From some feedback we received last year, we will do a better job of explaining the specific schemes and what they mean to a team’s draft philosophy. I have spent the last two years on my soapbox about the future of football. It’s my belief that teams are becoming increasingly multiple in formations and schemes. With offenses spreading the field horizontally, defenses are attempting to employ more multiple looks to matchup with situations and teams. It’s been widely publicized that NFL offenses are becoming more college-like in their use of spread zone principles. The goal of those principles is to create space to allow athletes to work in as the game shifts away from the tackle box.
We’ll start with the offense. Two basic offenses are prevelant in the NFL – matchup-precision and vertical-power.
Precision offenses will fit Matt Barkley type passers
The vertical-power offense is built on deep (five and seven step) drops allowing receivers to work vertically behind the defense. Arm strength is critical to this system as the ball will be driven down the field on deep ins, outs, and 9-routes. Because of the extra time involved in blocking deep drops, it’s ideal to have a quarterback that can avoid pressure and drive the ball into tight windows.
It’s important to remember the type of offense of team runs when selecting quarterbacks and wide receivers. Precision offenses will fit Matt Barkley type passers that are experienced in delivering the ball with timing and accuracy. When looking at receivers that best fit precision based offenses, you would look at a Keenan Allen type. Allen doesn’t have great vertical speed but his big, runs precise routes, and can create after the catch. In a vertical offense, you want a big armed quarterback like Mike Glennon. But Glennon struggles to move and avoid pressure will cause him some concern. EJ Manuel offers intrigue in the system because he has the arm and mobility to be an effective downfield passer. In terms of type of receiver, you could look at Markus Wheaton as an ideal fit in a vertical offense.
The second half of the offensive focus will be on blocking schemes. NFL blocking schemes are comprised of a stretch-zone, slide protection or man-power style. In stretch-zone schemes, teams will look for more athletic offensive lineman that can move and occupy zones rather than blocking man up. This draft class is loaded with solid fits in ZBS athletes. In a man-power scheme, blockers are assigned a man and it requires a bigger, physically strong blocker. With many college teams employing zone principles in the run game, man-power blockers are becoming lesser and lesser entering the NFL ranks.
It’s important to remember, as we move onto the defensive side of the ball, that teams are becoming more multiple on defense and the below graph is comprised of base defenses and primary coverage style. As offenses increase tempo and employ the horizontal stretch, zone action defenses are forced out of base defenses more often than not.
We first look at the base front of a defense. In a three-man front (3-4), teams will employ big body space eaters to stack and
allow the edges to be attacked by rush linebackers. In an odd front, the linebackers have to take on blocks and aren’t as free to run and chase. When 3-4 teams seek out linebackers, they want a bigger body athlete with the ability to take on blocks and shed.
In a four man front (4-3), teams look for an athletic rusher on the right side and a more physical base end on the left side. At the linebacker position 4-3 teams will look for athletic run and chase athletes. Smaller stature linebackers that aren’t necessarily great at taking on blocks fit better into an even front as the four down lineman will occupy blockers and allow the LB’s to roam relatively free.
In terms of coverage schematics, it’s likely that teams will employ a blend of man and zone principles depending on situations and tendencies of teams. The base coverage style identifies the defensive coordinators primary coverage tendency. They are broken down as man, press man, zone, press zone.
In some later articles we will analyze team needs and scheme fits as we place specific names with specific teams based on schematic fit. The following graph is something you will want to bookmark for reference as you embark on mock drafts and deciding on your team’s draft.
|TEAM||OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR||BASE PHILOSOPHY||BLOCKING SCHEME|
|GREEN BAY||TOM CLEMENTS||PRECISION-MATCHUP||STRETCH-ZONE|
|KANSAS CITY||DOUG PEDERSON||PRECISION-MATCHUP||STRETCH-ZONE|
|MINNESOTA||BILL MUSGRAVE||RHYTHM PASSING||MAN-POWER|
|NEW ENGLAND||JOSH MCDANIELS||MATCHUP-PRECISION||STRETCH-ZONE|
|NEW ORLEANS||PETE CARMICHAEL, JR||MATCHUP-PRECISION||STRETCH-ZONE|
|NEW YORK GIANTS||KEVIN GILBRIDE||VERTICAL-POWER||MAN-POWER|
|NEW YORK JETS||MARTY MORNHINWEG||MATCHUP-PRECISION||STRETCH-ZONE|
|SAN DIEGO||KEN WISENHUNT||VERTICAL-POWER||MAN-POWER|
|SAN FRANCISCO||GREG ROMAN||MATCHUP-PRECISION||MAN-POWER|
|ST. LOUIS||BRIAN SCHOTTENHEIMER||VERTICAL-POWER||MAN-POWER|
|TAMPA BAY||MIKE SULLIVAN||VERTICAL-POWER||STRETCH-ZONE|