Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Finding an edge in offensive run concepts

Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) gains yardage against the New England Patriots during the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

  • The NFL should probably start running more draw plays: The most efficient run concept in the league, yet one team leans into it far more than any other.
  • Power is the name of the game: Power runs have been consistently more effective than other gap scheme plays with pulling linemen.
  • Duo runs aren’t getting it done: A few NFL teams run duo more than others, and it may be hurting their efficiency.
Estimated reading time 9 minutes

The fantasy football community has done an amazing job at breaking down all the potential advantages and disadvantages to be aware of in order to maximize their scoring potential on a weekly basis, and this series hopes to add to that. While some advantages are more significant and predictable than others, stacking those potential tie-breakers can help fantasy managers choose one player over another on a weekly basis and in annual fantasy drafts. 

The first potential tie-breaker to focus on, which hasn’t been covered much in fantasy research, is looking at the most common run concepts used in the NFL to see if one concept produced a higher yard-per-carry average than others. If so, which teams lean on those concepts more, and is it enough to be considered in our fantasy decision-making process? 

Let’s dive into the data to start.

Inside and outside zone

The most common run concepts used in the NFL are the zone running concepts, which include inside and outside zone runs. In 2022, these two concepts accounted for nearly 50% of all running plays in the league. This has been the norm for many years in the NFL.

A simplified explanation of the difference between the two has to do with the running back's aiming point, as inside zone normally hits between the tackles and up the middle of the field while outside zone plays are designed to go outside the tackles and into the wider areas of the field.

Diving into the data from the past three seasons, the difference in average yards per carry between those two zone concepts has been minimal, at best, and neither one yielded above-average results. Being the largest sample size, by far, this will help narrow our focus to specific teams if there is an edge to be found since almost all teams utilize zone runs at a high rate. While the difference is minimal, inside zone has proven to be the more effective run concept of the two.

2022 teams that ran the highest rates of inside and outside zone in 2022:
Run concept First Second Third
Inside zone Denver Broncos (39.4%) Philadelphia Eagles (36.6%) Indianapolis Colts (34.1%)
Outside zone Atlanta Falcons (58.4%) Minnesota Vikings (41.0%) Seattle Seahawks (38.7%)

A few notes about the above teams, as there are new offensive play-callers in multiple situations.

  • The Broncos are now led by Sean Payton, whose 2021 New Orleans Saints were below average in inside zone run usage (19.4%). 
  • Nathaniel Hackett led the Broncos as their head coach in 2022 and is now set to be the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets in 2023. The Jets finished well below average in 2022 in inside zone runs (17.8%).
  • The Eagles and Colts both have a new coaching staff for 2023. Shane Steichen coming over from Philadelphia to Indianapolis should help maintain the Colts' strong inside zone usage, and the internal promotion of Brian Johnson in Philadelphia figures to do the same for them.
Inside and outside zone run yard per carry averages and ranks among the seven most-common NFL run concepts:
Run concept 2022 YPC average (rank) 2021 YPC average (rank) 2020 YPC average (rank) Three-year YPC average (rank)
Inside zone 3.89 (3rd) 3.98 (4th) 3.84 (4th) 3.90 (3rd)
Outside zone 3.83 (5th) 3.67 (7th) 3.83 (T-5th) 3.78 (6th)


The third-most common run concept in the NFL over the past few years is most commonly referred to as duo, which focuses more on double teams at the line of scrimmage with offensive linemen climbing to the second level to then take on linebackers. This concept was run on about 16.3% of run plays during the 2022 season and was most commonly used by the teams that didn’t rely as heavily on zone runs — such as the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals and Las Vegas Raiders.

When pulling the data from the last three seasons, duo runs consistently yielded the poorest results and saw the lowest yards per carry average over the time span (3.71). In looking for run concepts to avoid for 2023, teams that rely heavily on this concept could work as a tie-breaker.

Duo run yard per carry average and ranks among the seven most-common NFL run concepts:
Duo Run Concept YPC average Rank (out of seven)
2022 3.64 Seventh
2021 3.74 Sixth
2020 3.74 Seventh
Three-year total 3.71 Seventh
2022 teams that ran the highest rate of duo in 2022:
Team Duo Rate NFL Rank
Carolina Panthers* 30.4% First
Tampa Bay Buccaneers* 28.9% Second
Cincinnati Bengals 27.4% Third
Las Vegas Raiders 27.3% Fourth
Los Angeles Rams* 24.7% Fifth

*= new offensive play-caller in 2023

  • Frank Reich takes over as the head coach of the Panthers so that duo rate is expected to drop, however, he still ran an above-average rate (19.6%) last season (10th).
  • Dave Canales is expected to call offensive plays for Tampa Bay in 2023 after spending his entire NFL coaching career with the Seattle Seahawks (since 2010). Seattle was well below average in duo run usage (9.8%) last year (25th). 
  • The Rams will have new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur calling plays in 2023, coming over from the Jets, who ran the lowest rate of duo runs in 2022 (3.5%), so a big shift should be expected there.

