Fantasy Impact of the 2015 NFL Coaching Changes

Fantasy Impact of the 2015 NFL Coaching Changes


Fantasy Impact of the 2015 NFL Coaching Changes

Everyone knows that “NFL” means “Not For Long”, and that applies to coaches as well: a dozen new offensive coordinators have taken the helm this offseason. At The Huddle we’ve been there for you every step of the way, with more than 11,000 words of analysis on these coaching changes. If that seems daunting – that’s the equivalent of more than 400 Tweets, or a typical day for must-follow Norm MacDonald – put the coaching changes series on your summer to-do list; right now here’s a more encapsulated rundown of the major fantasy fallout from each of these coaching changes.

ATLANTA FALCONS (New HC Dan Quinn; new OC Kyle Shanahan)
Devonte Freeman has some experience in Shanahan’s beloved zone blocking system from his collegiate days at Florida State, and right now has the most upside of any running back on the Falcons’ roster. And if Matt Schaub can lead the league in passing and Andre Johnson and Pierre Garçon can catch 100-plus balls, you have to like the upside of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, respectively. Also don’t be surprised if the Falcons find themselves a tight end in free agency or the draft.

While it’s certainly not ideal that Joe Flacco has his fourth play-caller in as many years, there’s certainly a degree of optimism that comes with pairing Flacco with a quarterback whisperer like Trestman. The key will be what Baltimore does with its receiving corps; Trestman’s offense flourished with big receivers in Chicago, but in Baltimore the model is decidedly different. The Ravens also run the ball as a component of their team identity, which will be a shift for Trestman—whose Chicago offense ranked 31st in run/pass ratio last season. If Justin Forsett returns, he could be in line for a Matt Forte-esque load of targets—and if he doesn’t, someone else will.

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BUFFALO BILLS (New HC Rex Ryan; new OC Greg Roman)
The Ryan/Roman “Ground & Pound” adds LeSean McCoy to a team with essentially no quarterback? Certainly sounds like a heavy dose of Shady is coming this season, with perhaps a side order of Fred Jackson or maybe Anthony Dixon, who has a history with Roman from their 49ers days. Sammy Watkins’ fantasy relevance is in jeopardy unless and until the Bills address their quarterback shortcomings.

CHICAGO BEARS (New HC John Fox; new OC Adam Gase)
You can’t necessarily peg either Fox or Gase as run-heavy guys coming from Peyton Manning’s offense, but Jay Cutler is certainly no Manning and Gase was definitely involved in the Broncos’ shift to a ground game emphasis late last season. In other words, while Matt Forte may not see the volume of receptions he had this season he won’t be hurting for touches. The size mismatches created by Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett mesh well with the quick-release passing game the Bears are expected to employ, and with Brandon Marshall now in New York even if the overall volume of throws drops Jeffery’s larger share should soften the blow of a potential dip in productivity.

After his success with Derek Carr in Oakland the Browns brought in DeFilippo to work with Johnny Manziel—and, evidently, Josh McCown, too. But DeFillipo vowed not to stray far from Cleveland’s current offensive strengths, which means they’ll continue to run the ball with Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell behind a solid—and hopefully healthy—offensive line. McCown’s presence means DeFilippo doesn’t have to bust out the offense he used with Terrelle Pryor in Oakland just yet, though it remains to be seen just who McCown will have to throw to.

DENVER BRONCOS (New HC Gary Kubiak; new OC Rick Dennison)
Expect a “modified Kubiak” under Peyton Manning this season, with fewer rollouts than Kubiak might otherwise call. But if you liked the run-heavy Broncos that closed out 2014 while protecting Peyton’s bum thigh you’ll be a big fan of what the offense will likely look like in 2015. Unfortunately, CJ Anderson might fall victim to the hot-hand theory in the backfield which makes him a riskier fantasy option at this juncture. Julius Thomas is gone, and expect a different type of tight end (read: one who can block as well as catch) to replace him.

