How Will New Head Coaches and Offensive Coordinators Impact Fantasy Football This Season?

Miami Dolphins – Chan Gailey (offensive coordinator)

Miami DolphinsRyan Fitzpatrick had to have been thrilled by the hiring of Chan Gailey in Miami, as the Dolphins‘ presumed starting quarterback has more experience with Gailey than any other coach in the NFL. Of Gailey’s last 80 games with play-calling duties, Fitzpatrick started under center for 72 of them. The best season of Fitzpatrick’s came under Gailey with the Jets back in 2015 as he threw for 3,905 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions and led New York to the playoffs. That season was supported by an elite wide receiver duo in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker who combined for 2,529 yards and 26 touchdowns.

The Dolphins’ top two wideouts – DeVante Parker and Preston Williams – aren’t nearly as proven as the duo Fitz threw passes to with the Jets, but both have some significant upside for this season. Gailey is recognized as one of the first offensive coaches to integrate the spread offense into pro schemes and utilizes a ton of 3-wide and 4-wide sets. Mike Gesicki should also be much more involved in the vertical passing game in his second season. More than anything else, Gailey has a history of simplifying the offense and integrating his most talented players, which is good news for a young, talented offense in Miami.

Cleveland Browns – Kevin Stefanski (head coach), Alex Van Pelt (offensive coordinator)

Cleveland BrownsIn 2019, Kevin Stefanski replaced John DeFillipo as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator as Mike Zimmer wanted a play-caller who would emphasize the run game more prominently. Stefanski did just that as Minnesota went from the 30th-ranked offense in rushing yards to the 6th-ranked offense in that regard. Accordingly, Dalvin Cook had a breakout campaign last year as he finished as the 2nd-highest per-game scorer among running backs in PPR scoring. Stefanski will also help make the offense much easier for Browns‘ quarterback Baker Mayfield, something he did very successfully for Kirk Cousins in Minnesota. Cousins had two of the most efficient seasons in his career with Stefanski and ranked inside the top five in completion percentage both years with him.

While Stefanski will surely help Mayfield’s efficiency, I’m not thrilled about him for fantasy purposes as the Vikings threw the 3rd-fewest passes last season under the Browns’ new head coach. That lack of passing volume might also hurt Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Austin Hooper, and is something to keep in mind when drafting any Cleveland pass-catcher. However, the arrival of Stefanski should do wonders for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in his wide zone scheme that also emphasizes passes to running backs. Alex Van Pelt is serving his second season as an offensive coordinator, his first since 2009, but it’s unclear if he or Stefanski will be calling plays in 2020. Still, Stefanski will obviously have a huge influence in proceedings in Cleveland this season.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Jay Gruden (offensive coordinator)

Jacksonville JaguarsThere seems to be a theme developing in this article of John DeFillipo being replaced, and that’s the case again here as Jay Gruden will be taking over for DeFillipo as the Jaguars‘ offensive coordinator this season. Gruden had limited success in his six seasons as the Redskins’ head coach, but the front office really struggled to give him the requisite talent to coach. There’s a reason for optimism in Jacksonville this season as Gruden has proven himself as a creative play-caller who can emphasize the best talent he has at his disposal. His west coast offense should create easier opportunities for promising second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew as Gruden isn’t shy about using his skill players in different ways.

Gruden also emphasizes play-action passing, an area where Minshew excelled last season as he had the third-best passer rating on play-action passes. This bodes well for DJ Chark, who was a breakout player last season with 1,008 yards and 8 touchdowns. Gruden is part of the reason I love Chark for this season. One important thing to note for the Jaguars’ offense is the concurrent arrivals of Gruden and Chris Thompson. For the entirety of Gruden’s coaching career, he has preferred to utilize a pass-catching back separate from his early-down back. Thompson was that guy in Washington for many years, and before him, Roy Helu was stealing receiving work from the highly efficient Alfred Morris. Dating back to when Gruden was the offensive coordinator of the Bengals, Giovani Bernard was very involved in the offense despite BenJarvus Green-Ellis being very efficient on the ground. I fully expect Chris Thompson to see significant receiving work this season and I see Fournette seeing a noticeable drop from his 100 targets last season.

