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NFC South Breakdown of Coaching and Offensive Line

Kyle Pitts Fantasy

NFL BREAKDOWN OF COACHING AND OFFENSIVE LINE 2023 SERIES

Welcome to part 3 of the coaching and offensive line analysis. I hope you’re gleaning some knowledge that you can use in your upcoming drafts, I know I certainly am. Let’s get into the division that most likely has a champ with a losing record.

OLine and Coaching Series Quick Links

 

 

Atlanta Falcons

NFL Futures: Regular Season Win Odds: 8.5

  • HC: Arthur Smith
  • OC: Dave Ragone
  • DC: Ryan Nielson

Arthur Smith is getting his 3rd go-around with the Falcons despite back-to-back 7 and 10 seasons. Fun fact: the Falcons haven’t had a winning record since 2017.

OC Dave Ragone is in his second year as Atlanta’s OC. Both he and Smith are trying to install a West Coast offense that suits QB Desmond Ridder. In his days as the Titans’ OC, Arthur Smith used Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, and their offensive line to lean on the run game and simple short passes to make the offense work. Ragone is a former QB and is on board with a system that simplifies things as much as possible for any QB, but especially a young one like Ridder.

Ryan Nielson has spent the last six years working on the defensive side of the football for the Saints. Last year he was named assistant defensive coordinator by new HC Dennis Allen who had been promoted from the DC position. This is Nielson’s first gig as the sole DC. Nielsen believes in changing his defensive scheme based on the opponent. He’ll move from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and even a 4-6. Outside of their first two picks, the Falcons invested much of their draft capital on defensive players and made some significant free agent signings, which will help Nielson move in and out of various fronts. While it remains to be seen if this team can improve significantly in 2023, the Falcons have invested enough to make it possible.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters

  • LT: Jake Matthews
  • LG: Matthew Bergeron / Matt Hennessy
  • C: Drew Dalman
  • RG: Chris Lindstrom
  • RT: Kaleb McGary

Line coach Dwayne Ledford is back for year two, and he and this unit had a nice 2022 for themselves, which was a surprise. They were very effective in run blocking despite the opposing defense knowing that the Falcons had next to nothing in their passing game.

Lindstrom has established himself as one of the best guards in football and both McGary and Matthews improved significantly last year.

Matthew Bergeron, a 2nd round rookie, is pegged to start at LG, but Hennessy is not bad at all either.

Most of the players and backups along this line are homegrown Falcons draft picks, and they have all improved under Arthur Smith and Dwayne Ledford. Drew Dalman might be the worst player on this line and he’s ranked 15th overall by Pro Football Focus.

Verdict

The offensive line is a top 5 unit in the NFL. I want to be in on this team, I really do, but Arthur Smith and Dave Ragone do not have a history that suggests creative, fantasy-popping numbers for their players. Outside of Derrick Henry and maybe AJ Brown, they have not had diverse offenses and fantasy point-producing. They have, however, had very efficient offenses. Last year it was running the football with Tyler Allgeier and Cordarelle Patterson. Three years ago Ryan Tannehill tossed 33 TDs despite throwing the ball at a bottom 5 rate. There will be something to be had here, but figuring it out is the challenge.

There’s a lot of excitement for Bijan Robinson. Tyler Allgeier, Cordarelle Patterson, and even Caleb Huntley are all still on the roster and in the RB room, so expectations may have to be tempered. We have heard that Robinson can play slot WR and that the Falcons may run 2 RB sets, but that speaks to the creativity that Smith and Ragone have yet to display. They also haven’t even been able to properly integrate Kyle Pitts, who was supposed to be a can’t miss prospect.

Bijan currently goes 11th overall and is the 5th RB off the board. Allgeier is 84th overall. If I’m going to invest in the Falcon backfield, I want to make sure I have both these young RBs because running the ball is what they will do in Atlanta. Ridder is not going to be asked to win games with his arm this early in his career, but he may be asked to pick up 3rd and short yardage downs, just like Tannehill was.

Drake London is a 5th/6th round pick. I might consider him depending on how my draft has gone thus far. When the Falcons do have to pass, he is the one they look for at his near 30% target share.

Kyle Pitts is going at the end of the 5th/beginning of the 6th round. I’ve been frustrated by him for two seasons, I don’t have the stomach for a third, especially when his availability for week 1 is up in the air.

I like the Falcons players more for dynasty than in 2023, but I’d be okay with Robinson, Allgeier, and London because this offensive line looks legit.

