Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Apr 2012

NY Times: NFL Evolution

Make sure to check out this three-part series on the evolution of NFL schemes by new FO contributor Andy Benoit. Part I looked at the development of quarterbacks and receivers. Part II looked at how the expansion of spread formations is effecting running backs and linemen. Part III looks at how the defense will respond, with linebackers becoming more like safeties.

Posted by: Andy Benoit on 26 Apr 2012

10 comments, Last at 15 Oct 2012, 2:35pm by sera

Comments

1
by D2K :: Fri, 04/27/2012 - 12:47am

Great read, and you are a welcomed addition to FO. My post is in regards to "part 2" of your NFL evolution article.

I subscribe to the same notion that LT/RT has significantly lost positional necessity and had a discussion on this very topic in the most recent "Word of Muth".

The drafting of tackles in the 1st round (maybe second) should become a thing of the past IMO. After watching the 1st round tonight where 2 OT's were drafted (4/23)on the entire 1st day, I started thinking that post/new CBA drafts will only reaffirm the change in the value of this position.

OT's, particularly LT's in all drafts pre-2012 (old/mega-bucks CBA) were drafted frequently because they are considered low risk/high reward/safe picks. With the new CBA and the slotted money teams can now afford to take risks on players that actually contribute to your team winning games, i.e QB's/pass rushers/offensive and defensive skill positions.

Boom or bust may still get regurgitated ad nauseum, but with the ability teams now have of missing on first rounders with little finacial loss and team setback, I think there is a trend on the horizon of OT's losing significant value.

G/C/G combo will soon become more important on the positional value chart IMO.

2
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Fri, 04/27/2012 - 4:16pm

LT's were also drafted highly because they tend to not hit the free agency market either. I'm not arguing that makes them elite or higher needs, but it's still considered a position that "You need one" and if you have one you keep them, if you don't have one, you go get one. That's how teams draft QB's and in many cases centers for years now. Guards and RT do end up on the free agency market because again they are easier to scheme around in part just by location of the position. You have 2 players that can be schemed to help guards and centers who are players that are "designed" for the job at hand. Tackles can only get one and possibly a TE, and TE's are not the same as other lineman. All line positions can get the help of the RB and QB. I mention the QB because a lot of blitz "pick-ups" are actually the QB hitting a hot read and the blitzer is not blocked or attempted to be blocked.

That being said, I've heard several much more qualified players and coaches claim the difficulty of playing a position on the line is still LT - RG - C / RT - LG. C / RT depends a fair bit on scheme. RG has been elevated to the higher levels because that is the other position that is often the most often isolated and has more one on one match-ups and often against the monster 3-technique tackles who now a days tend to be freak athletes like Suh, big and fast.

I still think missing on a first rounder has a set back effect. The financial hit has been mitigated, but that was only part of the issue and with the salary cap floor going into full force next year, the $3-$5 million a year (or 3-5% of the total cap space) that a first round pick still takes while less than in the past isn't quite as small as some people say (and since the CBA guarantees a pay increase for those picks even if the salary cap doesn't go up that is another potential issue). So missing on a first rounder still hurts more than later rounds, evaluating someone wrong and missing out on who you thought was next best still hurts more than it does in later rounds. I still think you need to hit on 2 out of 3 in the first 3 rounds and then get lucky with one or 2 players in 4-7. Teams that don't are the ones that don't stay competitive.

But yes I do agree that like we already saw this year, it's easier to move around it's easier to take a shot on harder to evaluate positions. But again you'll still see a couple of tackles go in the first round every year because they are easier to evaluate, and once you have one that is good enough you don't have to think about it for 5 - 10 years.

Of course I also think the changes in the game will also mean that a stud and 4 just a guy's will allow you to scheme the line well enough. So the stud guards and centers that currently go early will still go early for the same reasons. You still need one, it just might not be what it used to be. But keep in mind that the feeder system still tends to put better athletes at tackle than guard and even with the evolution it still seems to be easier to move to the inside of the line than to the outside, so you'll still have tackles taken that turn into guards, they just might not be considered busts like Robert Gallery was labeled because he wasn't a stud tackle but he is a stud guard by all accounts.

