Fantasy Football

NFC North Breakdown of Coaching and Offensive Line

aaron jones

NFL BREAKDOWN OF COACHING AND OFFENSIVE LINE 2023 SERIES

Intros are fun, but let’s just dive right in.

OLine and Coaching Series Quick Links

 

 

Chicago Bears

NFL Futures: Regular Season Win Odds: 7.5

  • HC: Matt Eberflus
  • OC: Luke Getsy
  • DC: Alan Williams

Last year I was both skeptical and curious about this coaching staff and their plans on offense and defense. All 3 are returning for year two despite a record of 3 – 14. Not that it matters, but I’m in agreement with keeping them all despite the record. We saw enough improvement as the year went on to justify a second attempt to get better. Eberflus, a former defensive coach for Indy, has left both sides of the ball to his coordinators.

The goal of Luke Getsy’s offense is to put a considerable amount of stress on opposing defenses, specifically safeties and linebackers who will have to account for a QB who can turn things loose with his rushing ability at any time. Getting Fields to trust the play calling and his linemen was a major goal in 2022. Keeping him from resorting to getting antsy with his feet and trying to take off while the pocket and the play collapses improved. Instead, Fields had many designed runs built into the playbook while RPOs were mostly for passing.

Alan Williams and Eberflus have been working together for years, and Eberflus brought Williams with him from the Colts last year. The Bears have a 4-3 setup and preach an aggressive secondary, which typically can be found in the middle of the league in turnovers generated. Last year was tough, and as such, they don’t have a good ranking coming into the 2023 season. I’m not saying hurry up and go grab the Bears DST in your drafts, but based on time, culture change, and players that have been brought in, this defense should be in line for an improvement.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters

  • LT: Braxton Jones
  • LG: Teven Jenkins / Cody Whitehair / Lucas Patrick
  • C: Cody Whitehair / Lucas Patrick
  • RG: Nate Davis / Lucas Patrick
  • RT: Darnell Wright

The Bears offensive line surprised a lot of people in 2022. Line coach Chris Morgan did a good job with this group and is back for a second year in the position.

Despite not being drafted until the 5th round, Braxton Jones started right away at LT. For his efforts, he gets a 20th overall ranking from Pro Football Focus headed into his sophomore year.

Teven Jenkins is PFF’s 4th highest-rated guard. Because of him and the addition of Nate Davis, Cody Whitehair is moving to center, which frees up Lucas Patrick to be shuffled in and out at guard or center. Going into last season, Patrick was the highest-rated player along this line. Going into this season, he probably isn’t even a starter. That’s how much improvement has happened here.

Darnell Wright is a first-round rookie with a high pedigree. Should he not pan out, the Bears will have the flexibility to adjust.

Verdict

The Bears smashed with trading the #1 overall pick. They didn’t need a QB because they feel they have theirs. In trading what became Bryce Young, the Bears got a package that includes WR DJ Moore, a first-round pick in Darnell Wright, a second-round pick in CB Tyrique Stevenson, and they have another first-rounder next year. Both Wright and Stevenson are in the plans to start right away.

I am not too interested in any of the pass catchers here, including DJ Moore. He’s going early in the 5th round. DJ Moore is a stud, but that ADP is a little high for me. Moore’s job will be to run the short and intermediate routes and be there to help Fields when the pocket collapses and when Moore wins off the line in RPOs. He’s going to have his weeks, but there are also going to be weeks where Moore goes 3 for 28.

This offense will continue to flow through the skills of Justin Fields, with the top goal making him a better passer. The rushing yards will still be there for him, and as long as your league counts 1 point for 10 yards rushing, then Fields is worth his 4th round cost. If he’s sitting there at my turn in the 4th, I’ll have a decision to make.

Khalil Herbert is going around pick 100 and D’Onta Foreman around the 120 area. This team lead the league in rushing last year. Yes, that was mostly among Fields, Montgomery and Hebert. So, yes, it will likely be split up among Fields, Herbert and Foreman this year. Depending on my team’s make-up at that point in the draft, I may look here, but I’m not excited about it. This sounds like week-to-week frustration for me. However, I could see those of you who like zero RB to go after both Herbert and Foreman in rounds 9 and 10.

 

Detroit Lions

NFL Futures: Regular Season Win Odds: 9.5

  • HC: Dan Campbell
  • OC: Ben Johnson
  • DC: Aaron Glenn

For Campbell and Glenn, this is year three with the Lions; for Johnson, it’s year two. Campbell leaves the offensive and defensive play calling to his coordinators. Campbell is an easy guy to like, which is perhaps why he is the perfect middle man between the Lions front office, his coaches, and his players. In Campbell’s first year they were 3 – 13 – 1. Last year they were 9 – 8.

