top of page

NFL Personnel Group Usage, Analysis and Trends Since 2018, Check Out The New Dashboard

We have compiled every NFL team's personnel group usage since the 2018 season. What is the significance of analyzing a team's personnel group usage, and how can you use the data to your advantage?

The Role of Personnel Groups Varies By The Team At All Levels

Personnel is dictated mainly by roster construction, and sometimes circumstances can dictate how a team utilizes particular personnel. For example, some run-heavy teams like to use multiple TE's more than others and might roster more TE's than other teams. Teams that use 12 personnel (1 back, two TE's) might be more run-heavy, but that doesn't always have to be the case. Some run-heavy teams use only one TE more often and are in an 11 Personnel (1 back, 1 TE) consistently.

How Personnel Groups Can Be Used Strategically

Teams at all levels of football will use personnel groups to dictate the type of personnel groups an oppossing team defense will trot out on the field. For example, a run-heavy offense might use 12 personnel at a 30% rate, and when in 12 personnel, they run the football 70% of the time on first down. Teams can use the personnel to dictate the defense's personnel and then break their tendency in a key moment. For example, let's say team X is up by 3 with 12:00 mins to go in the 4th QTR, and on 1st and ten, team Y, the defense has been loading the box matching your personnel with their bigger personnel throughout the game, and they have been giving you man to man on the outside. Now might be that critical moment to take that shot vs. man to man. Now, this is just one example of the strategic use of different personnel groups.

The Most Common Personnel Groups Used Today

11 personnel remains the dominant personnel group in the NFL. From 2018-2019, 11 personnel (one back, one TE) usage in the NFL did drop by 5% YOY, and from 2019 to 2020, 11 personnel held steady at 60%.

How and Why 11 Personnel Became Dominant?

The evolution of 3 WR sets in football is where the transition from two TE run-heavy looks (12 personnel) and 2 Backs, one TE looks have evolved (21 personnel). In 2008, NFL teams used a higher rate of 12 and 21 personnel combined with 11 personnel still being the dominant grouping at 34%, 12 personnel, and 21 personnel accounted for 43%, and 22 personnel (two backs, two TE's) accounted for 10% of the average league total for personnel group usage in 2008. Let's fast forward to 2020; 22 personnel is nonexistent except for a few teams who employ a fullback and multiple TE's, and even those teams run a low rate of 22 and 21 personnel.

Personnel groups have evolved to a higher rate of 11 personnel through the years because of the emergence of highly skilled slot receivers and RB's who excel both as pass catchers and pass blockers out of the backfield. In addition, some highly skilled RB's are even more versatile and can line up in the slot or flex out wide, which allows an OC to keep them on the field consistently in key passing situations as a receiver. The emergence of more athletic TE's has also elevated the use of 11 personnel. Instead of trotting out an additional slot receiver, teams can keep their TE's on the field and move them all around. TE's are no longer inline consistently and counted on as blockers; they are used in the slot, out wide, and the backfield.

Top Five Teams By Personnel Usage

We examined the top five NFL teams by the top three personnel groups used in the NFL. The top three, as mentioned above, are 11 personnel, 12 personnel, and 21 personnel.

Top Five NFL Teams Who Utilized 11 Personnel (One Back, One TE) in 2020

NFL Average- 60%

Cincinnati Bengals 11 Personnel Usage- 76%

The Bengals 11 personnel usage is warranted, and the expectation is that it will continue in 2021. By drafting Ja'Marr Chase, the Bengals now can slide Tyer Boyd back inside to the slot, with Tee Higgins playing opposite of Chase on the outside. In addition, they possess versatility at RB with Joe Mixon, who can be an every-down back and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. They can use a higher rate of 12 personnel with the emergence of TE Drew Sample and the player he replaced due to injury TE C.J. Uzomah.

Pittsburgh Steelers 11 Personnel Usage- 75%

The Steelers are a team we expect might drop in year over year 11 personnel usage. Still, they are so loaded at WR making any assertion other than them maintaining a 75% 11 Personnel usage might be invalid. The one argument is that they drafted TE Pat Friermuth from Penn State, who will team up with Eric Ebron at TE in 2021.

Kansas City Chiefs 11 Personnel Usage- 73%

The Chiefs are an air raid offense built around having a versatile 11 personnel. The RB's in this offense must be good receivers, and the TE must line up all over the formation and use his athleticism for mismatch advantages. One of those boxes has been checked with Travis Kelce at TE, while the RB is in question. CEH is a good receiver and an adequate runner. As a result, the Chiefs should maintain a top-five status in 11 personnel usage in 2021 using three wide receivers, one TE, and one back.

Team to Watch

Jacksonville Jaguars 11 Personnel Usage- 73%

The Jags will be interesting to watch in 2021. Urban Meyer is testing the idea of using more 21 personnel based on his statement on Ettiene working as a WR. Of course, Etienne is a RB, and to believe anything otherwise is silly, but Urban Meyer envisions his role in the offense for 2021 to be Percy Harvin-esque. This means you have another mismatch style back in Etienne paired with James Robinson on the field all at once. We already know Robinson has strong receiver ability, and Etienne, coming out of Clemson, showed us his ability as a high-level receiver. The Jags are an exciting team to keep an eye on regarding how they might change the game in personnel usage. If the Urban Meyer two RB thought process works, other teams will, of course, try to mimic what the Jags do.

New York Jets 11 Personnel Usage- 72%

Top Five Teams Who Utilized 12 (One Back, Two TE's) Personnel In 2020

NFL Average- 20%

Tennessee Titans 12 Personnel Usage- 35%

Philadelphia Eagles 12 Personnel Usage- 35%

Team To Watch

Arizona Cardinals 12 Personnel Usage- 30%

The Cardinals used nearly four times the amount of 10 personnel (one back, zero TE's) in 2019 than the next team. In 2020, they flipped their personnel usage to a more NFL-centric approach using more 11 and 12 personnel. Kingsbury learned that there is a big difference between the college and NFL game in that 10 Personnel cannot be a base level group like it is in the college game. As a result, the Cardinals surrendered 50 sacks in 2019 (bottom third). 21 of the 50 sacks surrendered in 2019 happened when they were in 10 personnel. They improved in 2020, allowing only 29 total sacks, partly related to decreased ten personnel usage.

Los Angeles Rams 12 Personnel Usage- 29%

Houston Texans 12 Personnel Usage- 28%

Top Five NFL Teams Who Used 21 (Two Backs, One TE) Personnel In 2020

NFL Average- 8%

New England Patriots 21 Personnel Usage- 37%

Team To Watch

San Francisco 49ers 21 Personnel Usage- 33%

The 49ers are one of a handful of teams who use a traditional FB. The 49ers are run-heavy, and they rely on the use of constraint-style plays that can get LB's in a bind. The TE in this offense has to be a good blocker and a pass-catcher, and they have that part covered. The 49ers might be even more 21 personnel heavy, with an athlete potentially starting at the QB position in Trey Lance. With or without Lance starting in 2021, don't expect much to change in their offense or personnel usage style.

Minnesota Vikings 21 Personnel Usage- 26%

Baltimore Ravens 21 Personnel Usage- 18%

Green Bay Packers 21 Personnel Usage- 14%


bottom of page