Fantasy Football Coaching Carousel Analysis: Jon Gruden's running backs will bring serious production
Once again, Jon Gruden is coaching the Raiders. If his second go-round with them is like his first 11 years in the league, Fantasy owners should be happy.
The last time we saw Jon Gruden scowling on a sideline was 2008. Since then, as you probably know, he's worked in TV, calling games for Monday Night Football and his annual spring series, Gruden's QB Camp, where he worked with draft prospects including this guy.
Now he's back as the head coach for Oakland. We can't say for sure that Gruden hasn't learned a whole new offensive scheme in his time "away" from football, but chances are he's still a big-time subscriber to the West Coast offense he found success with from 1998 to 2008. Case-in-point: his new offensive coordinator is Greg Olson, a disciple of the same system.
The results? Get ready to draft a Raiders running back.
Gruden never, ever let the pass game get completely out of hand. His career coaching average of calling pass plays 56 percent of the time was exceeded six times, but never more than 59 percent.
It's also worth noting that Gruden never had a treasure trove of quarterbacks to have complete confidence in – Rich Gannon was the best he ever worked with. If Derek Carr's command of Gruden's offense leads to great efficiency, we shouldn't be surprised if the Raiders wind up passing more than Gruden's 56 percent average, especially given league-wide trends since he last coached.
As for the running game:
Sure, that number looks amazing, but Gruden never used one guy exclusively to handle the ball. In 11 years, only two running backs topped 1,000 rushing yards and only five had seven-plus rushing touchdowns while working with Gruden. He typically utilized multiple backs – sometimes as many as four including a fullback.
So why should Fantasy owners want to draft a Raiders running back?
In years of studying play callers' tendencies, we've never seen anyone lean on running backs as pass catchers as much as Gruden has. Practically a third of his quarterbacks' completions have gone to the position! For some context, 30.2 percent of the Panthers' receptions went to running backs this season, when Christian McCaffrey led the team in catches.
And we're not talking about one or two years of massive outliers propping up that number – it's been real consistent. A rusher has caught at least 40 passes in eight of Gruden's 11 years.
It brings the conversation of running backs full circle – Gruden has had a running back total 1,000 yards 10 times, and seven different backs have scored at least seven total touchdowns. On four occasions, a back has done both in the same season. One additional running back had 995 total yards and three other players scored six times in a single campaign.
Knowing how the NFL's running back landscape is shaped now, one might deduce that Gruden was ahead of his time. Now, he'll fit right into how backs are being utilized league-wide.
Fantasy owners should be psyched.
There's also the track record of No. 1 receivers under Gruden. You want more consistency? He had a wideout top 1,000 yards and six touchdowns in 10 of his 11 years. No one is in a better position to do that than Amari Cooper, obviously. Coop's career-highs of 83 grabs (2016), 1,153 yards (2016) and seven touchdowns (2017) could get challenged starting in 2018.
It is worth noting that only once in 11 years did multiple receivers top 1,000 yards (Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, so not a surprise). Frankly, Gruden's offenses have struggled to create a second productive pass catcher at receiver or tight end.
Again, that might have to do with the quarterbacks Gruden dealt with throughout his career – if he can maximize Carr's potential then there's certainly room for multiple threats to help Fantasy owners. And, ultimately, turn Carr into a fantastic Fantasy quarterback. He's going to be forgotten about on Draft Day after finishing as the 17th-ranked Fantasy passer in 2017. He could wind up as a massive bargain in 2018.
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