 

Carolina Panthers

NFL Futures: Regular Season Win Odds: 7.5

  • HC: Frank Reich
  • Assistant HC / RB Coach: Duce Staley
  • OC: Thomas Brown
  • DC: Ejiro Evero

Between his playing years and his coaching years, I really feel for Frank Reich. For those who don’t know, Reich is one of the best backup QBs ever. He was Jim Kelly’s understudy during the 4 year stretch where the Bills got to the Super Bowl every year and lost. Reich got some important playing time there, but never achieved the NFL’s ultimate prize as a player.

As the Colts head coach, Frank Reich thought he was getting Andrew Luck as his starting QB for years. Due to a surprise retirement, Reich has had to turn to Jacoby Brissett, an aging Phil Rivers, a useless Carson Wentz, an aging Matt Ryan, and something called Sam Ehlinger. Poor fella.

All three of these coaches are new as Carolina cleaned house after last year’s debacle.

Brown is an interesting hire. He is 36 years old and just spent the last 3 seasons with the Rams in various roles such as an assistant, a TE coach, and an RB coach. Prior to that he spent all his time at the college level. He is considered a rising coach in the NFL and has even interviewed for OC positions before; he also interviewed for the Texans HC spot. Reich has called plays ever since he was OC in Philadelphia. Brown has never called plays.

Reich has traditionally employed a West Coast offense with a few wrinkles. One such wrinkle is making his offense get up to the line of scrimmage quickly so that there is time to survey what the defense is showing and then calling the play. This will be a challenge for a rookie QB, and Reich does not have a history of developing young QBs.

I point out that Duce Staley is not only an RB coach, but an assistant HC as well. This is important because Staley is widely considered an excellent RB coach and having been a high performing RB during his playing years, Staley is attributed with the ability to build good rapport with players. This is his first year in the role for Carolina as he spent the previous two years with the Lions and their lucrative backfield. Additionally, Reich and Staley were together in Philly when they won a Super Bowl.

Evero will have full control of this defense. He employs a 3-4 setup and blitzes frequently. The secondary will utilize multiple coverages. Both the 3-4 and the different looks on defense are designed to confuse opposing offenses. There could be a few turnovers to be had by this defense in 2023.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters

  • LT: Ikem Ekwonu
  • LG: Brady Christensen / Justin McCray
  • C: Bradley Bozeman
  • RG: Austin Corbett / Chandler Zvara
  • RT: Taylor Moton

The Panthers line is a middle of the road unit, often ranked 15th – 20th. They had an acceptable performance in 2022 and should be good enough to help Bryce Young in his rookie season. They are coached by James Campen, who has been a line coach in various spots since 2007. This is his second year with the Panthers.

Christensen is recovering from an ankle fracture and Corbett is rehabbing a torn ACL. Both should be good to go for the start of the season, but those things can change. There is some experience on the bench, but nothing stellar.

Ekwonu was a high draft pick in 2022, so bet on some improvement in his second year.

Bozeman and Moton are steady at their positions, but not all stars.

Verdict

Miles Sanders for me. You don’t give a guy a 4 year, $25,400,000 salary to not be the RB1. Staley was in Philly when they drafted Sanders, so it’s no coincidence that he’s in Carolina now. Sanders is going in the 5th round. I’m totally fine with that.

I’ve been a Terrace Marshall guy since he came in the league, but time’s running out on his possible breakout. He may end up being WR1 here, or potentially in a season or two, but he’s going at pick 255, which is basically free.

Marshall will have to vie for catches, from a rookie on a team with a new offense, with DJ Chark and Adam Thielen who are both going at a higher ADP.

Hayden Hurst finds himself as TE1 for the Panthers this year. I’ve chased this guy too much through his stops in Baltimore, Atlanta and Cincinnati to really be interested in him now. His ADP is 194 in case you’re curious.

I’m not going with any of their pass catchers except for maybe Marshall with my last pick.

I won’t be upset if the Panthers DST ends up on my team.

 

New Orleans Saints

NFL Futures: Regular Season Win Odds: 9.5

  • HC: Dennis Allen
  • OC: Pete Carmichael
  • DC: Joe Woods

Carmichael is entering his 15th year of being the Saints OC, and I’m going to talk about him first as Allen has next to nothing to do with the offense. Historically, Carmichael employed a timing offense that allowed Drew Brees to make calls at the offensive line. They got away from that with Dalton, Taysom and Winston but hope to return to that style of offense in 2023 with Derek Carr.

The Saints want to run the ball effectively and have their RBs involved in the pass game. Alvin Kamara may not be around for some if not all of the season, so they will look to Jamaal Williams and rookie RB Kendre Miller. However, the real factor in the success of this RB group will be the offensive line play. See below for more on that.

