season Production - QBs & TEs
14. Reviewing Late-Season Production - RBs & WRs
15. NFL Depth Charts - QB, RB, WR, TE
16. Free Agency Winners and Losers
17. Rookie RB Pass-Blocking Report
18. How Predictive Is Late-Season Production?
19. Insights After Analyzing Historical ADPs
20. Projecting NFL Pass/Run Splits in 2020
21. Projecting Plays Per Game and Offensive Pace
22. Win Rates: When Should We Draft WRs in Fantasy?
23. Touch Shares While Leading and Trailing
24. 2019 Fantasy Usage and 2020 Buy Lows
25. Should We Buy Efficient But Low-Volume WRs?

 

My Real Football Content

1. Stop Running It Up The Middle
2. Run From Shotgun, Not Under Center
3. Throw Beyond The First Down Marker
4. How Often Do Running Backs Block?
5. Should the NFL Run More in the End Zone?
6. Carries Aren't Created Equal