Denver Broncos – Pat Shurmur (offensive coordinator)

Denver BroncosThe Broncos made some huge offseason acquisitions, but Pat Shurmur could transform the offense more than any individual player. Former Denver offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello ran a ton of 12 personnel (two tight ends) and used a fullback often, with spacing not prioritized. Shurmur is ideologically very different and 11 personnel (3 wide receivers) should be much more prevalent in Denver this season. Shurmur’s emphasis on offensive spacing puts additional pressure on defenders in coverage, which will be all the more true with the weapons the Broncos have at receiver this season. Shurmur’s offense should create tons of opportunities for third-year wideout Courtland Sutton as well as rookies Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler. Noah Fant, the team’s athletic second-year tight end, should also stand to benefit from the extra spacing.

This shift in offensive philosophy should allow second-year quarterback Drew Lock to produce much better numbers than he did in his rookie season. The Broncos’ rushing should look pretty similar to last year as both Shurmur and Scangarello prefer zone-rushing plays, specifically to the outside. This scheme will be beneficial for Melvin Gordon and Philip Lindsay, both of whom excel with the ability to read the defense, make cuts, and use their athleticism and burst to separate from defenders. However, Shurmur’s offense hasn’t traditionally utilized running backs in the passing game as much as other play-callers, which could limit the fantasy upside for both of the Broncos’ running back. The player who will likely benefit the most from the change at offensive coordinator is Courtland Sutton, who already caught 72 balls for 1,112 yards and 6 touchdowns last season despite multiple starting quarterbacks and an offensive scheme that didn’t emphasize his skillset. Sutton has legitimate top-12 upside this season if Drew Lock meets his potential in Shurmur’s offense.

New York Giants – Jason Garrett (offensive coordinator)

New York GiantsThe Giants replaced former head coach Pat Shurmur with Joe Judge this offseason, an inexperienced guy who has never called plays on either side of the ball. Play-calling is just one part of being a head coach, but it’s a part Judge likely won’t partake in this season. On offense, those duties will fall to Jason Garrett, who comes in after ten years as the head coach of the Cowboys and four years as the offensive coordinator in Dallas before that. In half of Garrett’s seasons in Dallas, his team had a top-seven scoring offense, which bodes well for the Giants’ personnel. Garrett ceded play-calling duties to Bill Callahan, Scott Linehan, and Kellen Moore (the team’s offensive coordinators) throughout his time as the Cowboys’ head coach, but there were a few elements prominent throughout his entire tenure there.

The Cowboys always emphasized vertical passing, to both the wide receivers and tight ends, an element that should benefit Darius Slayton and Evan Engram (provided he can stay healthy). Garrett’s rushing offenses have always been successful as well, not that Saquon Barkley relies on offensive play-calling to succeed as he’s one of the most talented running backs in the NFL. Pat Shurmur’s play-calling really wasn’t the issue with the Giants’ offense last season, it had more to do with a rookie quarterback playing behind a mediocre offensive line and throwing to a receiver group that saw significant amounts of missed time out of Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram. With Andrew Thomas, the team’s first-round pick, shoring up the offensive line, Daniel Jones entering his second season, and better luck with injuries this year, Garrett has the ability to lead this talented offense back to the top-ten scoring territory.

Washington Redskins – Ron Rivera (head coach), Scott Turner (offensive coordinator)

Washington RedskinsWith the departure of Jay Gruden and his staff, the Redskins will be undergoing a complete makeover this season which might include a new team name. In the meantime, Ron Rivera will take over as the Washington’s new head coach and brings Scott Turner, son of longtime NFL coach Norv Turner, with him, who previously worked as the Panthers’ offensive quality control coach and quarterbacks coach under Rivera. Rivera’s background is much more on the defensive side of the ball and Turner should have full control of the offensive side in Washington. The Redskins’ offense last season led by Gruden and Bill Callahan was abysmal and incredibly difficult to watch, but Turner should completely modernize the offense in Washington. He’s spoken highly of Dwayne Haskin’s arm strength and quick trigger release, and he wants to utilize the play-action pass as much as possible.