On defense, Allen will be heavily involved. To that end he has brought in former colleague Joe Woods to be the DC. The defense’s base moves between 4-3 and 4-6. Woods is a former defensive backs coach who has previously spent time as a DC. He will design coverages and schemes and be responsible for the defensive backs, but it will be Allen who makes final decisions and calls during games.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters

  • LT: Trevor Penning
  • LG: Andrus Peat
  • C: Erick McCoy
  • RG: Cesar Ruiz
  • RT: Ryan Ramczyk

Penning and Ramczyk are the strengths of this unit, but the middle three are below average.

Line coach Doug Marrone has 31 years of coaching experience and is back for his second years with the Saints. He has some good experience with these very Saints from 2006 – 2008 and Alabama as their O-line coach. Last year was tough as this group incurred many injuries. I would argue that improvement is possible in Marrone’s second year. I’m not saying they will be world-beaters, but they should be more mediocre than terrible in 2023.

Verdict

Alvin Kamara is currently going in the 7th round. I like to minimize risk as much as possible in my seasonal leagues, so I want nothing to do with him at that pick until the situation becomes clearer. Jamaal Williams showed us his ceiling last year. I don’t mind going after him, just don’t expect a repeat of last year. I really like rookie Kendre Miller but am aware that he will have to contend with Jamaal Williams and possibly Kamara. Miller is going anywhere from pick 130 – 170, I have no problem taking a shot there but would obviously like him closer to 170 than 130. As a disclaimer, he currently has an NFI (non football injury) to his meniscus, so that’s something to keep tabs on. Don’t forget that Mr. Vulture Taysom Hill is still around too.

Chris Olave is going in the 3rd round. I’d be interested in him there depending on how the first 2 rounds went. Michael Thomas goes at 108; I have no interest. Rashid Shaheed may be WR2 here and he goes in the 16th round.

Derek Carr goes at 135. I don’t mind him as my backup, but I’d rather have Anthony Richardson.

Juwan Johnson is a 13th/14th round pick. I’m not crazy about him with Foster Moreau also being there, and hopefully you’ve grabbed another TE at that point anyway.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Futures: Regular Season Win Odds: 6.5

  • HC: Todd Bowles
  • OC: Dave Canales
  • DC: Kacy Rodgers & Larry Foote

Todd Bowles is back for his 2nd season in Tampa. With the departure of Tom Brady and Byron Leftwich, Bowles elected to clean house on the offensive side of the football and find an OC that will install a simplified run-first system.

Dave Canales is becoming an OC for the first time in his career. He spent the last 12 years serving in various spots on the offensive side of the ball for the Seattle Seahawks. Canales is going to utilize a West Coast offense that leans on the run and quick throws from the QB.

Bowles is a defensive-minded coach and will be calling the defensive plays during games. Kacy Rodgers was a DC under Bowles when he was with the Jets. Rodgers and Foote will split the coordinating duties, but this will be Bowles’ defense. He uses both 3-4 and 4-3, but will gravitate more toward 3-4 as long as Vita Vea and first-round pick Calijah Kancey are healthy. Bowles is a heavy blitzer too, and his defenses are often in the top 5 in the NFL. Bowles will also switch in and out of man and zone coverages, which puts a lot of onus on the shoulders of the secondary but can really confuse opposing QBs if done well.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters

  • LT: Tristan Wirfs
  • LG: Matt Feiler / Robert Hainsey
  • C: Ryan Jensen / Robert Hainsey
  • RG: Cody Mauch / Nick Leverett
  • RT: Luke Goedeke

This group struggled mightily in 2022, which helps explain why the Bucs’ offense looked as bad as it did. Line coach Joe Gilbert will be tasked with coaching up some younger guys after the departures of Shaq Mason and Donovan Smith.

Wirfs is a solid LT and the brightest spot on the line for the Bucs. Feiler and Goedeke are unproven, Mauch is a 2nd round rookie, and Jensen is coming off a season where he didn’t play due to injury. Hainsey filled in nicely for Jensen so that he may end up in one of these spots.

There are some nice things here, but this group is not inspiring much confidence going into 2023.

Verdict

I’d expect a lot of low-scoring games from the Bucs this season. They will run the ball as often as possible, but the offensive line might determine their effectiveness.

Rachaad White interests me in the 6th round, but it could be an overpay if this offensive line continues to struggle.

Chris Godwin and Mike Evans come at a discount in 2023. They are at 63 and 73, respectively. While I am not inspired by this passing attack, regardless of which QB starts, that’s too low for them. Someone will still catch passes on this team. Mike Evans is a top 30 receiver in the NFL and he’s being drafted like he isn’t.

I’ll keep an eye on this DST as well. They are good at generating sacks.

 

Thanks for reading! See you next time.

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