Scheme Esteem: Outside Zone

Esteem, defined as “respect” and “admiration”, should nicely outline the intent of our Scheme Esteem column.

In this series, we look at specific aspects of particular teams or coaches, outline how they operate, what makes them successful – or who makes them successful – and discuss the players most likely to find success.

If you’re only here for the fantasy predictions, scroll to the bottom of the page where we’ve listed projections for players who operate out of this scheme.

In this edition of Scheme Esteem, we’re getting into the Outside Zone run game. For our example team, we’re going to be looking at the New York Jets and their recent Offensive Coordinator addition, Mike LaFleur.

They are just one team who utilizes this scheme though, and I’ll include predictions for all primary outside zone teams at the end of the article.

Mike LaFleur

If you’re a J-E-T-S fan, you’re probably already excited, and you should be! By all accounts, Mike LaFleur’s pedigree and history at his age speaks volumes.

Starting in Cleveland, but really picking up steam as the Offensive Assistant behind Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta during the 2015-2016 seasons, LaFleur was highly influenced by the Shanahan outside zone run scheme.

This is the same scheme which got Devonta Freeman the fantasy RB1 in 2015, RB6 in 2016, and brought the Falcons to [the infamous] SuperBowl LI.

Photo by Tom Pennington / Getty Images

Don’t worry Rise Up Nation, we’re not here to talk about that.

LaFleur then followed Shanahan to the Bay Area. After some O-Line turnover in 2017, the 49ers run game finally had much of what made Atlanta successful (and more) by 2018. While 2018 didn’t bear much fruit for the 9ers due to a number of devastating injuries to key personnel throughout the year, we got to see how potent their running game has been since then.

As we dive-in, we will review clips from games of these two teams. But first, let’s take a look at LeFleur’s latest team to pick up this scheme, Gang Green, and what makes them an ideal outside zone blocking unit.

2021 New York Jets Blocking Unit

While the running backs score the points, we’d be remiss if we didn’t start with the big-uglies. Take a look at the projected starting offensive line depth chart of the 2021 Jets:

  • Left Tackle: Mekhi Becton
    • 6′ 7″, 364 lbs, 97th percentile speed score
  • Left Guard: Alijah Vera-Tucker
    • 6′ 5″, 308 lbs, 82nd percentile burst score
  • Center: Connor McGovern
    • 6′ 4″, 309 lbs, 89th percentile burst score
  • Right Guard: Greg Van Roten
    • 6′ 3″, 303 lbs, 95th percentile burst score
  • Right Tackle: Morgan Moses
    • 6′ 6″, 314 lbs, Molasses
  • Swing/Backup Tackle: George Fant
    • 6′ 5″, 296 lbs, 94th percentile speed score, 99th percentile burst score
  • Fullback: Trevon Wesco
    • 6′ 3″, 267 lbs, Molasses

You’ll see I included the Burst Scores from PlayerProfiler (excellent site, be sure to check them out). If it isn’t obvious from the athletic profile of everyone except Moses and Wesco, a key component of an outside zone scheme is mobility throughout the offensive line.

The scheme, while built to be easy-to-understand, is physically demanding on its offensive linemen. Not only do they have to contest with equally big-ugly men on defense, they have to do it while on the move laterally.

Given these requirements, what we often see is a highly athletic and generally smaller offensive line – 300lbs across the board isn’t uncommon. This can quickly become a liability when those defensive big-uglies are full-bore bulling through the line, or when the Quarterback is on 5 or 7-step drops.

Your linemen better have a big booty to anchor with (what up Becton), or a mobile QB who can boot, scoot, and boogey.

Photo by Adam Hunger / Getty Images

Looking at the starters, you’ll see I’ve included a Fullback along with the o-line. While primarily lead-blockers, the Fullback position in the Shanahan version of the outside zone is highly utilized.

Whether it’s Patrick DiMarco in Atlanta – selected to the 2nd-team All Pro and selected to the Pro-Bowl in 2015 – or Kyle Juszczyk in San Francisco, the scheme utilizes the position so heavily that these players became household names.