Turner has done a good job of manufacturing touches for his best playmakers, most notably with backfield touches for Curtis Samuel last season, and that should continue with a surprisingly deep offensive skill group in Washington. The team’s offensive line is subpar, so keeping defenses off-balance will be vital – Turner’s heavy investment in analytics should allow them to accomplish this. Outside of Terry McLaurin, who had 58 receptions for 919 yards and 7 touchdowns in his rookie season, there aren’t any players on this offense the fantasy football community seems thrilled about. However, I expect this team to look completely different with Turner calling plays and any number of skill players on the roster could end up having fantasy relevance – most notably, I think Antonio Gibson and Antonio Gandy-Golden could make significant impacts as rookies.

Chicago Bears – Bill Lazor (offensive coordinator)

Chicago BearsBill Lazor is taking over as the new offensive coordinator in Chicago this season. He has an impressive history in the NFL as he has previously has worked under highly-regarded offensive minds such as Joe Gibbs, Mike Holmgren, and Chip Kelly, among others. Lazor has helped craft successful play-action offenses built on a steady run game as he has previously coached up guys like LeSean McCoy, Clinton Portis, and Lamar Miller to successful seasons. The run game should be heavily emphasized, which bodes well for David Montgomery, and this could make the offense easier on Mitchell Trubisky/Nick Foles. The Bears had the fifth-worst offense in rushing yardage last season and fixing that issue will be a top priority this year.

Lazor has done a solid job working with veteran quarterbacks, especially in 2013 as he was the quarterback’s coach on an Eagles team that saw Nick Foles put up 27 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. However, Lazor hasn’t been as successful working with young quarterbacks, a skillset the team was in need of with Trubisky’s career floundering. All in all, this is still Matt Nagy’s offense and I expect him to still be the play-caller heading into next season. Outside of Allen Robinson, I’m not thrilled about any of the pass-catching weapons in Chicago, and I’m not expecting anything special from David Montgomery or Tarik Cohen this year. Nagy is certainly on the hot seat heading into this season and offensive improvement will come from his adjustments, not as much from Lazor’s hiring.

Minnesota Vikings – Gary Kubiak (offensive coordinator)

Minnesota VikingsEarly last year, the longtime NFL coach Gary Kubiak appeared to be set for a return to Denver to be the offensive coordinator for the team he was previously the backup quarterback and head coach of. Instead, after some debate over terms, he became an offensive assistant to Kevin Stefanski, the former Vikings‘ offensive coordinator. As Stefanski heads to Cleveland to become the head coach of the Browns, Kubiak will replace him in Minnesota. Kubiak’s system helped the Vikings fully embrace the running game in 2019 as Dalvin Cook broke out to the tune of 1,654 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns last season. Kubiak has always preached balance on offense, favoring a zone-running scheme but using multiple formations to take advantage of mismatches. For anyone who’s concerned about the departure of Kevin Stefanski from the Vikings, I’d offer a reminder that in 22 years as a coach in the NFL, Kubiak’s offenses have finished top-ten in scoring 11 times. Minnesota will be just fine.

Carolina Panthers – Matt Rhule (head coach), Joe Brady (offensive coordinator)

Carolina PanthersThe Panthers had an abysmal season in 2019 as they finished 5-11 and suffered from offensive inconsistency as Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, and Will Grier all started games at quarterback. However, with an entirely new coaching staff and a new starting quarterback in Carolina, Teddy Bridgewater, the offense should look completely different this season. Matt Rhule is getting his first NFL coaching experience, aside from one season as the assistant offensive line coach with the Giants, but he played an integral role in turning the Temple football offense around and also led Baylor to success over the past few years as the teams’ head coach. He brings with him a college scheme that emphasizes RPOs, which should be a boon to the fantasy value of Bridgewater and Christian McCaffrey who was already the #1 running back in fantasy last season.

Joe Brady will join Rhule as the offensive coordinator after some successful seasons as a coach with the New Orleans Saints. He was also the offensive coordinator for the LSU team that last season that produced the best offense in college football history. The Panthers should put forth an offense rooted in college schematics, spread formations, and trick plays which will open up tons of opportunities for their skill players. DJ Moore stands to benefit greatly – I see him as a clear-cut WR1 this season – and Curtis Samuel, Robby Anderson, and Ian Thomas have awesome opportunities as well. The Panthers offense is going to be much better than it was last season.

 

 

  
There are few things I love more in this world than the sweet glory of fantasy football. It's a year round sport and championships are won and lost well before the draft. When I was 15 I put together my first fantasy league and I was hooked for life.

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