With this unprecedented NFL offseason, Matt Williamson and Brian Peacock discuss how “new school” GMs are changing the landscape of the league.
MIAMI — In the past week, we’ve seen not one but two of the NFL’s top five receivers traded to new teams, the cherry on top of what has been an unprecedented offseason of trades and moves in the NFL.
The Packers traded away Davante Adams last week and now the Chiefs have traded away Tyreek Hill. We’ve seen a number of big quarterback trades including Russell Wilson going from Seattle to Denver, Matt Ryan going from Atlanta to Indianapolis, Carson Wentz getting traded to Washington, Cleveland trading for Deshaun Watson, and more. It’s like no offseason we’ve ever seen before.
On Thursday’s Peacock and Williamson NFL Show, part of the Locked On Podcast Network, hosts Brian Peacock and Matt Williamson have an in-depth discussion on how “new school” general managers in the NFL are changing the league and the game as we know it.
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“There’s younger decision makers in the NFL now,” Williamson said. “A lot of the old school curmudgeons are gone…there’s a new breed coming around at coach and GM. I think that’s a major reason why we’re seeing so many trades and movement this offseason. I think analytics plays into that massively.”
Williamson even suggests that the Madden video games and fantasy football have contributed to fostering this new way to look at NFL teams with more willingness to move around assets.
Peacock said technology has also changed how easy it is for teams to work on trades and potential deals, because it’s so much less formal than it used to be.
“It’s easier to get ahold of somebody. A quick text here and there,” Peacock said. “There’s a looser vibe all around. Less tight. Less worried about making mistakes, in a way. I think GM’s had jobs longer back then and players didn’t get moved that much. The game is changing. It’s pretty amazing. One of our listeners the other day said this is like a 13-year-old playing Madden.”
A lot of this change has been coming, because of how the NFL has evolved into such a pass heavy league. With the Tyreek Hill trade, it opened up some thoughts from Peacock and Williamson about how the league will continue to evolve.
“When you see Tyreek Hill, and I think about what type of players the NFL is drafting, where passing games are going,” Peacock said. “60% used to be a big deal. Teams ran the ball a lot…we’re starting to see depth of target go down. I think we’re starting to see that size doesn’t matter quite as much anymore. We’re seeing more an more smaller receivers contribute with yards after catch.”
The average depth of target, meaning the average distance of passes thrown, has gone down consistently since 2012, Peacock notes. It was once over 8.8 yards per attempt in 2012. Now, in 2021, it was 7.8 yards.
“It might not feel like much, like it’s only a yard, but that’s a lot. That’s a big deal. Receivers are getting smaller and quicker and even quarterbacks are getting smaller and quicker,” Peacock said.
Williamson said the root of a lot of this comes in the trenches with the difference between defensive and offensive lineman. He noted how you’re seeing 250+ pound edge rushers at the combine running 4.5 40-yard dashes.
“I think there’s one massive reason why, and that’s because defensive linemen are better than offensive linemen. So much of this game goes back to that,” Williamson said. “They can’t block these defensive linemen.”
So what does that equal? Less time to throw, which means shorter throws, which means more yards after catch and a higher percentage of passes completed. That’s the new NFL.
“It also has some to do with the rule changes, right? You don’t have Ronnie Lott taking your head off,” Peacock said. “So a 175 pound receiver can actually hang in there now. You can put a guy in the slot and know he’s not going to get killed. But back in the day, you had to be a tough guy.”
With the Dolphins trading for Tyreek Hill and now having three players on the field in the top 10 for fastest top speed (Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Raheem Mostert), Peacock and Williamson say they’ve already revolutionized their offense into something where they don’t have to rely on deep targets and are going to look for a way to win with short initial passes and speed.
“They’re trying to create explosiveness with unbelievable offensive team speed now,” Williamson said. “This trade is all about speed and creating explosives for Tua Tagovailoa, even if it’s short throws to Tyreek Hill. Explosive plays are making the world go round.”
For more daily analysis on the NFL’s biggest stories, check out the Peacock and Williamson NFL Show, part of the Locked On Podcast Network, free and available on all platforms.