I don’t believe Wesco has the same chops that DiMarco or Juszczyk have. From what little I’ve seen, I don’t even think he will be a Jet next year. He’s massive and can probably knock a block off, but he hasn’t shown the athleticism that either of the aforementioned guys has. I project Ross Dwelley coming in from SF after 2021 to handle the FB duties given how integral the position is.

Moses and Fant are technically in competition for the Right Tackle position. I’ve got Fant as the Swing Tackle because I believe he’ll lose to Moses, but also because Fant will be in-line to get loads of reps regardless. His versatility is a big plus. Moreover, his athleticism is off the charts and is ideal for this scheme. He has familiarity, and will be able to get reps in multiple ways, primarily because 360+ lb Left Tackle, Mekhi “Big Ticket” Becton needs a break often. Becton only played ~70% of offensive snaps in his 14 games in 2020.

Photo by Rich Schultz / Getty Images

Alright, so we know why the Jets make a good example of an outside zone offensive line. Let’s look into the benefits of the scheme.

Benefits of Outside Zone

In an outside zone scheme, the goal isn’t necessarily to have the lineman muscle-out the defender from stuffing his assigned gap. Instead, the goal is to move the offensive line laterally as a unit – which brings the gaps with them – and allows them to use their mobility to slide outside the defender just enough to clear a lane.

Imagine being a Defensive Tackle, 280lbs, and having to run sideline-to-sideline while chasing a 200lb Running Back 15 times in the first half. Part of the design of an outside zone is to wear out a defensive unit early. When combined with having a healthy stable of 3-4 solid Running Backs who can rotate in-and-out often, the exhaustion becomes part of the game-plan.

Photo by Elsa / Getty Images

In theory, establishing the outside zone early allows for tougher tackles, slower first-steps, and more biting on play-action as the scheme takes its toll. You may have heard a phrase like, “run the ball to set-up the pass”. That’s a strong consideration of outside zone proponents.

If the Defensive Line is wore down by halftime, you’ve bought your Quarterback extra time in the pocket.

Linebackers overstepping against the run? That means you’ve got huge throwing lanes with play-action.

If the Ends or Backers slack on backside contain, you’ve got lots of grass for your Quarterback when you bootleg.

If DBs are sick of getting wrecked by a Fullback, watch as they break contain to avoid getting hit. This gives big lanes to run through.

Another benefit is how easy it is to learn the scheme. By that I don’t mean getting comfortable with a bucket step or learning hand placement, that takes time. I mean the blocking assignments are incredibly easy to understand whether the defense is in 4-3 or 3-4, 46 or amoeba.

To determine your responsibilities, as an offensive lineman, you’d ask yourself:

  1. Am I head-up with a defensive player on the line-of-scrimmage, or is one directly to my play-side?
    Ie. is there a d-lineman directly in front, or if the play is going to the right, directly to my right?
    • If yes, I’m “covered”, and that’s probably my guy.
    • If no, I’m “uncovered”, check step 2.
  2. Is there a defensive player shading my off-side?
    Ie. if the play is going right, is there a d-lineman lined up on the left-side of my body?
    • If yes, push the hell out of that guy so my teammate can control and overtake…then get off that block and go punish a linebacker.
    • If no, shoot straight into the second level and target the linebacker or safety closest to me on the play-side.

That’s about as simple as it gets.

It’s important to understand that – as the offensive lineman – you’re not blocking the man, you’re blocking the man in your zone. If things get sloppy after the snap, your job is still to move laterally looking for someone in your zone…moving up to the second level when possible.

Identifying who to block is one thing, but getting an angle and leverage on him is another. Let’s next look at how linemen are taught to get an edge.

