Fantasy Football

NFC West Breakdown of Coaching and Offensive Line

Christian Mccaffrey

NFL Breakdown of Coaching and Offensive Line 2023 Series

Hey all, and welcome back to the second installment of my coaching and offensive line breakdowns. Today we have the NFC West, which arguably only has 3 NFL teams in it. I wish Relegation were a thing.

OLine and Coaching Series Quick Links

 

 

Arizona Cardinals

NFL Futures: Regular Season Win Odds: 4.5

Before we get into coaches and offensive lines with this lovely organization, I think it’s prudent to acknowledge the magnitude of changes it is going through.

The Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Kiem (the GM) era is over, and to quote Jedi Master Yoda, not short enough it was. Man, did this whole situation get ugly fast. 10 months after extending both of these guys through 2027, owner Michael Bidwill elected to clean house. The signing of Kyler Murray to a $230,500,000 contract has attached the organization to this player for the foreseeable future, and in this writer’s opinion, that was a horrific mistake. I think Bidwill posthumously realizes that, along with the many veteran signings and trades (Watt, Ertz, Green, Hudson, Beachum, Hopkins, Conner) Arizona has executed in the last few years. Since this is a young man’s league, Bidwill now realizes that the direction of the Cardinals was going the wrong way and has brought in Monti Ossenfort to help right the ship as the new GM. Ossenfort has a long history of scouting and most recently spent time as Director of Player Personnel in Tennessee. However, his claim to fame is the nearly 15-year time frame where he helped to bring players into the New England Patriots organization. Ossenfort was with the Patriots for 4 of their Super Bowls. Replacing the GM, the entire coaching staff and discarding many of the veteran players on this team will ideally allow Bidwill to save face with the fans while this team “rebuilds around Kyler Murray.” 🤢

  • HC: Jonathan Gannon
  • OC: Drew Petzing
  • DC: Nick Rallis

With the Cardinals, we get our second new head coach Jonathan Gannon, who has 15 years of experience in the NFL. Having just gone to the Super Bowl as DC with the Eagles, Gannon was likely to get a shot at being a first-time head coach. Under Gannon, the Eagles have had a top-10 defense in each of the past 2 seasons, including being the best pass defense last year. Prior to the Eagles, Gannon spent time with the Vikings, which coincidentally was also the last time the Viking’s defense was any good.

Gannon has a motto called HITS, which stands for Hustle, Intensity, Take-Aways, Smarts. He believes in an effective 4-3 defense in which he prefers his linemen to be the kind that cause disruption along the offensive line in such a way that it only takes 4 of them to limit the opposing team’s passing game and virtually take away the run. For what it’s worth, it’s the same defense I used in Madden 94 on Sega Genesis (Yes, my age is showing). Gannon also likes an aggressive and physical secondary while also disguising and falsely presenting blitzes. He had the horses in Philly; will he have them in Zona?

Petzing is getting a significant promotion here. He most recently served as the Browns QB coach. I do have to say, Jacoby Brissett did look half decent last season. Petzing and Gannon established a professional relationship when they both coached in Minnesota. In his interview, Gannon asked Petzing what he thought the number one priority of the offense was, and Petzing said that it was to coach around Kyler Murray’s skill set. This, apparently, got Petzing the job. Petzing has yet to reveal the team’s scheme, but he has said that it will revolve around Murray’s running ability whenever he returns to the lineup that is.

Nepotism is alive and well in the NFL. DC Nick Rallis comes along with Gannon from Philly. Rallis was the Eagles linebackers coach for the past 2 seasons, so it makes a ton of sense that Gannon brings him along to help install the exact kind of defense that Gannon is looking for.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters

  • LT: DJ Humphries / Josh Jones / Paris Johnson
  • LG: Paris Johnson / Josh Jones
  • C: Hjalte Froholdt
  • RG: Will Hernandez
  • RT: Kelvin Beachum / Josh Jones

Line coach Klayton Adams is in charge of an NFL O-line for the first time in his career. He previously served as an assistant line and TE coach with Indianapolis. In his playing days, he was a walk-on at Boise State and a part of a successful few years but went into coaching after graduating.

This one is a little shady. After the Colts let him go this past December, Adams signed on with Stanford to be their O-line coach and run game coordinator. After about two months, Adams signed with the Cardinals. I get it, it’s a more lucrative job and likely the best thing for Adams’ coaching career, but I’m not happy if I’m Stanford HC Troy Taylor.

As for the players, this group came into last season as an aging, underperforming group, and they basically lived up to that. C Rodney Hudson (33 years old) has been let go, but the team retained RT Beachum (34) who ironically was the only lineman to play all 17 games last season.

Will Hernandez has never lived up to his pedigree, even when highly touted in New York (Gmen).