This offense is pretty good. It’s actually pretty simple. I’ve had running jokes with my friends about how Jared Goff is really Simple Goff. If you recall the movie Tropic Thunder, you’ll understand the reference. While that’s probably a little mean, it’s actually a compliment because Goff runs this offense quite well. The main goal is to have a strong running game. When it comes time to pass, the goal is to get it out of Goff’s hands as quickly as possible. This has been working, and it also helps to explain the explosion of Amon-Ra St. Brown, who primarily works out of the slot and is one of Goff’s first reads. Goal three is to play at a quick pace, which puts the opposing defense on its heels and helps to explain why the Lions are often in high scoring games.

On defense, well, the hope and scheme has not produced the intended results. I’m actually surprised Aaron Glenn is back this year after a couple of failures. In any event, the Lions base is different from most clubs as they use a 3-3 or 4-2 up front. The missing LB is flexible, making him turn this into a 4-3, a 3-4, a blitzer, a spier, or someone who drops into coverage. I love innovation, but this hasn’t appeared to work thus far.

The Lions seem to think that their secondary, which predominantly plays Cover-2, is the issue; their offseason moves suggest that they see this as the primary deficiency. They have brought in 3 new DBs and spent a 2nd round pick on a Safety. I personally wonder why they spent their first round pick on Jahmyr Gibbs, whom I and many others projected as a late second or third-rounder when they could have used it on defensive help. The latest hubbub about franchised RBs, their longevity, and how they are paid is a likely explanation about why the Lions moved on from D’Andre Swift, though I don’t see how it explains that pick. But I digress.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters

  • LT: Taylor Decker
  • LG: Jonah Jackson
  • C: Frank Ragnow
  • RG: Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Big V)
  • RT: Penei Sewell

Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, and Penei Sewell are all former first-round picks and home grown Detroit talent. Pro Football Focus ranks them 24th, 5th, and 11th at their positions.

Jackson is also home grown. He ranks 28th according to PFF.

Vaitai, nicknamed Big V for probably no other reason than it helps with pronunciation, is returning in 2023 after major back surgery. Should he return to form, this line might be even better than it was last year. Remember all those times Jamaal Williams fell into the endzone? That’s this offensive line for you.

Verdict

As you’ve likely discerned at this point, if I invest in the backfield, then I want both. The problem is that these guys are going all over the map. Some ADPs have Gibbs at 77th while others have him at 37. Montgomery is going roughly around 75th. In snake redraft leagues, I’m probably avoiding this headache. In auction leagues, I’m grabbing both. They’ll both see the field, they’ll both have TDs and various 100 yard games. I actually think you could play both every week.

Jared Goff will have his spike weeks, but a consistent performer he is not. His home and road splits are pretty drastic. If QB1 has a bye week and Goff is at home, then I’ll be happy to start him then.

Goff rarely throws the deep ball, so Jameson Williams is not even in consideration for me. I don’t even want him on my bench for late in the season after his suspension is up.

The Sun God (Amon-Ra) goes around pick 20. I have no problem with that.

Trying to figure out whose turn it is between Kalif Raymond, Marvin Jones, and Josh Reynolds will be fun for DFS, but something I’ll avoid in seasonal leagues.

There’s too many TEs here, I’ll draft someone else.

 

Green Bay Packers

NFL Futures: Regular Season Win Odds: 7.5

  • HC: Matt LaFleur
  • OC: Adam Stenavich
  • DC: Joe Barry

LaFleur is back for year 5 with the Packers, but it will be his first year without Aaron Rodgers, and we’re finally going to see what his offense is supposed to look like. What do I mean by that? Well, at this point I’d say it’s common knowledge that Aaron Rodgers uses his own playbook and calls his own plays in the huddle, regardless of whether or not it’s what his coaches wanted. That’s why Rodgers and Nathaniel Hackett are in New York now, but more on them later.

LaFleur, who is the offensive play caller, wants to install a West Coast offense with Jordan Love. Like many other systems with young QBs, the Packers will try to establish the run while using quick drop backs and quick throws to the WRs and TEs. There will also be a good amount of RPOs, and maybe some designed runs for Love.

Stenavich has been with LaFleur in Green Bay for the last five years, but this is only his second year as OC. The close relationship ensures that the offense installed will be the exact one that LaFleur wants. They will use both their backs (hopefully better than last season) and their offensive line to establish the run and lean on it as the driving force of the offense.

Barry is in his third season as DC with the Packers. He runs a base 3-4 setup with various coverages in the secondary. They have one of the best CBs in the league in Jaire Alexander, but it is not a deep secondary. The Packers had more success defending passing attacks toward the back half of the season after they began primarily using Cover 3 and 6. However, their run stopping ability was not great, and it doesn’t appear to have been significantly addressed in the offseason.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters

  • LT: David Bakhtiari / Yosh Nijman
  • LG: Elgton Jenkins
  • C: Josh Myers
  • RG: John Runyan
  • RT: Zach Tom / Yosh Nijman

Luke Butkus (what a name by the way) is back for his second year as line coach in Green Bay. This line was pretty decent in 2022 despite some injuries. Many players showed some versatility in positions throughout the season as well.