Technique – Play Breakdown

Now that we’ve identified who to block, how exactly can a lineman beat the defense and create a lane for the running back? You – as the offensive lineman – would want to:

  1. Fire off the snap, take your first steps laterally to the play-side, and try your hardest to get in front of the guy in your zone.
  2. Punch the center of their chest-plate with your off-hand. If you can push/lift upwards at the same time, all-the-better. Don’t let that defender get his cleats in the ground. This helps you to direct and control the defender while moving laterally, important for the next step.
  3. Use your play-side hand to control their far shoulder. This will further help you to control the defender and get as much leverage as possible to hold and turn him. It will be needed in order to succeed with the next step.
  4. Aim to get your helmet in-line with their play-side armpit.

If – as the offensive lineman – you can do this, you will have effectively sealed that defender off from getting involved in the play, and simultaneously likely created a running lane for your running back.

Let’s take a look at a play and see it in action.

First play, below, is from ATL @ CAR – Week 14, 2015. Watch the right side. Start with Right Tackle #73 Ryan Schraeder, who takes his initial steps to the right and engages with the Defensive End (DE) aligned at the 5-technique.

He’s initially assisted by the Tight End #80 Levine Toilolo, who himself gives the DE a shove then moves on to the Linebacker.

Schraeder overtakes the DE by controlling his play-side shoulder, then crosses the DEs face and shoots his helmet in-line with the defender’s play-side shoulder.

Meanwhile, Toilolo gets up to the Linebacker and – with a bit of handfighting – continues to drive the play forward and to the outside.

Both Schraeder and Toilolo showcase the steps needed for the outside zone to be successful. Schraeder outright seals his defender from getting involved, while Toilolo keeps the play moving and rides the Linebacker 5 yards deep.

GIF

Were it not for “Captain America” aka Luke Kuechly, former elite Panthers Inside Linebacker #59 – who completely evades the Center’s block and makes the play – this likely would have gone for much, much more.

It’s worth noting that, despite the name, not every play has to bounce outside. Due to the lateral movement of the blockers, and the opportunity for the defense to overcommit, there are often one or more additional gaps created for the RB to go through.

Next play is from SF @ BAL – Week 13, 2019. Keep your eye on TE #85 Kittle on this next play, he’s not able to keep driving the defender to the sideline. Instead, the defender starts to turn him and flashes his helmet outside of Kittle.

That’s the cue for RB #31 Mostert to cut it into the C-gap inside of Kittle, instead of bouncing it outside. RT #69 McGlinchey arguably spends a bit too much time down-blocking, but nonetheless seals the lane for Mostert to burst through and pick up a huge chunk of yards.

GIF

Now, all that is not to say the scheme is infallible. In fact, I’d venture to say the opposite – it can be fragile. When you put generally smaller O-Linemen in front of big, strong, nasty D-Linemen whose only goal is to shoot their gap, it can be a recipe for a bad day. Let’s take a look at this next play for an example.

First off, pre-snap, you can tell Kuechly (ILB #59) already knows what’s coming. He starts creeping up – he knows he’s going to have to beat a lineman to his landmark – and once the ball is snapped and the line steps laterally, he shoots the gap to make a play.

He’s not the only player to dominate the O-Line. Starting from the 1-technique, #98 Star Lotulelei, and working our way up. Lotulelei smashes into the RG off the snap, pushing him into the backfield and off-balance. The RG struggles to get his feet under him, which doesn’t bode well for a guy who is responsible to get across-the-face.

Next up, the 3-technique, #99 Kawann Short. While the LG is able to cross his face, the strength of Short stops the LG from moving laterally completely and pushes him straight back instead. He gets dominated so much by Short’s pure strength that he ends up losing 2-3yards of ground.

Finally, the 7-technique, #69 Jared Allen. This one looks the worst, but believe it or not, the LT did as the play designed. If the Edge Rusher bulls into the Tackle hard, the Tackle’s responsibility changes, he now wants to go backwards and wide, with the intention to take the Edge Rusher out of the play.

Unfortunately, because the interior D-Linemen and Kuechly shot their gaps so well, they were all already in the backfield taking any angles away. This turns into a big loss for the offense.

GIF

Next up, I want to quickly touch-on how the outside zone can be run creatively. Specifically, how Shanahan – and consequently how LaFleur get creative with it.

