The SportsCrew | Fantasy Football: 32 Play Calling Trends To Help You WIn Your Leagues
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Fantasy Football: 32 Play-Calling Trends

Fantasy Football: 32 Play-Calling Trends

By: Mike Stromme – @stromme_93

In fantasy football, figuring out who the talented football players are is half the battle. The other half is figuring out how they are utilized in their respective offenses. Check out our Week one NFL Preview Show where we breakdown all the games, discuss DFS and Survivor pools as well.


Spotting trends in play-calling can go a long way both in season-long and DFS. Here are a few trends that stood out to me during my offseason research:


Arizona Cardinals: Despite an increase in goal-to-go situations each of the past three seasons (36, 49, 59), Bruce Arians has called passing plays 17 times in ’14/’15 and just 18 times a season ago in those situations.

Atlanta Falcons: At The University of Washington in 2013, Steve Sarkasian’s top receiving option was a guy named Jaydon Mickens. Mickens caught 5 passes per game for the Huskies. Sarkasian moves to USC, where his top receiving option is 2015 first round pick Nelson Agholor. Sarkasian gets his top receiving option the ball enough times to average 8 receptions per game. The WR playing opposite Agholor, Juju Smith-Schuster, caught the ball just 4.2 times per game in the same offense.

Baltimore Ravens: Marty Morninweg took over play-calling duties for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6 of 2016. From that point forward, Joe Flacco had under 35 passing attempts in a game just twice.

Buffalo Bills: In his last three seasons as an offensive coordinator, Rick Dennison has thrown the ball on 59.4% of plays. His quarterbacks in those seasons were: Trevor Siemian last season, Brock Osweiler/Peyton Manning in 2015, Matt Schaub/Case Keenum in 2013.

Carolina Panthers:  Mike Shula’s offense has run 1000+ plays each of the past three seasons. The only other play-callers to match that level of volume over the same span were Josh McDaniels and Sean Payton.

Chicago Bears: In his past three seasons as an offensive coordinator, Darrell Loggins has given his RB1 17.1 carries per game. His RB1s over that span: Jordan Howard (2016) and Chris Johnson (2013/2012).

Cincinnati Bengals: Since 2011, Cincinnati OCs have averaged 64.6 plays in goal-to-go situations per season. They ran the ball 57.1 % of the time in those situations.

Cleveland Browns: In Hue Jackson’s time as OC in Cincinnati, he ran the ball in 62.2% of the time inside the opponent’s 10 in 2014 and 75% of the time in 2015. Even with last year’s incarnation of the Cleveland Browns, he ran the ball 59.3% of the time in the same situation.

Dallas Cowboys: Scott Linehan has called a total of 28 passing plays inside the opponent’s 10 yard line since 2014. The New Orleans Saints called 52 in 2016 alone.

Denver Broncos: In 2016, Mike McCoy was the Head Coach of the San Diego Chargers. Bill Musgrave was the OC of the Oakland Raiders. Both men are currently employed by the division rival Denver Broncos as the OC and QB coach respectively.

Detroit Lions: In Jim Bob Cooter’s first full season as OC, the Lions threw the ball 71.2% of the time in the red zone. That’s the single-highest pass-run ratio in the red zone over the past three seasons by any current OC/HC calling plays since 2014.

Green Bay Packers: In 2013, Mike McCarthy had Aaron Rodgers throw the ball 44.4% of the time inside the red zone. Last season, he called passing plays inside the 20 66.7% of the time; a 22.3% increase. 2013 was Eddie Lacy’s rookie year.

Houston Texans: This season marks the first time HC Bill O’Brien will be taking over play-calling duties since 2014, his first season with the club. The team ran 1,036 total plays that season. In his last NFL play-calling gig before that, he was the OC in New England, the team ran 1,050 plays that season.

Indianapolis Colts: As the OC in Carolina in 2011, OC Rob Chudzinski’s offense targeted the TE an average of 10.7 times per game. Last season, his offense targeted TEs 8.4 times per game. In both instances, the perceived TE1 in each offense received just 53.3% and 55.9% of those total targets respectively.

