NFL Coaching Changes: Fantasy Effect
There’s been seven head coaching changes in the NFL this offseason, and nearly two dozen coordinators having changed gigs. Not necessarily all that rare, but what can it mean for us fantasy football addicts?
Using past stats, present schemes, and some of my own football lunacy, below is a look at five situations in which a new offensive coordinator has been implemented for 2014, and a forecast of which skill player from his respective squad benefits the most.
New OC: Hue Jackson | Key Benefiting Player: Giovani Bernard
A team that finishes the season 11-5 and earns a trip to the playoffs shouldn’t receive much flack. But if there was one nugget for Bengals fans to nitpick based on last season’s high-powered offense, it was their addiction to the passing game.
A former quarterback himself, then-offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wasn’t shy about making the pass his first option on offense. Quarterback, situation, didn’t matter — Gruden favored the passing game.
This season, however, Hue Jackson is running the show following his promotion from running backs coach to offensive coordinator. And wouldn’t ya know it — Jackson prefers to run the football.
“The offense can look different,” Jackson said, according to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “At the end of the day it is about creating an opportunity to make our players special. We want to run the football and have talented players on the outside.”
Although ranking 8th in the league last season in rush attempts with 481, the Bengals passed the ball nearly 54 percent of the time. But even as a potent offense, a change in coordinator usually brings a change in philosophy, and it’s safe to assume that Andy Dalton won’t be slinging the pigskin nearly as much in 2014.
Enter, Giovani Bernard.
With all the attributes you covet in a PPR RB1, fantasy owners should be giddy about rostering Bernard. Not to mention, his situation in Cincinnati feels near perfect, as a run-centric coach takes over as offensive coordinator and seems all but obsessed with his second-year running back.
Bernard isn’t going to jump from 170 carries as a rookie last season to 300 as a sophomore. But with an average of nearly .36 fantasy points per snap last season (excluding one playoff game), an increased workload and a progressing role in the Bengals’ passing game, Bernard is due for quite a season. Check out Gridiron Experts RB Projections and see where we figure he’ll end up.
New OC: Kyle Shanahan | Key Benefiting Player: Ben Tate
In early February, the Browns made a solid hire in introducing Kyle Shanahan as their new offensive coordinator. As a Washington fan, I had spent the previous four years watching little Shanny call plays, and although it likely puts me in the minority, I thought he was pretty darn good at it. About a month after that, the Browns signed free agent running back Ben Tate. And about a day after that is when I began parading around in a giant blimp with Tate’s face printed all over it.
Needless to say, I like this pairing in Cleveland a lot.
The question isn’t whether or not Shanahan can get enough out of his running back — his track record over the years proves his system works well for the backs that fit. But the potential bromance between Shanahan and Tate this season depends largely on whether or not the 25-year-old running back can stay healthy. Over the past four seasons, Tate has missed 24 games, including all of his rookie season with a broken ankle. Following that rookie year, lingering injuries — in combination with a competitive Texans backfield that elevated Arian Foster into one of the league’s best dual-threat running back — didn’t do Tate any favors.
When healthy however, Tate offers value as both a runner and receiver out of the backfield. And helping to pad Tate’s production floor this season is his experience and fit in the zone blocking scheme that Shanahan plans to run in Cleveland, as well as the incentive-laden contract he signed in early March that gives him all the more reason to stay upright and in games.
This isn’t the first time I’ve preached Tate stock this summer, and it likely won’t be the last. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed that he remains healthy, Tate has a good chance for a breakout season — and Kyle Shanahan helps support the argument.
New OC: Norv Turner | Key Benefiting Player: Kyle Rudolph
If there’s one coordinator fantasy owners should be aware of before any season, it’s Norv Turner. Unlike fads that come and go, Turner is generally always a trending name in the discussion of intriguing offenses. And when it comes to tight ends, Turner is Mr. Miyagi.
It may have started way back in Dallas, where Turner served as the Cowboys offensive coordinator between 1991 and 1993 and led tight end Jay Novacek to the best stretch of his 11-year career, amassing 289 catches for 1,739 yards and 11 touchdowns in three seasons. But in terms of fantasy relevance, the Norval Effect didn’t gain notoriety until around 2007, when Turner began his reign as head coach of the Chargers and used tight end Antonio Gates as a focal point in his offense.
After six years in San Diego, Turner became the coordinator in Cleveland last season and took a relative unknown in Jordan Cameron and made him a stud fantasy option across all formats. Cameron was targeted 109 times under Turner — tying him for third amongst tight ends — and finished the season with 80 catches for 917 yards and seven touchdowns.