Formation Creativity

First play, we get a completely different look than what we saw above. Here, we’re 3 wide right with a big slot. With 3 receivers on the same side, the defense has to be concerned with Cover3 beaters, like a flood concept, so they can’t just roll their Safety down to contain the edge. Instead, their end crashes inside and loses contain – and that’s in-part because of the formation.

GIF

Here’s another. I want to show that having a bevy of capable Running Backs can open the door to creative formations and mismatches.

In the play below, you will see two Tailbacks lined up on either side of the QB in Shotgun. Here, the defense can’t cheat to one side like Kuechly did in the earlier play. The defense will also struggle if they simply man-up a Linebacker on the RBs, as Shanahan would often motion pre-snap and split one of his RBs out wide to take advantage of these mismatches.

In this example, they end up using 200lb Freeman as a lead-blocker.

GIF

This next one is a very creative formation and play-call, spoiled by wily vet.

On the field for the offense are two Tailbacks (#24 Devonta Freeman and #26 Tevin Coleman), a Tight End (#83 Jacob Tamme), and Wide Receivers (#84 Roddy White and #85 Leonard Hankerson).

Freeman is aligned beside the QB as Tamme motions from the slot into a FB/H-Back alignment. Coleman is behind White in a tight stack to the left of the formation. And if we’re being honest, nobody really cares about Hankerson.

What’s most interesting about this play isn’t the end-result. Watch every defensive player, they all flow hard toward the presumed outside zone. Even “Captain America” initially misreads this play. If it wasn’t for old-man Thomas Davis (#58) holding up backside contain like a veteran, this end-around may have been a solid play.

GIF

If teams have a deep backfield, you can expect to see any number of creative formations in 21, maybe even 31 personnel. Jets fans, keep your eye out this year, your backs are all certainly versatile enough to execute all of these, and more. Speaking of Jets running backs, let’s take a peek at the backfield.

2021 New York Jets Backfield

  • Tevin Coleman: 6’1″, 210lbs, FA veteran picked up after an injury-riddled 2020 with San Francisco
    • Coleman is seen in a number of the above gifs having followed LaFleur ever since his Atlanta days. Coleman knows the scheme intimately due to his time with Atlanta and San Francisco, and should contribute heavily both on the field and in the Running Back room.
  • Michael Carter: 5’8″, 201lbs, 2021 4th round draft pick
    • Carter was largely seen as the 4th best Running Back in the 2021 class after putting up monster numbers with UNC. He was the lightning to Javonte Williams’ thunder there, and lightning he was. Electric in the open field, Carter has wild potential even on limited touches in this offense.
  • Ty Johnson: 5’10”, 210lbs, FA signed in 2020 after being waived by Detroit
    • Johnson made some waves briefly last year – especially in fantasy circles – when injuries pegged him into a starting role against the Raiders. He was able to put up 100+ yards and a TD that week, before being relegated back to a timeshare. Some see Ty Johnson as a sleeper for this year, including our own Sam Fisher, as he is ready to handle more touches in a better scheme fit.
  • La’Mical Perine: 5’11”, 216lbs, 2020 4th round draft pick
    • Perine was seen as a decent bruising Running Back heading into the 2020 draft, though unfortunately is a bit of a square peg in a round hole with New York. He isn’t really seen as an outside zone runner, and so makes up the 4th RB in New York.

With his experience and understanding of what LaFleur wants to do, Coleman is a shoe-in to be the top-dog on the Jets Depth Chart to start the season. That doesn’t mean as much in this scheme as it may elsewhere though, as multiple backs are likely to get multiple touches each game.

Part of the strategy that makes this scheme so effective is to keep the defense tired and off-balance. Going sideline-to-sideline while getting smacked around by the offensive line will keep the defense tired; seeing multiple backs on the field, sometimes one the same play, each with varying speeds and styles of running will keep the defense off-balance.

We mentioned Perine may be out of his element here. So what specifically makes a “zone running back”, a “zone running back”?

