By Alex Levin
With the draft complete and the bulk of the free agency rush over with, it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2020 season! And with that, I’m back with year 2 of my Opportunity series.
For those who didn’t see this series last year, I try to take a different approach to fantasy projections than your run-of-the-mill rankings. The basis of my process is that the number one indicator of fantasy success is opportunities to touch the ball. Obviously individual player skill can (and will) affect that, but at the end of the day players are at the mercy of playcalling and play design. Therefore, if we want to make accurate projections, we need to look at each coach’s scheme and how they like to spread the ball around.
As a result, this series is very coach-centric. I’ll touch on individual players, but only as they relate to their coaches’ schemes. On a related note, this series will only aim to establish projections on how touches will be split up, not what individual players will be able to accomplish with those touches. That will come later once depth charts settle through training camp. Think of this series more as a basis for realistic expectations.
Make sense? Good. Let’s dive in.
Most of my stats are pulled from Pro Football Reference. Please support them. They are awesome and are my primary source of statistical information.
Last Year’s Accuracy
For league wide stats, see this spreadsheet.
The Seahawks were perfectly adequate last season. 11-5 and won a playoff game. Certainly enough to keep all the coaching positions safe, but not enough to start seeing coaches getting poached to lead other teams. As a result, head coach Pete Carroll will return to continue his streak as the 5th longest tenured head coach in the NFL. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and defensive coordinator Ken Norton will return as well.
It is well known that Schottenheimer is a proud member of team #establishtherun. Indeed, the 46.0% run rate he called last year was the 6th highest rate in the league. However, that number was still a sharp dropoff from the 52.8% run rate he called in 2018. That happens when a once-vaunted defense drops off to being a bottom-10 unit. Forced into throwing more and running a touch faster offense, the Seahawks also saw a small spike in total plays run from 1012 to 1046.
This shift in balance did not have so much of an effect on target shares. While all three groups did see small adjustments, the wide receivers still commanded a target share in the upper 50% range while the running backs and tight ends continued to see shares in the upper teens. One thing worth noting, however, is that Russell Wilson threw the ball away a little less last year than he did in 2018 (4.6% versus 6.8%, respectively). This was likely due to Seattle’s ability to actually find somewhat reliable weapons outside of Tyler Lockett. Rookie DK Metcalf and tight end Jacob Hollister were not superstars by any stretch, but just having some extra talent on the field did make Wilson’s life a little easier.
It’s hard not to feel like the Seahawks are consistently moving one step forward and two steps back with their defense. They did grab a few defenders with their early draft picks and spent a little money in free agency to bring Bruce Irvin back after a short hiatus, but just look at the names of their free agent losses. Granted, some of them could still come back, but that’s some serious pass rush ability Seattle has to replace. It’s hard to envision any real improvement in the defense’s effectiveness.
Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing for fantasy purposes. The dropoff at defense was what led Schottenheimer to call a faster pace and more pass heavy offense last year. With little relief in sight, it’s likely that he repeats that scheme this year. The only thing that could slow it down is the significant investment Seattle put into its offensive line. If the improvements take effect, the increase in offensive efficiency should allow Schottenheimer to tilt the run-pass ratio a little more toward the run as his offense should be able to bully other teams’ defensive lines. The play total shouldn’t move too much though as the slower run-based offense should be balanced out by an improved ability to extend drives.
When Seattle does pass, there isn’t much reason to suspect any major shifts in positional target shares. The coaching staff hasn’t changed and neither have the starting players for the most part. The only real area of interest is at the tight end position. The group posted an impressive 20% target share last year despite trotting out Jacob Hollister as the starter for two thirds of the season. There’s no guarantee that Will Dissly will break his injury streak, but he’s been amazingly productive for the brief spurts when he’s been healthy. Adding veteran Greg Olsen for depth helps as well. Durability will remain a concern, but if the injury bug is merciful to Seattle this year we could see a small uptick in the tight end target share.
Alex Levin – Projections/Redraft
Ride or Dynasty