Bakhtiari has been one of the better LTs in football, but recently he’s had trouble staying on the field. Nijman played some LT last year, but was a better run blocker than pass blocker.

Jenkins is one of those rare versatile players who can play both guard and tackle well.

Tom played three different positions as well last year. He’s likely to be the starting RT but Nijman was retained in case Tom has issues or Bakhtiari incurs another injury.

Myers is serviceable but not a world-beater. As is Runyan.

Verdict

Can you guess what I would want to do with this backfield? That’s right, have both. Aaron Jones is going in the 4th round. You could do much, much worse than a guy who averages 5.1 yard per carry, was just given a $48 million contract extension in 2021, runs behind a solid offensive line, and is in an offense that wants to run the ball. AJ Dillon is going toward the end of the 7th and beginning of the 8th. Might be a high price to pay for the entire Packer backfield, but both these guys should be putting up fantasy points or get nearly all the carries if the other one gets injured.

No interest in Jordan Love outside of two QB leagues. He may have some rushing upside, but he isn’t a Fields, a Lamar, nor a Trent Richardson.

Rookie TEs generally don’t pan out, hence I’m not drafting rookies Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft.

The WR situation is interesting. Christian Watson is going around 58th overall, ahead of players named Godwin, Evans, Lockett, Aiyuk, and Kirk. Watson has shown himself to be a deep receiving threat, but this is no longer a deep passing offense. Romeo Doubs, the short route runner, is going around 160. Give me Doubs instead.

 

Minnesota Vikings

NFL Futures: Regular Season Win Odds: 8.5

  • HC: Kevin O’Connell
  • OC: Wes Phillips
  • DC: Brian Flores

O’Connell is back for year two after an impressive 13-4 showing in 2022. While I call it “impressive,” it’s actually an anomaly. The Vikings had many things break their way in 2022, and counting on it happening again is likely foolhardy, especially with the departures of Dal Cook and Adam Thielen.

O’Connell is the play caller of this West Coast system that allows the QB to drop back further and throw a little deeper than your typical West Coast offense like the one you just read about in Green Bay. As much as we like Justin Jefferson, he gets there on volume and run-after-the-catch ability more than deep receiving catches.

Philips is part of coaching royalty, being the son of Wade Philips. Wes Philips followed O’Connell to Minnesota after both learned under Sean McVay in Los Angeles and Washington. In all three stops, the TE was heavily featured in those offenses. Names like Higbee, Reed and Davis come to mind, which bodes well for Hockenson in 2023.

On defense, Brian Flores is entering his first year as DC after a rough exit out of Miami. Flores’ defenses play man coverage in the secondary and stack the box with anyone and everyone. Flores also likes to bring disguised blitzes from anywhere. The purpose in doing so is to confuse opposing QBs and induce mistakes, but it can also leave the secondary exposed.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters

  • LT: Christian Darrishaw
  • LG: Ezra Cleveland
  • C: Garrett Bradbury
  • RG: Ed Ingram
  • RT: Brian O’Neill

Darrishaw made a huge leap last season and comes in as PFF’s 2nd highest-ranked tackle. His counterpart on the right side, O’Neill, is also highly ranked.

Cleveland is significantly better at run blocking than pass blocking, and Ingram and Bradbury are mediocre. It’s possible both improve this year, but as it currently stands, the middle of the line is the weakness with this group.

Verdict

The good news is that Kirky is protected quite well from his blindside. The bad news is that this offense will probably not be as prolific in 2023.

This is not the same offense the Dal Cook ran in for years. That offense was run first, Kevin O’Connell’s is not. Alexander Mattison’s ADP is all over the place; I’ve seen 55, and I’ve seen 80. While the 7th round is a pretty decent spot to nab an RB1, I don’t believe that’s a surety. Last year Mattison averaged 3.8 yards per carry and had only one game with more than 40 rushing yards. That game was the last one of the season against the Bears after Minnesota had already secured a playoff spot. Just a reminder, Mike Zimmer and his rushing offense is not here anymore.

It’s hard to not take Justin Jefferson at #1 overall even though he only scored the 20th most fantasy points in 2022 (most in the top 20 are QBs though). He was WR1 last year and has a great chance to repeat considering his role and the offensive scheme.

TJ Hockenson is basically going to be WR2 in this offense. He’s going 40th overall.

Rookie Jordan Addison is going around pick 90 and KJ Osborn at pick 142. I really don’t know what to do with either of these fellas. I don’t want to reach for Addison at that ADP. Osborn has a year in this offense and already had some big games, but I simply would rather have either of the top dogs in Jefferson and the Hock Alarm.

 

As always, thank you for reading. We’re on to the East!

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