RB Makeup

There are a couple really common phrases which encapsulate the “zone runner” surprisingly well. Similar to the Offensive Line’s responsibilities being fairly easy to understand, the Running Backs also have a pretty easy time of it.

Zone runners don’t necessarily have to have an elite athletic profile to be successful, as long as they have good vision, anticipation, and patience – they can be successful. One phrase which most people have heard describing zone runners is the capacity to be a “one-cut” runner.

Photo by Robin Alam / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What this “one-cut” refers to is the ability for a RB to identify which gap they want to attack, and plant their foot hard into the ground to take them in that direction. This can take the RB from originally targeting a point outside the Tight End, aka the D-gap, and instead allowing him to “cut back” into an earlier gap if the opportunity presents itself.

While outside zone will typically always look to attack the outside edges of the defense in order to hit the strategies previously discussed, if the defense over-commits to stop that outside attack, there will be loads of opportunity to “cut back” or “bend” the run back into an A-gap, for example, for large chunk yardage.

So, who has this makeup? Well, using the Jets roster, the top 3 have pretty extensive experience and a skillset which aligns well with the expected makeup. Great for the Jets, bad for us fantasy players. More than that, though, let’s take a look at all teams who heavily utilize an outside zone scheme, and put some predictions on paper.

2021 Fantasy Projections

So which teams predominantly run the outside zone scheme? More important for fantasy, how well do we project they will do in this scheme? Let’s take it through one-by-one.