Olson’s past success with youth—he oversaw a Tampa Bay offense that produced both the top rookie receiver (fourth-round pick Mike Williams) and the top rookie rusher (undrafted free agent LeGarrette Blount) in the same season—makes him an intriguing fit for a Jacksonville offense that’s bound to have new faces in key places. He’ll also focus on the development of Blake Bortles, a development that’s bound to include some read option and more running for the surprisingly athletic Bortles, who ranked fourth among quarterbacks in rushing yards last year. Olson also likes to target his tight ends, so look for Jacksonville to address that glaring need via free agency or the draft.

NEW YORK JETS (New HC Todd Bowles; new OC Chan Gailey)
Gailey’s ability to coach up Tyler Thigpen (22 touchdowns in 2008) bode well for Geno Smith—or possibly Marcus Mariota, if the draft falls that way for Gang Green. Either way, expect the field to be spread and reads to be limited for a young, athletic quarterback. Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Jace Amaro and perhaps Percy Harvin will be asked to pick up yards after the catch. This won’t be the ground-and-pound Jets fans have come to know and love, but the threat of a running quarterback and the addition of the zone blocking system could have an effect similar to that which RG3 and the ZBS had for Alfred Morris in Washington a couple seasons ago.

OAKLAND RAIDERS (New HC Jack Del Rio; new OC Bill Musgrave)
As a quarterbacks coach Musgrave has done alright at the NFL level, but put him in the big chair—where he’s been for seven seasons—and things take a turn for the worse: he’s never had an offense finish in the top 10 in either points or yardage. Musgrave’s run-first approach does bode well for Latavius Murray, as do Musgrave’s initial comments regarding Murray and his impending role in Oakland. How else would you interpret Musgrave talking about “finding out where his strengths are so we can tailor our run game to be right up his alley”? If Musgrave can turn Murray into a legitimate feature back and wring more production out of Derek Carr, he’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of what the Raiders have been churning out for the past decade.  

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (New HC Jim Tomsula; new OC Geep Chryst)
The 49ers were all about promoting from within this offseason, so don’t expect much in the way of change. In fact, with Chryst’s success directly tied to that of Colin Kaepernick look for the Niners to run their quarterback even more frequently; even the 49ers’ owner said at Tomsula’s introductory press conference the key for the team would be “putting Kaepernick in position to make plays”. Given that he may not have Frank Gore to hand the ball to or Michael Crabtree or Steve Johnson to throw to, Kaepernick has no choice but to be The Man. Both Kaepernick and Anquan Boldin had positive things to say about Chryst’s hire; since that sentiment appeared to be in the minority, maybe they know the offense will run through them.

ST. LOUIS RAMS (New OC Frank Cignetti)
Cignetti is another promotion from within who isn’t likely to change much with the way his team’s offense works; he even referenced his predecessor’s playbook and how much would remain the same in St. Louis. The hope is that his continued work with Sam Bradford will allow the former top pick to finally live up to his potential, though the key will be Bradford finding a way to stay healthy. And, as you’ve come to expect from Jeff Fisher teams, the Rams will continue to run the ball—ostensibly with the same Tre Mason-heavy committee they finished last season with. One wrinkle may be the Rams finally finding a way to put Tavon Austin to good use. Cignetti’s track record in college with getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers—specifically Bernard Berrian at Fresno State—and his comments at his opening pressor suggest more than lip service will be paid to Austin’s play-making skills.

Lovie Smith pilfered Koetter from NFC South rival Atlanta when Mike Smith was shown the door, and soon Koetter will be challenged with fitting Jameis Winston into an offense that already includes Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Winston will need some fine-tuning from Koetter, whose number-one mantra is not turning the ball over. But the pieces are there for Koetter to oversee this third top-10 offense in the past four seasons, which suggests not only big fantasy numbers for Evans and Jackson but also Winston, third receiver Louis Murphy and the developing Seferian-Jenkins as well. Doug Martin is getting some buzz as a sleeper, but Koetter’s history suggests he leans on where the talent is—and in Tampa that means the passing game, unlike his stay in Jacksonville where Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew carried an offense quarterbacked by David Garrard.

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