Jacksonville Jaguars: In Doug Marrone’s first season with the Buffalo Bills, the team threw the ball just 48.9% of the time. The offense still had 522 passing attempts. Stevie Johnson, the team’s WR1, had 101 targets in 12 games

When the Chiefs get in close, Andy Reid loves to run the ball. (Image from The Heckler).

that year.

Kansas City Chiefs: During Andy Reid’s tenure in Kansas City, he’s called 100 more rushing plays in goal-to-go situations than passing plays, which amounts to a 70-30 run-pass ratio over that span.

Los Angeles Chargers: Despite his RB1s averaging 17.8 and 19.5 carries per game in each season as the Charger’s OC, Ken Whisenhunt had Phillip Rivers throw the ball inside the red zone 61.1% and 60.1% of the time.

Los Angeles Rams: Under Sean McVay in 2015 and 2016 the Redskins threw the ball 58.9% of the time while spreading the ball around fairly evenly. Pierre Garcon saw an average 7 targets per game, slot receivers Jamison Crowder and Andre Roberts saw 5.5/game, DeSean Jackson had 5.8 and Jordan Reed was targeted 7.8 times a game.

Miami Dolphins: The Miami Dolphins were the only offense in the NFL to run less than 900 plays on the season (883). After the team’s Week 8 bye, Miami ran the ball 26.9 times a game; they went 7-2 in that span.

Minnesota Vikings: After taking over as OC in Week 9, OC Pat Shurmer had Sam Bradford throw the ball 64.7% of the time. Bradford completed 71.1% of his passes last season. 2010 was Bradford’s rookie year. Despite having All-Pro RB Steven Jackson in the backfield and limited receiving options around him (Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Denario Alexander, Laurent Robinson), the team threw the ball 60% of the time in goal-to-go situations. Bradford’s OC that season? Pat Shurmer.

New England Patriots: Despite running 20 more plays than the year before, the New England Patriots threw the ball 11.1% less in 2016 than they did in 2015. They also threw the ball just 37.6% of the time in goal-to-go situations.

New Orleans Saints: Over the past three seasons, Sean Payton has had Drew Brees target his RBs 9.2 times a game since 2014.

New York Giants: Since 2014, the total amount of plays run by Ben McAdoo has decreased by exactly 30 each season. The team ran 1,056 plays in 2014, 1,026 in 2015 and 996 last season.

New York Jets: Jets’ OC John Morton has never been an OC at the NFL level before. He was the WR coach under Sean Payton in 2016 and 2015. Before that, he was the “Passing Game Coordinator” under Lane Kiffen at USC in 2009 and 2010. Given his past and the expectations that the Jets are going to be trailing many games, I’d expect this offense to throw the ball more often than not.

Oakland Raiders: Despite running 55 more plays in 2016 than they did in 2015, Michael Crabtree still saw exactly 9.1 targets per game.

Philadelphia Eagles: In 2016, Doug Pedersen called just 18 fewer plays on the season than Chip Kelly called in 2015.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Pittsburgh Steeler QBs have targeted Antonio Brown 11.2 times per game since 2014. That’s the most of any WR over that span.

San Francisco 49ers: As a Washington Redskin in 2013, Pierre Garcon saw 11.3 targets/game in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. During the following season in Cleveland under Shanahan, Josh Gordon saw 9.4 targets/game. Last season, Julio Jones was targeted 9.2 times a game in Kyle Shanahan’s final season in Atlanta. Pierre Garcon is the WR1 in Shanahan’s offense in San Francisco, he has caught 60.8% of the 928 targets thrown his way over his 9 year career.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seattle Seahawks threw the ball 78 more times in 2016 than they did in 2015. Yet, they ran 19 fewer plays than they did a year ago.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Under Dirk Koetter, Doug Martin has seen an average of exactly 18 carries per game and has started every game he’s been active.

Tennessee Titans: Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews were both targeted an average of 6.8 times per game. That was the most of any Tennessee pass catcher last season.

Washington Redskins: In his last four seasons calling plays (2011-2013 in Cincinnati, 2014 in Washington), the RB1 in Jay Gruden’s offense has carried the ball an average of 16.8 times per game. Sean McVay had his RB1 carry the ball 11.9 times per game while he was calling plays in Washington the last two seasons.


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