  • New York Jets: 2-back motion-heavy outside zone with lots of bootleg and play-action
    • Blocking Unit: I have to give the Offensive Line a “B”. They have phenomenal athleticism, players who largely fit the scheme and expectations, and in some spots enough size to punish the defense. The only knock is that some of them are un-proven as of now. They certainly could be an “A” unit in 2022.
    • Running Backs: The Running Back room has a true 3-headed monster at their disposal. Unfortunately for us, that means the load is likely to be spread out – especially early in the season as players start to get into a groove.
      • Michael Carter: Expect Carter to be very streaky due to lack of consistent touches. He may have 150 yards and 2 TDs one week, followed by 35 yards and zero the next. He should be sought-out in Dynasty/Empire RB due to the potential to put up 2015 Freeman-type numbers in coming years, and he could be a valuable and inexpensive asset in Best Ball formats. However, Redraft leagues shouldn’t expect anything other than low RB2/high RB3 numbers.
        • Prediction: 152 carries, 689 yards, 4 rushing TDs, 30 receptions, 217 yards, 2 receiving TDs
      • Ty Johnson: Our own Sam Fisher believes Ty Johnson will be the biggest beneficiary of the scheme change, check out his thoughts in our 2021 sleepers article. I believe Johnson will have his fair share, and will be a more consistent option than Carter out of the backfield – especially later in the season as he eats into Coleman’s touches. He may end-up as a decent flex play, but don’t expect him to set the world on fire.
        • Prediction: 131 carries, 581 yards, 4 rushing TDs, 18 receptions, 138 yards, 1 receiving TD
      • Tevin Coleman: While Coleman will almost assuredly start atop the depth chart at the start of the season, he will be hard-pressed to hold the explosive Carter back, and even Johnson should eat into his touches. Look for him to get his touches in early, and try to sell him at a high point.
        • Prediction: 125 carries, 546 yards, 6 rushing TDs, 18 receptions, 121 yards, 1 receiving TD
    • Special Mention: I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about Zach Wilson here. I expect Wilson will get a metric boat-load of play-action and bootlegs off the outside zone scheme. Defenses should be concerned about his athleticism, and missing backside contain even once could lead to monster plays for the backyard football machine that is Zach Wilson. Many are down on Wilson in fantasy due to the stiff increase in level of competition, and that’s completely fair, but I predict he will have more points-per-game started than both Fields and Lance, who likely won’t start until midway or late (respectively) into the season.
  • San Francisco 49ers: 2-back motion-heavy outside zone with lots of play-action
    • Blocking Unit: Another top-10 unit is very likely, though with age (Williams is 33, Mack is 35) it’s not unreasonable to expect a slight decline. With excellent bookends, a good-enough interior, scheme familiarity, and the best FB in the NFL, a “B+” seems very warranted.
    • Running Backs: Mostert is the only healthy proven asset at this point, and should handle the majority of touches – especially early. Keep an eye out for Sermon, the 9ers didn’t move-up for him without reason.
      • Raheem Mostert: As a Redraft and Best Ball asset, Mostert should be a solid pickup for his expected usage early in the year. Though personally, I’m avoiding him in my Dynasty and Empire leagues. He’s on the wrong side of 27, on the wrong side of 200lbs (with a low BMI), and if he can surpass his 2019 season, I expect this will be his best year before a decline. I would look to sell high around week 4 or 5, especially if he strings together a few good games.
        • Prediction: 186 carries, 943 yards, 8 rushing TDs, 21 receptions, 133 yards, 1 receiving TD
      • Trey Sermon: All indicators are the Sermon is having a pretty solid camp, though don’t expect him to come out of the gate with a heavy workload. Easily the best Dynasty/Empire asset of the club, I’d look at him with caution in Redraft and Best Ball leagues. Short of an injury to Mostert, I don’t believe he will get an expanded workload in 2021; by the time he would be picking up reps, Wilson should be back and eat into his workload.
        • Prediction: 111 carries, 522 yards, 4 rushing TDs, 12 receptions, 69 yards, 0 receiving TD
  • Atlanta Falcons: 1-back outside zone, heavy passing team
    • Blocking Unit: LT Mathews and RG Lindstrom are solid, but nobody will mistake this unit for the 2015/2016 O-Line. When McGary comes back, it might be a “C” unit, but until then I think a “C-” may be a bit generous. In fairness, there is potential with the rookies, but it’s much too early to suggest anything with them.
    • Running Backs: When new HC Arthur Smith was the OC at Tennessee, he was blessed with Derrick Henry. He doesn’t have that in Atlanta. Mike Davis is going to be the top option, but the load will likely spread a little bit. The real lack of production will come from Atlanta being a pass-first team.
      • Mike Davis: I hope you don’t think Davis will come in and be a 1k yard rusher. He will likely lead the touches out of the backfield, but temper your expectations for the former Panther, and sell on a high-note this year if you’re in a Dynasty/Empire league.
        • Prediction: 198 carries, 782 yards, 7 rushing TDs, 41 receptions, 211 yards, 2 receiving TDs
      • Qadree Ollison: From what I’ve read, Ollison has had an interesting camp. Could we be in-line for a 3rd year breakout? Personally, I don’t think so. This isn’t exclusively due to him, I predict it will be tough to get much going behind an average offensive line.