Power, Counter, and Pull Lead

All three of these concepts are designed to get offensive linemen on the move and create a hole on a predetermined point of attack for the running back to follow. The video below provides a great example of how pull lead, also known as pin/pull, is designed to hit wide while power and counter typically keep the run between the numbers.


Each of these plays relies on offensive linemen to be on the move, whether they’re pulling across the formation or working up the wide areas of the field. These runs require them to lead the way for the running back, making them among the more difficult concepts to come together perfectly.

Counter and pull lead runs didn’t yield overly exciting results, averaging 3.90 and 3.85 yards per carry, respectively. However, power runs gave us our first breakthrough in finding an effective edge to attack for fantasy. Power is very similar to counter runs with offensive linemen or offensive blockers pulling across the formation but with just one puller instead of two. Power’s simplicity and fewer traffic obstacles may be what allows the running back more space to make an impact.

Power runs consistently generated well over four yards per carry over the past three seasons and given certain teams that have a history of utilizing that run concept, we may be able to pinpoint our first fantasy tie-breaker.

2022 teams that ran the highest rate of power in 2022:
Team Power Rate NFL Rank
Baltimore Ravens* 24.6% First
New Orleans Saints 17.2% Second
Cleveland Browns 14.8% Third
New York Jets* 13.9% Fourth
Detroit Lions 12.5% Fifth

*= new offensive play-caller in 2023

The Ravens will have a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken taking over for Greg Roman in 2023 after Roman consistently had the Ravens leading the league in power runs since 2019. Monken ran almost no power run during his time with Georgia last season and was below average during his previous stints in the NFL (2018 in Tampa Bay, and 2019 in Cleveland), which may indicate a shift in philosophy. Although the Ravens, even under Marty Mornhinweg, were well above average in power run rate, so there is a precedent that it could be more of a team strategy versus just the offensive coordinator in place.

Either way, identifying these power-heavy run concept teams for 2023 could yield even the slightest of positive results in fantasy production.

Power run yard per carry average and ranks among the seven most-common NFL run concepts:
Power Run Concept YPC average Rank (out of seven)
2022 5.12 Second
2021 4.21 Second
2020 4.27 Second
Three-year total 4.53 Second

Draw plays

The draw run play yielded the greatest result in finding a yards-per-carry edge for fantasy purposes. And perhaps, not just for fantasy, but as NFL defenses adjust to focus primarily on defending the pass, the draw play could be utilized to pick up easier yards on the ground against unsuspecting defenses. The concept starts off by looking like a passing play as the offensive linemen step back into a pass-blocking set to draw the defensive linemen toward the quarterback before either handing off to the running back or the quarterback taking off himself. Most football fans would likely associate draw plays with long yardage and late-down situations, but after pulling the data going back to 2020, 84% of draw plays are actually run on first and second downs. 

Draw run yard per carry average and ranks among the seven most-common NFL run concepts:
Draw Run Concept YPC average Rank (out of 7)
2022 5.87 First
2021 6.22 First
2020 5.76 First
Three-year total 5.95 First

The only issue with trying to identify teams that will run more draw plays is that it is the least-utilized concept of the seven focused on in this piece. Only 923 draw plays have been run in the regular season since 2020 and the league average in 2022 was just 3.04% of rushing plays. However, there was one team in particular that ran more draw plays than any other team in the league, and that’s the Las Vegas Raiders, who utilized a draw on nearly 11% of their rushing plays under Josh McDaniels and helped Josh Jacobs post the best yards-per-carry average of his career (4.9). If NFL teams can pick up on this edge, the frequency that teams run this concept will continue to increase, as it has since 2019.

2022 teams that ran the highest rate of draw plays in 2022:
Team Draw Rate NFL Rank
Las Vegas Raiders 10.8% 1st
Arizona Cardinals* 8.4% 2nd
New England Patriots* 6.1% 3rd
Seattle Seahawks 6.0% T-4th
Buffalo Bills 6.0% T-4th

*= new offensive play-caller in 2023

The edge in run concepts is a small but slight edge to be considered, but an edge nonetheless for fantasy football purposes. Between power and draw run concept effectiveness, and the ineffectiveness of the duo run concept, there are at least some tie-breakers to pull from in drafts, or on a weekly basis once trends start to emerge during the 2023 season regarding which teams deploy more or less of the optimal run concepts.

For a more in-depth analysis of run concepts, check out Steve Palazzolo’s breakdown of each concept from back in 2017 here.

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