This season, as the new offensive coordinator in Minnesota, Turner has another potential stud lined up in Kyle Rudolph — a young and athletic 6’6”, 260-pound tight end with good hands and the ability to stretch the field.
As a player, Rudolph’s 15 touchdowns in 39 career games is certainly gawk-worthy. At his size, he’s a scoring threat anytime the Vikings get inside the 20. And as if it couldn’t get any better for the tight end, Norv Turner comes to town at just the right time, as Rudolph is playing for a new contract in 2015.
For fantasy owners, there’s a perfect storm shaping in Minnesota between coordinator, tight end and future earnings. And that’s before we mention the chance of the Vikings starting the season with a rookie quarterback at the helm, which seems to automatically increase the starting tight end’s role and subsequent value.
New OC: Sean McVay | Key Benefiting Player: Robert Griffin III
The situation in Washington may be a bit more complex than the other OC/player combos on this list. In the preceding bunch, teams roll out defensive-minded head coaches who hire an offensive coordinator to run the entire show on that side of the ball. But in Washington, although the recently promoted tight ends coach Sean McVay is respected and touted as a creative, young mind, head coach Jay Gruden will handle playcalling duties on gameday.
Much like the Shanahan-Tate connection in Cleveland (but multiplied by about 50), I’ve been driving the Robert Griffin III bandwagon and preaching the quarterback’s rebound in 2014. Admittedly so, some of that sermon may be fueled by my own team patronage. But most of it stems from Gruden and his preference on offense.
There was an article written here at Gridiron Experts back in April by yours truly that mentioned a handful of reasons why Griffin was poised to breakout this season. You can read the whole article here if you’d like, but it ultimately breaks down into these five parts:
- Volume — Andy Dalton had over 1,600 pass attempts in his first three years under Gruden
- Targets — the Redskins upgraded their receiving corps with the likes of DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts.
- Pace — Dalton’s average of 2.3 seconds in the pocket from snap to throw last season was faster than any other quarterback in the league.
- Offseason work — not only with his new coaches in Washington, but on two sturdy knees
- Other stuff — which I deemed as psychological factors following a high of Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, to a low last season as Griffin struggled to do anything right.
No one’s getting crazy and projecting Rodgers-, Brees-, or Peyton-like numbers for Griffin in 2014. But even as a guy who teaches to wait on drafting quarterbacks and stream them during the season, I’m drinking the Gruden-Griffin juice.
New York Giants
New OC: Ben McAdoo | Key Benefiting Player: Rueben Randle
There doesn’t appear to be any clear verdict on Giants wide receiver Rueben Randle or his draft stock heading into next season. Despite nine touchdowns over his first two seasons, Randle’s current ADP puts him somewhere in the neighborhood of the 10th or 11th round, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. While some see Randle as a steal, others believe he’ll be quickly overshadowed in New York.
If one had to guess, the biggest gripe with Randle comes down to his route running, as he didn’t show huge strides between his rookie and sophomore season. But route running is also a developmental trait, meaning not all hope is lost when asked if a 22-year-old, 6’2” Randle can become a better route runner.
Another ache that all Randle stockholders experienced last season was that of inconsistency. Although he averaged close to 8.4 fantasy points in PPR formats last season, Randle posted a goose egg in three of his 16 games, and less than five points in another two outings. It was his performances like the one against Dallas in Week 1, Philly in Week 5, and Chicago in Week 6 that not only helped his average, but also kept owners on the hook in hopes it’d all come together.
And that’s where new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo comes in. After spending the last eight seasons alongside Mike McCarthy in Green Bay working with a dominant Packers offense, McAdoo comes to New York looking to instill some fire in an offense that ranked 28th in the league in both yards gained and points scored last season. And what’s more, McAdoo has plans for Randle.[ad id=”Ad1″]
“They were talking to me about coming in on the inside using my big body in the seams.” Randle said, according to the New York Daily News. “Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it.”
Sounds familiar, right? Like the kind of thing we’ve seen in Green Bay over the past several years.
Is Rueben Randle the next Jordy Nelson? Probably not. Most likely not. But he does have a desirable skill set and the physical tools to fit well in a creative McAdoo offense.
At this point — and even more so thanks to his low(er) draft stock — Randle is a player who packs potential and deserves a spot on your roster.
Shae hails from Maryland, graduated from Towson University, serves as a Redskins correspondent at Bleacher Report, leads his own circus at Bet Big DC, yells at the television from the couch, is a devout food enthusiast, takes pride in fantasy sports bargain shopping, is a sucker for the arts and is brimming with useless pop culture knowledge. When he’s not drudging away behind his outdated laptop, Shae enjoys eating, traveling and rooting for teams that usually don’t win.