New 2019 OC Hires: The Fantasy Impact
2019 not only brings new players to different landing spots but new offensive coordinators into new situations. Where in most cases we like to assume the best case scenario that’s more of just positive thinking than actual reality. For example last season most analysts (myself included) saw David Johnson as a top-four running back last season despite the fact that the Arizona Cardinals had hired Mike McCoy as their offensive coordinator. How’d that work out?
In this piece we will take a look at all the new offensive coordinators in the NFC, and which fantasy football players will feel the impact from them. Keep in mind that there will be references to new head coaches, who predominately serve as their team’s offensive coordinator in addition to head coach. Time to get coached up folks! And with the 2019 NFL Draft in the books we have rookie analysis thrown in as well!
Also Checkout: Fantasy Impact: AFC Offensive Coordinators
National Football Conference
Dallas Cowboys: Offensive Coordinator – Kellen Moore
Moore spent 2018 in Dallas as the quarterbacks’ coach and was promoted to offensive coordinator after the team moved on from Scott Linehan. Moore has no experience calling plays, so his projection on the 2019 Cowboys is quite unknown. We do know that Linehan stemmed from the Dennis Erickson coaching tree which features a more aggressive style of offense. That does not fit the game of quarterback Dak Prescott, who is more likely to throw to receivers that have already created separation and not throw up contested catch balls. According to Pro Football Focus, Prescott ranked 27th out of 35 quarterbacks in Big Time Throw Percentage. That being defined as the highest end of both difficulty and value. It’s not Prescott’s strength to force the ball aggressively into tight windows down the field.
If Moore can identify the offense to focus more on highlighting around Prescott it, unfortunately, spells disaster for wide receiver Michael Gallup. Despite leading the Cowboys in average air yards per target (14), he had just six receptions go for 20 or more yards on 18 down the field targets during last season. According to PFF only seven of them were even catchable. Prescott had an above 100 passer rating when targeting Amari Cooper (121.6), Cole Beasley (110.5), and Allen Hurns (110.0) in 2018. He had a 73.2 passer rating when targeting Gallup.
The Cowboys lost Beasley in free agency but added Randall Cobb and drafted in the fourth-round Tony Pollard out of Memphis. Pollard is an interesting player because he was primarily a slot receiver but also turned more into a running back towards the end of last season. In the PFF database, they have him labeled as an HB. With Cobb and Tavon Austin currently candidates to lead the slot role, Pollard could find himself in the lineup quickly if injuries plague the two veterans. But he offers unique upside because he can play running back and perhaps can truly be that “web” back that the Cowboys tried to make Austin a year ago. The Cowboys also added Mike Weber, who will fill the role left by Ohio State alumni Rod Smith. Only will be fantasy relevant if something happens to Ezekiel Elliott.
Washington Redskins: Offensive Coordinator – Kevin O’ Connell
O’Connell was hired as the offensive coordinator after Matt Cavanaugh was moved into a senior assistant role with the Redskins. In this case, we will assume that O’Connell will run a similar offense that was run in the past by Jay Gruden and Cavanaugh since the 2017 season. I would figure that the offense would strive to replicate 2017 success where they sustained much fewer injuries and ranked 16th in the league in points scored for.
Now the offense has a ton of new faces at the conclusion of the 2019 NFL Draft. The new franchise quarterback in Dwayne Haskins, along with two wide receivers in Terry McLaurin from Ohio State, and Kelvin Harmon from NC State. McLaurin already has chemistry with Haskins, so it would make sense to see McLaurin in a role where he is the deep threat for the Redskins. Via PFF, McLaurin made receptions on 13 of 26 contested throws last season, which was the second-best rate among players (behind former teammate and newest Indianapolis Colt Parris Campbell). He adds much-needed speed (4.35 40-yard dash) that the Redskins have been missing since they lost DeSean Jackson after the 2016 season.