Humphries is capable but not an all-star at the position. He has been dealing with back issues.

Froholdt, a rare Danish NFLer, is a former Patriot draft pick who was waived after one year and has bounced around a bit playing for the Texans and Browns before coming to Zona. However, PFF ranks him as 12th out of all qualifying centers. He was originally drafted as a guard but has switched to center.

Ohio State’s Paris Johnson was Arizona’s first-round, 6th overall, pick in this year’s draft. Believe it or not, this is the first offensive player the Cardinals have drafted since they selected Kyler Murray. I mean, if I was Kyler I’d be a little miffed that it has taken this long. Johnson has the versatility to play LT or LG. Since Humprhies has multiple years left on his contract, Johnson’s likely early career position is LG unless Humphries is physically unfit. Johnson is hopefully a foundational piece for Gannon that he uses to bolster the offense for years to come.

Josh Jones was drafted by the Cardinals in 2020 and has had varying success. He filled in nicely for Humphries last season but has bounced around the formation since his rookie year. This is his last year on his rookie deal, so eventually replacing Beachum or Humprhies or sliding into the LG spot are all on the table. This staff didn’t draft him though, so consider it a “prove it” year for Jones if he cracks the starting lineup.

Verdict

I’ve probably spent too much time on this organization, but I honestly feel I had to considering their turnover. DeAndre Hopkins was let go because he won’t help them accomplish their goal of not winning games in 2023 and achieving a higher draft pick. AJ Green is retired, and Zach Ertz, while I like him plenty, has injury history and is on the wrong side of 30. If I was Bidwill I would personally be pissed that so many millions of dollars are going out the door to a QB who doesn’t know how to win, but them’s the breaks I guess. James Conner is going at the backend of round 5, which is RB desperation zone for me. I have a tough time putting any faith in this organization for the 2023 season, I don’t care how flashy Greg Dortch looked at times in 2022.

I do, however, think Petzing’s scheme may make Kyler Murray more fantasy relevant this season if indeed Kyler will be asked to run more. I am not the biggest Kyler fan. I think the contract is egregious and his performances, while they look cool at times, are not suggestive of an elite level NFL QB. Now that being said, at his current ADP of 129, I don’t mind making him my backup QB. I’ll be shocked if he plays all 17 though.

What I see here though is that Gannon, Bidwill and Ossenfort have built in some coaching scapegoats while also affording themselves time to find Kyler’s eventual replacement and simultaneously build up the defense, which is likely to be good in a few years.

The last pick in my drafts and potentially in my dynasty drafts is rookie WR Michael Wilson. I don’t know what to expect from this offense, but I do know this current group drafted the WR in the 3rd round. This staff had nothing to do with Hollywood Brown, Greg Dortch, James Conner, Zach Ertz, or Rondale Moore. To me, chasing any of them carries too much risk.

 

Los Angeles Rams

NFL Futures: Regular Season Win Odds: 6.5

  • HC: Sean McVay
  • OC: Mike Lafleur
  • DC: Raheem Morris

McVay returns for his 7th year as HC of the Rams. A lot of hype continues to surround McVay about his tactics. When things are going well and his players are healthy, McVay becomes quite good at making in-game adjustments and moves in and out of run-game focus and pass-game focus. In this regard, Matt Stafford proved to be much better suited for that style of offense than Jared Goff did. Having a top tier WR in Cooper Kupp doesn’t hurt either.

Lafleur is new here though as he replaces Liam Coen who got but one year as the Rams OC. Coen wants to be closer to his family in Kentucky, so he returned to their OC job and has returned to the college ranks. I’m sure there’s a lot here we don’t know, but you saw how this offense looked last year. McVay is the one who historically calls plays during the games, so I’m not sure what to make of it. In any event, Mike Lafleur left the Jets despite a long standing relationship with HC Robert Saleh. Mike’s brother Matt coached Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Seems pretty obvious to me why Mike left the Jets once given the opportunity to go to the Rams. Lafleur’s job will continue to support the kind of offense McVay wants.

Morris is in his 3rd year as DC for the Rams. This defense directly tries to confuse the opposing QB by disguising man vs zone coverages. Morris has also had the luxury of some talented defensive players. While Aaron Donald remains, Bobby Wagner, Jalen Ramsey, and Leonard Floyd are all gone. This team has high expectations for third- year LB Ernest Jones.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters

  • LT: Joe Noteboom / Alaric Jackson
  • LG: Joe Noteboom / Steve Avila
  • C: Brian Allen
  • RG: Coleman Shelton / Logan Bruss
  • RT: Rob Havenstein

One of the real downfalls of the Rams offense last season was the many injuries suffered along their offensive front. Havenstein was the only one to play all 17 games. This team was challenged to replace the gaping hole Andrew Whitworth’s post Super Bowl retirement left, and it didn’t go well. Both Noteboom and Bruss missed the majority of the season and the Rams were forced to mix and match pieces of their line from game to game.

