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Schematic changes within an NFL offense can help to identify potential breakout stars or overvalued players in fantasy football drafts. Projecting how a new offensive coach will operate personnel, play-calling tendencies, and even blocking schemes can indicate how skill position players' roles may shift. Those shifting roles can determine the difference between a WR3 and a WR1 finish. They can identify where players could become more efficient, see more volume, or vice versa. Running backs tend to be the most volatile, with different skill sets fitting schemes in specific and various ways. Ten offenses will operate new or altered offenses in 2022, but which running backs will feel the most impact?
Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos
Nathaniel Hackett has taken over as head coach of the Denver Broncos, and Javonte Williams stands to benefit greatly. Hackett coached under Matt LaFleur, a disciple of the Shanahan Tree and firm believer in the wide zone running scheme. Wide zone schemes take advantage of fast, one-cut running backs full of burst. While Williams isn't the fastest back in the world (he ran a 4.55-second forty-yard dash in the pre-draft process last year), he has a ton of short-area explosion and can get downhill in a hurry. With an athletic, mobile offensive line, Hackett's offense should open up massive running lanes for the Denver running backs.
While the wide zone will be helpful to Javonte's efficiency, the RPO is another wrinkle that Williams should welcome. Denver ran just 30 RPOs in 2021. Hackett's Packers ran just 32, but that number should increase with Russell Wilson at the helm instead of Aaron Rodgers. Williams thrived on RPOs while at North Carolina, and the threat of Wilson should only enhance the running lanes for the sophomore running back.
Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears
The last time Luke Getsy called an offense (at Mississippi State), he leaned heavily on a committee. Kylin Hill was his No. 1 running back, receiving just 23% of total rush attempts. The following back on the depth chart, Aeris Williams received 17% of rush attempts. Those numbers jumped to 41% and 30% when removing quarterback rush attempts. Getsy's most recent stop in Green Bay saw him giving 42% of rush attempts to A.J. Dillon and 38% to Aaron Jones. The gap closed to 42% and 43% in favor of Jones on a per-game basis. Getsy favors a running back by committee approach and will covet Herbert's speed (he ran a 4.40 forty-yard dash at his pro day in 2021) within the offense. David Montgomery has shown to be a talented runner, consistently manipulating defenders at the second level. Still, he hasn't ascended to superstardom in a way that will keep Herbert on the bench. Herbert fits the outside zone scheme that Getsy will feature this year better than Montgomery, and his one-cut skill set should allow him to improve his 2021 efficiency. Herbert and Montgomery should work in tandem, and while that hurts Montgomery's value for fantasy, it could drastically improve Herbert's and push him into flex consideration every week.
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