Then in 2017, slot receiver Jamison Crowder found success, but not so much for any outside wide receivers like Josh Doctson or tight end Jordan Reed. Looking across the 2019 roster, it’s hard to be excited initially about the receivers not named Trey Quinn or McLaurin. Harmon primarily is an outside receiver but ended up being a sixth-round pick so only time will tell his role in the offense if any. Still expect to see a heavy dosage of Adrian Peterson at the beginning of the season, as second-year pro-Derrius Guice returns from his injury. In 2018 Washington ranked 11th in rushing play percentage and 14th in rushing attempts per game.
Detriot Lions: Offensive Coordinator – Darrell Bevell
After a year away from the league the Lions have brought in Bevell to be their new OC. Unlike many of these OC hires, Bevell does bring in a load of NFL experience. He was the Seahawks offensive coordinator from 2011-2017 and coordinated the Vikings’ offenses before that, from 2006-2010. According to Nate Atkins of Mlive.com, “in 12 years as an offensive coordinator, Bevell’s offenses have finished an average of 16th in offensive points per drive, 15th in total yards, 21st in passing, 10th in rushing and 15th in DVOA.” From 2012-2015 the Seahawks ranked top four in rushing from 2012-2015. There’s a potential that it is wheels up for Kerryon Johnson and the running game. But what should we expect from the Lions’ passing attack?
Well, we will probably see less overall volume from Stafford. Stafford is already coming off his lowest passing attempt season since his rookie season where he played in just 10 games. Is important to note that even if total attempts are down, that does not mean efficiency necessarily suffers. Part of Bevell’s offense is running the ball, but the other part is to pick up chunk yardage downfield (big plays off play-action). But there’s a strong chance that either Kenny Golladay or Marvin Jones fails to live up to production expectations in 2019.
For Golladay, he initially looks like the frontrunner to benefit at Jones’ expense. No Lions receiver was better at the long-ball last year than Golladay. Golladay had 19 catches of 20+ yards in 2018—more than double anyone else on the team and 10th in the NFL. However, these numbers are slightly off because Jones was hurt in the second half of the season. Looking at Weeks 1-9, Jones led the Lions in 20+ yard targets (13). And in 2017 when fully healthy, Jones led the Lions in 20+ yard targets and ranked 6th in the NFL in those targets. So perhaps we may need to temper expectations of a Golladay breakout happening. Keep in mind that Bevell likes to heavily use his receivers in the slot. Both Lockett and Doug Baldwin saw over 50% of their snaps come from the slot. Bevell could decide he wants to have a big-bodied slot receiver in Golladay which in an offense with less overall volume could hurt Golladay’s fantasy wide receiver one upside.
Now factor in the addition of rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson who excels in both the passing and running game. But looking at Bevell’s history with the tight end position, there could be so fantasy goodness. Bevell has seen several fantasy tight ends produce in his offense.
- With the Vikings: 2008 Visanthe Shiancoe – 42-596-7, 2009, Shiancoe – 56-566-11
- With the Seahawks: 2016 Jimmy Graham – 65-923-6, 2017, Graham – 57-520-10
However, the fact that Detroit signed ex-Steeler Jesse James for $10.5 million guaranteed in free agency suggests they want to keep two tight ends on the field. We saw at Iowa that Hockenson’s emergence opened things up for Noah Fant to be a successful receiver. Seems like a long shot, but when’s it all said and done James could provide the higher fantasy value than Hockenson.
Green Bay Packers: Offensive Coordinator – Nathaniel Hackett
The former OC for the Jacksonville Jaguars that oversaw the leagues best rushing attack in 2017, Hackett now teams up to help new head coach Matt LeFleur improve the Green Bay offense in 2019 (Aaron Rodgers approval pending). With “Rodgers” in charge of the passing game, Hackett should be able to contribute mightily in the run game where he has been great. In his first season as offensive coordinator in Buffalo in 2013, the Bills ranked second in the league in rushing yards per game and the team’s best in 21 years. In addition, the Bills ranked first in red-zone scoring efficiency via TotalPackers.com.