We have a new offensive line coach in Ryan Wendell. He is pretty new to coaching. He spent the previous 4 seasons as an assistant line coach with the Bills. Prior to that he played 8 seasons in the NFL, including 7 with the New England Patriots.

This is a situation that justifies why I do this research. Last year I knew the Rams would struggle with their offensive line play due to Whitworth’s retirement, Austin Corbett’s loss, and the general lack of experience from the starters and backups. As such, I had no Rams on my fantasy teams despite them coming off a Super Bowl win. This year, partly because of their 2022 injuries, many players like Coleman Shelton have had more experience and are likely to make improvements. This should be a better unit, but I still wouldn’t expect their 2021 dominance.

Verdict

Can we trust Matt Stafford? This is a young man’s game, and 35-year-old Stafford also has some injury question marks. Somehow little Cooper Kupp has turned 30 right before our very eyes. That’s a tough 7th overall ADP to swallow for an aging player coming off injury in arguably a declining offense. Don’t even get me started on this team’s running game. Yeah, I doubt I’m drafting any Rams again this season.

Kupp if discounted from ADP. Maybe the defense. Maybe Zach Evans if his ADP stays where it is and he’s one of my last picks.

San Francisco 49ers

NFL Futures: Regular Season Win Odds: 11.5

  • HC: Kyle Shanahan
  • OC: Vacant
  • DC: Steve Wilks

Last year Kyle Shanahan elected not to install a new OC after Mike McDaniel departed for the Miami HC job, and Shanahan has decided to do that again this year. It’s hard not to respect the job Shanahan has done in the past 6 years, especially when considering the litany of injuries this team has dealt with.

The coaching setup in San Francisco is quite intricate and much different than your typical NFL setup. Shanahan has himself a bunch of assistants to help him with the day-to-day meetings, practices, research, etc. so that he has time to be his own OC. Even his assistants have assistants. There are people like Anthony Lynn, Chris Foerster, Brian Griese, and Robert Turner who have many years experience in the NFL, including time as an HC for Lynn.

Former DC DeMeco Ryans just accepted the Houston Texans HC position, so this is Steve Wilks’ first year as head of the defense. Wilks just finished being the interim HC for the Carolina Panthers after the dismissal of Matt Rhule (which I called by the way). Wilks has bounced around a bit in the NFL and NCAA, but does have experience as a DC at the University of Missouri and with the Cleveland Browns. He was also HC for the Cardinals prior to Kingsbury.

The defense will be the same with a few wrinkles. Whether it was Robert Saleh or DeMeco Ryans, the base 4-3 defense was the same and will continue to be. Wilks’ history is largely with defensive backs, so given players like Bosa and Armstead along the line, Wilks will ask them to continue to do what they’ve been doing. The defense will ask the 4 lineman to cause disruption while the LBs will likely drop into coverage. Wilks, however, will institute more blitzing from different areas and more man coverage in the secondary.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters

  • LT: Trent Williams
  • LG: Aaron Banks
  • C: Jake Brendel
  • RG: Spencer Buford
  • RT: Colton McKivitz

The 49ers have had a good offensive line for some time now. The talent along the line has dissipated in recent years, and Shanahan has tried to replace some of the departed players with rookie draft picks. RT Mike McGlinchey is gone to the Broncos, so McKivitz, who has played but 130 snaps in his 3-year NFL career will be challenged. Daniel Brunskill has also gone to Tennessee, and it’s likely 2nd-year guard Buford will likely take over for him. Trent Williams is one of the best LTs in the NFL.

Chris Foerster is both the offensive line coach and run game coordinator here in SF. He has two assistants to help him with the line because he has involvement in different areas of the organization, including in the TE room with coach Brian Fleury. At times, the 49ers employ their TEs to help with blocking, which helps to explain the infuriating inconsistency of George Kittle.

Long story short, this team understands the importance of offensive line play and will find creative ways to scheme up blocking that helps highlight each player’s strengths and mask their weaknesses. The 49ers want to be effective running the football, regardless of which QB is starting, but this group has more question marks than usual.

Verdict

CMC is going #1 overall. That frightens me given his injury history and the question marks around the guys blocking for him. I won’t be drafting him at 1. If you have the #1 pick and take him there, or if he falls to you at 3 or 4, I’d argue heavily that you should consider Elijah Mitchell at his ADP of 118. I have long been a fan of Shanahan’s run game, but SF has not been lucky when it comes to injuries. The Niners are going to run it, and they will be effective doing so, therefore, I am interested in the RBs, but handcuffing them will be necessary for me.

