The winds of change have been sweeping through the NFL over the last few days, as virtually all coaching vacancies have been filled in rapid fashion. With coaching changes come questions in terms of the Fantasy impact they’ll make on their new stomping grounds. Do they help or hurt the value of existing players on the roster? Or will they just burn out and fade away to the pressures that being a lead man in this league brings? Let’s introduce the new head coaches and ponder what they bring to the table for Fantasy purposes in 2017.
Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars
The promotion of Marrone from interim coach to full time has all the smell of a stop-gap type of coach. It doesn’t seem that the front office was interested in vast changes across the board, so they went with the next guy up. We all remember Marrone’s stint in Buffalo, where he seemingly had the Bills on the right path, and then all of a sudden quit the job to the surprise of many. What Marrone will bring to the table will be more of an emphasis on the run game, as they will attempt to go back to the basics with Blake Bortles to revive the passing attack. The more interesting hire here is that of Tom Coughlin, who has been on record as a non-believer in Bortles. It will be interesting to see which veteran quarterback they bring in, and how short Bortles’ leash will be.
Value Up: TJ Yeldon/Chris Ivory will likely be reinvigorated with this hire, more-so with Ivory, who is likely to garner more of the workload if he can stay healthy. He could be in the RB2 discussion by the end of 2017. The focus will be on improving the offensive line to help the run game. Yeldon could likely split time, but I see him as becoming more of a third down receiving back in this offense.
Value Down: Bortles and the passing game are trending down. If you want a comparison for what Marrone will be looking to do with this passing game, think Alex Smith. He will attempt to make Bortles more of a game manager to support a young and improving defense. The pass attempts will likely be going down, which will hurt Allen Robinson and the receivers in this offense.
Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos
Many around the league are applauding the hire of Joseph for the Broncos. But let’s pump the breaks for just a moment, as I am very skeptical here. The strength of the 2016 Broncos was a very tough defense against the pass, yet they were very weak against the run. Vance Joseph’s defense with the Miami Dolphins was one of the worst units against the run as well. What’s the appeal here? Has he shown strong leadership skills in a short amount of time? The Broncos’ defense is filled with veteran leadership, which I am not sure can be improved. For a team that struggled to score points to hire a defensive mind at head coach is a head-scratcher. What did Elway do to counteract this? He brought back Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator, and hires Bill Musgrave as the quarterback coach. McCoy was the offensive coordinator from 2010-2012, with Hall of Famer Peyton Manning at QB. When he was the head coach in San Diego, McCoy never really improved an already good offense that was headed by Philip Rivers. So the excitement for the McCoy hire is one that I’ll be tempering myself.
Value Up: CJ Anderson and Devontae Booker will be the highlights of this offense in 2017, as the Broncos will lean heavily on the run game to take the pressure off the young quarterbacks. Expect a Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman like split between these two to keep each other fresh. It would not be a shock to see both running backs close in on 10 TDs next year.
Value Down: Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and the passing game will likely be a tough watch in 2017, unless vast improvements are shown in the offseason. Lynch has the higher upside between the two, but has yet to beat out Siemian. The struggles at QB will again make it tough to draft Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The passing attack is capable of putting together big games, but far too often they will disappear for stretches, leaving you frustrated.
Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills
I really like the hire of McDermott by the Bills. He plays to the strengths of the players that he has, which will greatly improve the Fantasy output by the Bills. He is a defensive minded coach, and will immediately help that side of the ball in terms of scoring. What will become important is who he will tab to coach the offense and call plays. Whomever that may be, look for them to feed the running game, spear-headed by the ultra-talented LeSean McCoy. The 2017 Bills will look to field an opportunistic defense that will create turnovers and present the offense with a short field to play on.
Value Up: LeSean McCoy will look to carry over the momentum from an outstanding 2016 campaign. The real question is whether he can he hold up and stay on the field. We saw this last season, as McCoy was constantly nagged by injuries but played through them. If he plays at least 14 games, you will be looking at a sure-fire Top 5 RB next season.
Value Down: Sammy Watkins had a disastrous 2016, missing a majority of the season with a foot injury and never really looking like himself. Early indications are that he could have the foot looked at again in the offseason, which is not what you want to hear. Further doubt about Watkins stems from the quarterback situation for Buffalo. Tyrod Taylor seems all but gone, leaving Cardale Jones as the quarterback to get passes to Watkins. No thanks. In my opinion, this position will have to be addressed either through the draft or free agency.
Sean McVay, LA Rams
McVay has now become the youngest coach in NFL history, as the Rams continue to look like a team that is grasping for straws. Sure, McVay had some success as a coordinator with the Redskins. But how much of that success was contributed to Jay Gruden setting the pieces? With a young mind on a young team, could come new ideas on how to improve the outlook of the Rams from a Fantasy perspective. The drawback is that the Rams need so much help, and with very few draft picks available, it’s hard to imagine a quick turnaround. The first season for McVay will likely be similar to watching crash tests when working on new vehicles. You know it’s going to be ugly, but it has to happen to improve things. The other major hire is that of Wade Phillips, who could quickly turn an already good defense into an elite option.
Value Up: There is nowhere to go but up for Todd Gurley after an abysmal 2016 season that saw him drafted as the first or second RB off the board. The offensive line was putrid, which left Gurley as the worst back in the league in terms of yards before contact. This area will be the primary focus for the new staff. Improved play along the line will not only help Gurley, but also second-year QB Jared Goff. Gurley has surely lost his allure as a top-tier back, but getting him on the cheap as a rebound candidate could be worth it.
Value Down: This has to be the receivers. The jury is still out on Goff as a QB, and aside from Kenny Britt this group has a lot to be left desired. If I were to show you pictures of the Rams wide receivers, you wouldn’t be able name a single one. That is tough to do in this digital age. If the Rams do not address the woeful receiver group with an upgrade, this will again be a tandem to avoid in drafts.
Anthony Lynn, LA Chargers
Typing out “LA Chargers” is going to take some getting used to. But with the hiring of Anthony Lynn, we have yet another little-known coordinator getting his shot at the big time. Lynn’s 2016 season was one of promotions. He started the year as the Bills’ running back coach. When offensive coordinator Greg Roman was fired, Lynn assumed that responsibility. When Rex Ryan was shown the door, and he got that job. But the Bills decided not to keep him on staff and go another direction, even though players pushed for him to get the full-time gig. Lynn, an offensive mind, will look to bring a new wrinkle to the usual aerial Chargers attack. The Chargers could be looking like a more balanced offense come 2017.
Value Up: Melvin Gordon will become the primary beneficiary of this hire. With Lynn having the background working with RBs, look for this offense to start leaning more on Gordon next year. They will look to use Gordon in a similar fashion as Lynn did with McCoy in Buffalo, and if all plays out well, Gordon could push himself into the Top 5 at the position by the end of 2017.
Value Down: Even though this is still his team, Philip Rivers’ potential in Fantasy will take a hit with the new staff. His attempts are sure to go down, leaving fewer opportunities to accumulate the gaudy yardage numbers we have seen from Rivers the past two seasons. And an interesting nugget that is not being talked about much is Rivers’ disdain for the move to Los Angeles. Just a year ago, he threatened to push for a trade if this move went through. Now that it has, he could play with a little less vigor in his game, forcing the Chargers’ hand to possibly send him packing. Some owners may be looking at Rivers as a low-end QB1 in 2017, but I think I may be steering clear.