With an offense that is destined to improve across the board, the only losers I would say are the wide receivers outside of Davante Adams. If there is an emphasis on the running game behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, then there’s even less of share for guys like Equanimeous St. Brown, Geronimo Allison, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to have established roles on a consistent basis. And now add in explosive rookie tight end Jace Sternberger, who has higher draft capital than any of those guys named and was drafted by the current coaching regime. Might be a learning curve his rookie year with Rodgers, and with Graham still in the picture, but Sternberger could be a star in this offense as the number two option behind Adams.
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Atlanta Falcons: Offensive Coordinator – Dirk Koetter
He’s back and for Matt Ryan this a very good thing. Dirk Koetter was Ryan’s offensive coordinator from 2012-2014, and the inconsistency from Ryan year to year has been highly influenced by the fact that he always has to learn a new offense under a new coach. Via CBSSports.com between 2012 and 2014, the Falcons twice finished top eight in scoring, while Ryan commanded an 86:45 TD: INT ratio with over 4,600 passing yards per season. So Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense should produce as normal especially with them getting to play 13 games in domes in 2019. The one player Koetter’s hire could cause concern for is Devonta Freeman.
In the three seasons in his first stint with Atlanta Koetter’s offense was much more focused on passing volume; several wide receivers surpass 1,000 yards. However, no running back surpassed 800 total rushing yards or 4.0 yards per carry. No running back ever saw more than 63 targets either. There’s a real concern that Freeman may not be heavily used in the passing game which would hurt is overall fantasy production.
As an overall runner though, Freeman should be fine if he can stay healthy. Especially with the Falcons drafting two offensive linemen in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft in Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Offensive Coordinator – Byron Leftwich
Leftwich is the OC by name, but it’s the Bruce Arians offense attack. And it sure looks to be a match made in heaven. Bruce Arians offensive philosophy has always been pushing the ball down the field, something Winston is very familiar with. “No risk it, no biscuit” is apparently one of Arians’ favorite sayings. Hopefully Arians’ can also be harsh with Winston to help him mature from his several off the field antics.
There’s been cause for concern that Arians has never featured a tight end in his offense, and that he wants a back that is a weapon in the passing game. This brings up names of guys like O.J. Howard and Ronald Jones. Now I would not weigh so much on Arians in Tampa Bay negatively effecting Howard, but I can see it possible that he is more of the third option in the pecking order behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. As for Jones truthers, the Buccaneers did not draft a running back in the draft as many expected. Still, his passing game needs work, and until he can show he can that it hurts his long-term fantasy upside.
Arizona Cardinals: Offensive Coordinator – No One
Kliff Kingsbury is running the offensive show in Arizona. So much so, that the Cardinals do not even have an offensive coordinator by title on their entire staff. His signing is an immediate upgrade for everybody on the offensive side of the ball, except for of course Josh Rosen who now finds himself in Miami.
Kyler Murray, the first overall pick by Arizona is the perfect fit in the Texas Tech “Air Raid” offense. Kingsbury should help elevate the offense as a whole especially with returning guys like David Johnson and Christian Kirk alongside the trio of rookie wide receivers the Cardinals added in Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and KeeSean Johnson.
Kingsbury has a history of heavily involving his running backs in the passing game and utilizing bubble screens and quick passes to his receivers. With Kirk taking the next step naturally that can cause regression for other players; in this case Larry Fitzgerald. Never want to call out the season where the player finally hits the wall, but he will be 36 at the start of the season, and just can’t see his role being massive on the Cardinals under the new regime.
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Thanks for reading
Andrew is a Roger Williams University graduate where he majored in Marketing. While there he interned at a sports marketing agency where he had the opportunity to work with many professional athletes like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.
After college, Andrew started to write his own fantasy blogs via WordPress.com to show his friends why he calls himself the Fantasy Football Master. He calls himself this because back in ’07 in his first ever fantasy football league he drafted the Bears defense in the 1st round. He then proceeded to win the entire league. #DefenseWinsChampionships