So yes I agree that you'll see fewer tackles going in the first round and fewer o-linemen in general but it's still a position of importance, where you will still need to have something good enough and having a stud there that can free you up from worrying about it still matters. While the article mentioned Chad Clifton as only being solid I think that is just a matter of his perpetual under rating because his run blocking was only average. He shut down elite pass rushers for 10 years. Jarred Allen vs Chad Clifton (4 games) 1 career sack (2 sacks in those games but he lined up on the other side for one of them). Jarred Allen vs any other players the Packer started at tackle (4 games) 10.5 sacks. It's a skewed example, but with Clifton there the Packers could scheme a lot of other ways, and an uninjured Josh Sitton in 2010 gave them even more flexibility so that just a guy Scott Wells at C, just a guy Darren College or TJ Lang at LT, and broken down Tauscher or rookie Brian Bulaga at RT were just fine.

3
by dbostedo :: Sat, 04/28/2012 - 6:54pm

BTW, since this is a grammar police-friendly site, that should be "affecting", not "effecting".

4
by Intropy :: Sat, 04/28/2012 - 7:02pm

Are you sure? I thought it was causing running backs and linemen to happen.

5
by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 04/28/2012 - 10:24pm

This is true.

Aa fir article at n.y.t. will read this weekend.

6
by some guy (not verified) :: Sun, 04/29/2012 - 8:18pm

When you start agreeing with raiderjoe on grammar tips, you also start reevaluating your life. Thankfully, the distinction between the two words is extremely vague, so while my initial impulse was to agree with joe, people who don't understand the intention of the two words (affect would mean a persona or an attempt at effecting a situation, while effect is what we mean when we say that something has happened as a result of something else), apparently, affect is a noun and effect is a verb according to people who pretend to know the rules. By the way raiderjoe, I agree with you in my heart, as I do in most things, like Jason Campbell being a great pickup and Hue Jackson will light a fire under the organizations, I have to disagree because I hate myself. Please forgive me.

7
by some guy (not verified) :: Sun, 04/29/2012 - 8:22pm

Oh thank god, raiderjoe thought it was affect. No, I can say with pretend certainty, as though I were a member of the MLA, that the correct word would be effect.

8
by erniecohen :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 11:04am

In part two is a statement that makes no sense at all. It says Instead of running between the tackles or behind blockers, running backs are doing all sorts of different things all over the field. Evolution usually leads to more diversity."

This doesn't make sense. Evolution leads to more diverse species, but the species themselves tend to become more specialized. This is what happened in football as players became more specialized. What he is talking about here is completely different - because rosters have fixed size, there is a very direct reward for versatility. So running backs are in fact devolving to be less specialized, and more like old-fashioned football players.

9
by Arkaein :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:20pm

The article also mentions that RBBC is here to stay. In a committee there is more opportunity for individual backs to specialize in a certain area while also increasing the unit's diversity of skills.

Another interpretation: offenses are evolving to use a greater diversity of plays, which in this cases requires RBs to act more as generalists, as you say.

Not sure if that's what the author actually intended. Depends on where you are looking at the evolution of the offense as a whole or the RB position in particular. Or whether the particular evolution metaphor is simply being stretched a bit too far in this case.

10
by sera (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2012 - 2:35pm

In part two is a statement that makes no sense at all. It says Instead of running between the tackles or behind blockers, running backs are doing all sorts of different things all over the field. Evolution usually leads to more diversity."
This doesn't make sense. Evolution leads to more diverse species, but the species themselves tend to become more specialized. This is what happened in football as players became more specialized. What he is talking about here is completely different - because rosters have fixed size, there is a very direct reward for versatility. So running backs are in fact devolving to be less specialized, and more like old-fashioned football players.evim şahane-mobilya modelleri-bedava chat-chat-islami rüya tabirleri-mynet