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The ability to identify the next breakout star in fantasy football is challenging. The ability to pinpoint players who may underachieve is even more strenuous. Fantasy managers often look to a player's talent to identify such players. Sometimes, that process can return positive results. But other times, identifying scheme and play-calling tendencies or changes can provide insight into how a player's utilization will impact their fantasy football performance. Scheme analysis could have correctly identified the Mike Williams fifth-year breakout in 2021. It also could've been used to predict Matthew Stafford's increase in production. On the other side of the spectrum, scheme analysis could have kept fantasy managers away from Trevor Lawrence with Urban Meyer in charge.
Each position requires varying levels of scrutiny to determine who may profit; quarterbacks tend to be the most difficult. Fourteen teams made coaching changes following the 2021 season, and ten will be making alterations to their offensive scheme. But which quarterbacks will benefit the most?
Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
As most predicted, the Matt Nagy experience was a disaster. Justin Fields came into the league thriving off of play-action, consistently pushing the ball to the intermediate and deep areas of the field with pinpoint accuracy. Nagy called play-action for Fields on just 17.8% of his pass attempts, ranking him 28th in the league among the 31 quarterbacks with at least ten starts and last among fellow rookie quarterbacks. Fields also succeeded in the run-pass option (RPO) game in college. Nagy called just 22 RPOs in 2021.
Luke Getsy looks to correct those mishaps in his first year as offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears. Getsy's most recent stint saw him coordinating the passing game and coaching the quarterbacks for Green Bay. Additionally, in 2018, he was Mississippi State's offensive coordinator. If Getsy plans to pull from previous experience to create an offense tailored to his quarterback, these two stops should provide the blueprint.
Nick Fitzgerald was the quarterback under center for Mississippi State in 2018, and while he wasn't the most talented thrower, Getsy got a ton of rushing production from him. He was the Bulldogs' leading rusher, with 221 attempts for 1,121 yards and 13 touchdowns. Nearly all the rushing output was from designed quarterback runs, indicating that Getsy could have an array of quarterback run plays in the playbook.
Getsy's time as the passing game coordinator for the Packers offers a better look at what the Bears' offense could be. His offense heavily focused on play-action and RPOs, with 23.3% of Rodgers' attempts from 2020-21 coming off the former. 7% of his pass attempts came from RPOs; compared to the 2.96% that Nagy called for Fields, this is a significant jump. Getsy's offense will utilize pre-snap motion, painting a better picture for Fields before the snap. They also plan to deploy a zone-blocking run scheme, optimizing the play-action pass, incorporating designed rollouts, and moving pockets. Fields' situation is significantly better in 2022, and most of the credit should go to the arrival of Luke Getsy.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
In most cases of quarterbacks butting heads with their head coach, disaster strikes. Interestingly, that wasn't the case with Kirk Cousins and Mike Zimmer. But Zimmer was sent out of town anyway, and the Vikings hired Kevin O'Connell as the head coach and play-caller. O'Connell's previous stops include a year of overlap with Cousins in Washington and, most recently, a trip to the Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams. Identifying O'Connell's offensive scheme is slightly more complicated than others due to the diversity displayed at previous stops. The last two years with the Rams exemplify this. In 2020, they were a heavy under-center, play-action team to hide some of Jared Goff's flaws: 31% of Goff's attempts came from play-action. In 2021, they pulled Matthew Stafford back into the shotgun, spread it out, and ditched the heavy play-action. Cousins is more like Stafford than he is Goff, indicating that we could see more of the latter.
Justin Jefferson recently said the Vikings' offense would move them into a new generation. Creativity in space creation for receivers to work will be a focal point of the scheme, and pushing the ball downfield will be a priority. Cousins already scored fantasy points while operating a run-first, play-action-heavy offense. O'Connell opening it up could result in a career year for Cousins.
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