• Sean Murphy

Playcaller Perspective: Kyle Shanahan

Updated: Jul 26, 2018

The secret of Kyle Shanahan's offense you can exploit to win your draft.

Shanny's offense combines the philosophies of his father, Mike, Gary Kubiak and Jon Gruden. Image Source: USA Today

Welcome to Playcaller Perspective. Every week we will highlight a team's offensive playcaller; breaking down trends and the player who will benefit most from their offensive scheme.


“Kyle had Andre Johnson in Houston. He had Pierre Garcon in Washington. He has Julio Jones in Atlanta. He’s got his guy and he likes to mold the offense around that. Kyle finds a guy that he concentrates on and that’s the guy that the offense goes through."- Joe Theismann

The most important thing Fantasy Owners must know about Kyle Shanahan offenses is that they truly utilize a "go-to" (usually big and physical) wide receiver. This has been true since his first gig as an offensive coordinator with the Texans in 2008.

In 2007, Andre Johnson was a good NFL wide receiver. He had gone over 1,000 yards twice in his career (1,142 in 2004 and 1,147 in 2006), caught 100 passes once (2006, perhaps not coincidentally the one year Shanny served as wide receivers coach) and had just set a career high in touchdowns with 8 in 2007. In his two years under Shanahan, however, Johnson became the future Hall of Famer we think of him as today.

In 2010 Shanahan went to the Redskins where Santana Moss set a career high in receptions (93 on 145 targets) to go along with 1,115 yards and 6 touchdowns.

In 2011, with Rex Grossman under center (and "John Beck" starting three games), he nearly made Jabar Gaffney a 1,000 yard receiver (947) on 115 targets.

The first John Beck on Google Images

After a down year in 2012, 2013 is where this trend should begin getting attention. In 2013, Pierre Garcon posted this MONSTER year in Washington:

Shanahan's offense made PIERRE GARCON the WR11 in PPR in 2013. That is higher than names like Jordy Nelson, Desean Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald. He trailed Andre Johnson (in his last truly elite year) by 0.4 points according to Fantasy Pros. This year is what truly illustrates the power of Shanahan's offense for its top receiver. Andre Johnson, Santana Moss those were big names; they may have churned out career years but they were proven commodities. This was a 6th round pick from Division III Mount Union College who flashed a bit on the Colts (with Peyton Manning under center) and suddenly became a top 10 fantasy WR.

After a lost year in the black hole of Cleveland where he still turned tiny Andrew Hawkins into a Top 50 PPR receiver, Shanny went to Atlanta and what he did with Julio Jones was unfair.

Knowing the power of the WR1 in a Shanahan offense, I did not hesitate to select Julio second overall in 2015, and may have even picked him first given the opportunity, and rode him to a fantasy championship.

Last year, Garcon entered the season as the presumptive WR1 but a neck injury limited him to only 8 games. Olympic Long Jumper and very fast man (4.27 40 yard dash) Marquise Goodwin assumed the go-to role and blew up upon the emergence of Jimmy Garoppolo to the tune of 952 yards on 56 receptions and 105 targets (a 17.2 yard average). Weeks 12-14 (before he had to match up against Jalen Ramsey and Trumaine Johnson) were the best three games of his career.

How to Use this in 2018

Goodwin's statistics with Garoppolo show the potential of the WR1 in a Shanahan offense with Jimmy G under center. The team ranked 2nd in the NFL in passing attempts with 607 in 2017 and the philosophy of peppering the main outside receiver has not changed. Who that player is, however, may:

Dante Pettis: The 49ers traded up to draft Dante Pettis out of the University of Washington in the second round of this years draft. Pettis did not have the prolific production some of his fellow rookies but he is a strong route runner, plays bigger than his frame suggests and is extremely versatile (playing both inside and out and setting an NCAA record with 9 punt return touchdowns).

Pettis is the future of the position for the 49ers and is a strong dynasty pick as he will progress with Garoppolo and be an impactful part of this offense for years to come, but will not be Shanahan's "guy" this year.

Marquise Goodwin: As I said before, Goodwin is fast. Like really fast.

But, he is not the kind of route runner or physical, sure handed receiver that benefits most from Shanahan's offense. He has the benefit of having played with Garoppolo last year and building a rapport with the young QB but will not be the kind of steal to vastly outplay his current ADP of 99. Expect him to be a boom or bust WR-3/4 who will have some big weeks but will mostly be used to take the top off of the defense for who you should be targeting in your drafts....

Pierre Garcon: Remember him? The breakout star of the 2013 season and exhibit A of the power of being the WR1 in Shanahan's offense, Garcon is currently the the No. 1 receiver on the depth chart. He is fully healthy; returning from his injury which caused him to miss the second half of last year. He does not have the experience with Jimmy that Goodwin has, but he is an experienced veteran and a great route runner, especially on intermediate routes which is where Jimmy is his most accurate. He is physical and has reliable hands and showed be on the same page as Jimmy in short order. He has had a target share of at least 19 percent over his past 8 seasons which would put him in line for about 121 targets even before considering the expected leap the offense will take with Garoppolo under center. According to Fantasy Pros, Garcon's ADP is 84 (the 33rd WR). Expect him to push for at least WR2 numbers, and if this reunion is anything like 2013, possibly even high-end WR2/low-end WR1.


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