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2020 Stats (Rank)
Total Offense: 5,912 (17th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 55 (6th)
Offensive Plays: 1022 (20th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 611 (15th)
Rush Attempts: 411 (17th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 95 (16th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 144 (13th)
Pete Carroll is entering his 12th season as Seattle's head coach. After a brief flirtation with #LetRussCook in 2020, Carroll appears intent on returning the Seahawks to his first and only love: establishing it. To that end, Brian Schottenheimer was fired after his third season as offensive coordinator and Shane Waldron was brought in from the Rams. Given the context, Waldron is a strong bet to shift the offense toward the run.
But the fantasy community likely overreacted in its initial worries that Waldron's hiring signaled a return to an old school rushing offense. First of all, Brian Schottenheimer wasn’t exactly a passing guru. He has been an offensive coordinator for the Jets, Rams and Seahawks for a total of 12 seasons since 2006. His most productive passing game was the 2019 Seahawks, which finished 14th in passing. In six of his 12 seasons his teams have finished bottom 10 in passing yards. That includes the 2018 Seahawks, when Russell Wilson finished third in AY/A, seventh in ANY/A, and 11th in QBR; the Seahawks finished 27th in passing yards. Pardon me if I don’t pour one out for Brian Schottenheimer.
Moreover, Shane Waldron may have been brought in to return the offense to the run, but his NFL coaching experience is with tight ends, wide receivers, quarterbacks, and most recently, as the Rams passing game coordinator. He may ultimately be run heavy, but his approach to the run is likely to be more similar to Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan and Arthur Smith than to Jeff Fisher, Rex Ryan and Eric Mangini (Schottenheimer’s previous bosses).
Waldron’s influence is already being felt. Whereas Schottenheimer’s offense relied on predictable play calling and route concepts, Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf have both commented on how intricate and complex the new offense is. There’s also buzz that the offense will play up tempo, which has pace guru Pat Thorman’s antenna up. Pace was a feature of McVay’s early Rams offenses before he lost his desire to play quickly, along with his faith in Jared Goff. But Waldron should have no such crisis of faith with superstar Russell Wilsons still in his prime. In fact, Wilson gives Waldron the option to employ RPO concepts that McVay’s immobile QB was never in position to run. Time will tell if Waldron incorporates that element, but a fantasy analyst can dream.
The Seattle offense finally looks set to modernize. In exchange for pairing a heady, big-armed, mobile QB with a schematically complex modern offense, fantasy managers will happily trade a few percentage points of pass/run split.
Through the first four games of 2020 Russell Wilson was on pace for 5,140 passing yards, 64 TDs and 8 interceptions. But his full season pace for the final 12 games was just 3,903 passing yards, 32 TDs and 15 interceptions. Interestingly, Wilson averaged 34 attempts in his first four games and 35 attempts over his final 12. His early season pace was driven by extreme efficiency, not extreme volume. If Waldron's new offense can indeed take better advantage of Wilson's unique abilities, he won't need elite volume to post an elite fantasy season.
Regardless of the quality of coaching, Wilson will have at least two high quality targets this season. WR DK Metcalf is coming off an explosive second year breakout, putting up 83-1,303-10 on 129 targets with very strong efficiency of 2.1 yards per route run. Metcalf, who is 6'4", 228 pounds with 4.33 speed and just 23 years old, likely has additional untapped potential. Per Matt Harmon's Reception Perception, Metcalf was successful on a wide variety of routes, but over 50% of his routes were made up by either slants or nine routes (running straight down the field). A more creative offense could help to fully unlock Metcalf's skillset.
Tyler Lockett continues to be one of the most underappreciated wide receivers in the league. Lockett had a fantastic 2020 season with 100-1,054-10 on 132 targets with 1.92 YPRR. A significant chunk of his fantasy points were frustratingly bunched into two massive spike weeks in Week 3 (37) and Week 7 (53), and he scored another 33 points in Week 17, which did nothing for the vast majority of fantasy managers. But this type of score distribution is not predictive or stable. Lockett is likely to be more consistent in 2021 and forms one of the strongest duos in the league with Metcalf.
Seattle's third wide receiver will likely be rookie D'Wayne Eskridge. Eskridge was a bit of a head scratching selection as Seattle's 2nd round pick. He spent five years at Western Michigan and wasn't a major part of the offense until his final season. That final season was at least extremely impressive. In 2020 Eskridge accounted for 45% of his team's receiving yards and 44% of their receiving TDs, while posting an absurdly efficient YPRR of 4.94. Eskridge is also an ace kick returner, which has generally been a strong sign of football athleticism. Already 24 years old, Eskridge will be counted on to contribute right away.
Freddie Swain is also likely to mix in, but averaged just 0.78 YPRR as a rookie, and is unlikely to earn a major role. This passing offense should be fairly condensed.
New tight end addition Gerald Everett has a better chance to earn a big target share than Swain. Everett has averaged a target on 19% of his routes over the last two seasons, while splitting time with Tyler Higbee. His new competition will be Will Dissly, who had just 1.09 YPRR last year. Everett and Dissly will likely form a bit of a tight end by committee. But Everett, operating under his former passing game coordinator, has upside to emerge as a legitimate weapon.
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There are reasons to be excited about Seattle's passing attack, but as long as this team is coached by Pete Carroll, the running game will be a core piece of its identity. While starting RB Chris Carson probably shouldn't have an offense designed around feeding him the rock, he is a capable running back. He finished RB20 in NFL Next Gen's success rate, RB23 in PFF's elusive rating and RB9 in YPRR. Carson doesn't offer much in terms of long rushing ability, however. He finished RB34 in PFF's breakaway percentage in 2020 and RB31 in 2019. He still offers fantasy upside if he can build on his career season as a receiver and as is more productive as Seattle's goal line runner.
Backup RB Rashaad Penny has struggled to recover from his 2019 ACL tear, most recently undergoing a cleanup procedure on the same knee. If healthy, Penny offers upside for an explosive change of pace. If he is unavailable, Alex Collins, DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer will compete for snaps.
The Seahawks should have an adequate offensive line, and had the 16th ranked defense in DVOA last season. They also have the 11th easiest schedule in 2021.
I view Seattle's season as coming down to whether Waldron and Wilson can evolve the team's passing game into a truly modern attack. I'm willing to bet on Waldron to inject this offense with some fresh ideas and pace, an on Wilson to rebound from his end of season slump and to thrive in a modern offense.
Seattle's win total on PointsBet is 10, I'll take the over.