Deebo Samuel at ADP 36 is a stretch, especially with his injury history and conflicting usage in the run game. Deebo was a disappointment in 2022, but again that was largely due to injury. Sneakily, Brandon Aiyuk was WR15 last year. That’s a bargain at ADP 75. Even though George Kittle’s production is inconsistent, he landed at TE #2 last year. Kittle goes off the board around pick 39, so that’s ultimately a personal decision about where you want your team regarding TEs.

If the 49er run game ends up being the foundation of my fantasy team, I’ll be okay with it. That’s a decision I’ll make depending on where I am drafting. I will be targeting Brandon Aiyuk in the 6th round as a potential WR3, but might have pause if I already have CMC. The Niners were the 3rd best fantasy defense last year, and they should be near the top again, so I have no problem taking them at the appropriate time. They are currently going at pick 140, the first DST off the board.

 

Seattle Seahawks

NFL Futures: Regular Season Win Odds: 8.5

  • HC: Pete Carroll
  • OC: Shane Waldron
  • DC: Clint Hurtt

Due to the surprise success and playoff berth last year, many of these coaches get a second chance to improve upon last year.

This offense will operate in a similar style to how it did in 2022. The primary focus will be the run game and to that end they will employ a zone blocking scheme and try to put their RBs in situations where the opposing linemen are getting double-teamed. Shane Waldron hails from the Sean McVay coaching tree, and has tried to install parts of it with the Seahawks. That was rough in year one under Russell Wilson, but better in year two under Geno Smith. Waldron seems to have bought into Pete Carroll’s style of constant positive reinforcement to his offensive players as when he speaks to the media he seems to do nothing other than talk up his guys. Carroll and Waldron want the team to play fast on offense, but they want to do it largely with the run game. A team that plays fast but doesn’t produce is counter productive as it will just mean the defense is on the field more. The drafting of Zach Charbonnet is interesting; he’s probably going to cut into some of Walker’s workload as the Hawks attempt to march up the field and chew up the clock.

Clint Hurtt was responsible for installing a new kind of defense in Seattle. With the Legion of Boom basically defunct, they switched to a 3-4 scheme and asked both their linebackers and secondary to be more versatile. While that had varying success, Seattle gets the pleasure of welcoming Bobby Wagner back into the fold. At age 33, Wagner showed he still had plenty in the tank with the Rams last season. Along with Jordyn Brooks and 2nd round pick Derrick Hall, expect the LBs to be formidable. Seattle also spent their first round, 5th overall pick on CB Devon Witherspoon, so the defense should be better in Hurtt’s second year.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters

  • LT: Charles Cross
  • LG: Damien Lewis
  • C: Evan Brown
  • RG: Phil Haynes
  • RT: Abraham Lucas

Line coach Andy Dickerson returns for his second year in the position in Seattle, but he has been with the organization as run game coordinator and assistant line coach since 2021. Both Cross and Lucas were rookies last year who ended up seeing significant playing time. While it wasn’t always great, they both developed nicely and got better as the season wore on. Evan Brown has moved from center to guard back to center in this league; he will take over for the retired Austin Blythe. Both Lewis and Haynes held their own last year as well. Not much was expected from this unit last season, but they performed much better than expected, which helps explain the surprise success this offense had in 2022.

For this reason, the Seahawks focused their picks on offensive and defensive players in the first few rounds of the draft. The unit should continue to improve and therefore, the offense should as well.

Verdict

I don’t know if he will finish QB5 again, but Geno Smith is better than QB15 with an ADP of 105. I personally want a different QB on my fantasy team, but if you wait around for this guy and then back him up with Aaron Rodgers, Trent Richardson, or Kyler Murray, well, I can imagine worse situations. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf finished as WR13 and 19, respectively. Metcalf is being drafted as WR15 (34th overall) and Lockett as WR30 (68th overall). Lockett looks like a bargain at that ADP, but that 5th round pick is probably specific to your team’s needs. Rookie JSM is going as WR42 (99th overall), and Leo Sells has a great breakdown of his fantasy future. Kenneth Walker is a mid to late 2nd round pick and I love him there. You bet I’m taking Zach Charbonnet around pick 121 though.

It appears that many are treating Seattle’s performance last year like a fluke. It makes sense; where has Geno Smith been this entire time? While I’ll admit that we probably saw his ceiling last year, undervaluing this offense and this offensive line could be a mistake. I’m taking him if Walker is available at the right time in round 2. If my first 4 rounds have gone something like RB, WR, RB, TE/QB, then I’ll be considering Lockett in round 5. If I don’t have a QB by round 8, then I’m likely stacked elsewhere and am comfortable taking Smith there, especially if I grabbed Lockett in round 5.

 

Thanks again for reading! See you soon for installment #3!

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