        • Prediction: 122 carries, 511 yards, 4 rushing TDs, 7 receptions, 29 yards, 0 receiving TDs
      • Cordarrelle Patterson: Patterson brings a unique skillset to the position, being originally drafted as a project Wide Receiver and Special Teams specialist. Not someone worth rostering except in deep leagues, but could be a flex play if desperate.
        • Prediction: 68 carries, 271 yards, 1 rushing TD, 33 receptions, 203 yards, 3 receiving TDs
  • Tennessee Titans: 1-back outside zone, heavy Tight End usage, lots of play-action
    • Blocking Unit: A solid unit led by LT Taylor Lewan, they’re certainly better on the run than when in a traditional pass-set. For our purposes, that bumps up their grade a bit to a “B+”.
    • Running Backs: Derrick Henry had 2027 yards on the ground last year. End of story.
      • Derrick Henry: One of the best pure runners in the NFL, there isn’t much that needs to be said. The offense will continue to run through him, as it should. His ability to get outside, his jump-cut, and his size all make for a monster on this scheme. It shouldn’t be a surprise his YPC goes up drastically in the 2nd and 4th quarters, where teams are starting to break down.
        • Prediction: 333 carries, 1612 yards, 14 rushing TDs, 21 receptions, 177 yards, 1 receiving TD
  • Minnesota Vikings: 2-back outside zone and inside zone with plenty of play-action
    • Blocking Unit: A putrid unit now for many years, the offensive line has some upside with its youth. Darrisaw, Cleveland, Bradbury, and O’Neill all have the potential to be decent-to-good, but they’ve got to show it. Until that happens, they get a “D”, and that may be generous.
    • Running Backs: Dalvin Cook was built for a zone scheme, and thankfully the Vikings mix up outside and inside zone for him. Mattison has shown to be serviceable in Cook’s absence, and the surprising pick of Kene Nwangwu turned some heads.
      • Dalvin Cook: Another one of the elite ball carriers of the NFL, the fact that he’s typically the 2nd RB off fantasy boards strongly implies that the offense will continue to be the best Cook-ing show on TV (sorry).
        • Prediction: 296 carries, 1423 yards, 13 rushing TDs, 52 receptions, 418 yards, 5 receiving TDs
      • Alexander Mattison:
        • Prediction: 115 carries, 511 yards, 4 rushing TDs, 16 receptions, 109 yards, 1 receiving TD
  • Detroit Lions: 1-back outside zone and inside zone
    • Blocking Unit: Solid at multiple positions, including the much coveted Penei Sewell who was picked 7th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. They also have solid depth in case of injury. If the Guards pick their game up, this could be a special unit. “A-“
    • Running Backs: It’s clear with the signing of Jamaal Williams that they’re not likely to have Swift be a workhorse. With that said, their backfield is built for zone blocking and all provide the flexibility to be incredibly creative on offense under Campbell.
      • D’Andre Swift: My personal favorite running back coming into the league in the 2020 NFL Draft, Swift has the makeup and experience to dominate the outside zone scheme. It will come down to how many touches he can get. One of the best Dynasty/Empire assets, especially if he can take control and earn additional volume.
        • Prediction: 209 carries, 1037 yards, 7 rushing TDs, 56 receptions, 472 yards, 6 receiving TDs
      • Jamaal Williams: Coming over from the division rival Packers, Williams showed his chops in multiple facets of the game behind Aaron Jones. He will certainly get his touches on the ground and through the air, which makes this a solid duo to own, even though they’ll be eating into each others production.
        • Prediction: 136 carries, 519 yards, 3 rushing TDs, 37 receptions, 211 yards, 3 receiving TDs
  • Seattle Seahawks: 1-back outside zone and inside zone, heavy play-action and bootlegs
    • Blocking Unit: The left side of the line should be decent in a zone scheme, but the Hawks have had about as much luck with their O-Line as the Vikings over the years. “D+”
    • Running Backs: Carson and Penny should provide a solid 1, 2 from the backfield, but the show is clearly Carson’s. Penny needs to make a good impression with his touches this year if he wants to earn a decent contract in 2022.
      • Chris Carson: Ultimately re-signing with Seattle, this is probably the best spot for Carson despite not playing behind a great O-Line. He should keep doing good things for the offense and the running game.
        • Prediction: 238 carries, 996 yards, 8 rushing TDs, 42 receptions, 319 yards, 3 receiving TDs
      • Rashaad Penny: Remember the ballyhoo after Penny was drafted? Pepperidge Farm remembers. Will this be the year Penny remains healthy enough to actually provide a viable second option – Wilson notwithstanding – running the ball? I think so, but the volume will prevent him from being anything special. Might be worth a buy-and-hold in Dynasty to see what happens next year, or in case of injury, but don’t be sad if someone else takes him before you.
        • Prediction: 111 carries, 519 yards, 5 rushing TDs, 22 receptions, 164 yards, 1 receiving TD

There’s plenty of other units out there who run a lot of outside zone. Coaches have been turning more-and-more to it over the past 5-6 years especially, so forgive me if I missed a team or two.

Does your team run outside zone? How do you feel about it after reading through? Do you have any of the listed players on your team, what do you think of their projections?

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