Fantasy Outlook of NFL Coaching Changes
NFL Coaching Changes from a Fantasy Football Perspective
Year after year, NFL owners become impatient and disgruntled with their team’s place in the standings and look to go another direction. These decisions over the last several seasons have been really hit or miss around the league. Some teams finally start to head in the right direction while others continue to be mired in mediocrity.
Over the past couple of seasons, we have seen a fair share of coaching successes with Sean McVay and Todd Pederson turning reclamation projects into productive Fantasy offenses. Both Todd Gurley and Carson Wentz have seen their stock rise with the coaching changes to become top tier talent at their respective positions. Both coaches even took forgotten talents like Robert Woods and Nelson Agholor and turned them into weekly starting options with simple scheme changes.
With the good also comes the bad. Sean McDermott and Vance Joseph are two coaches that have yet to get out of the gates. In large part due to a lack of QB play, Joseph has turned the once dominant team in Denver to an afterthought in many Fantasy leagues. Perennial Top 15 receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were reduced to matchup plays at best in 2017. In Buffalo, it doesn’t seem to matter who the coach is, the passing attack for the Bills continues to suffer without any signs of improvement.
The 2018 offseason was once again spinning the coaching carousel with several positions being filled. But of these new coaches, which ones will bolster their team to Fantasy success in 2018? Which ones will falter and ruin the values of some of your favorite players? Let’s take a look at new faces in new places for 2018.
Jon Gruden - Oakland Raiders
Let’s start off with the most high-profile name among the group, which is Jon Gruden. He returns to coaching after several years in the Monday Night Football booth and will look to get the Oakland Raiders team back to prominence after an underwhelming 2017 campaign. Production was down across the board for the Raiders’ offense as Derek Carr and Amari Cooper were huge disappointments to Fantasy owners. Can Gruden’s past as a QB guru spark this offense enough and bring them back to their 2016 form?
Stock Up: Derek Carr and Amari Cooper
With the arrival of Gruden, the passing game behind the duo of Derek Carr and Amari Cooper should be in store for a bounce-back season. Gruden has an extensive history of working with QBs and helping them flourish. That should be the case here as well. Gruden is already on record saying they will unlock Carr’s potential. Don’t be shocked to see Carr rise back up to low-end QB1 status, while Cooper should regain his form as well. If Cooper can get out of his own way and get past his issue with drops, a finish as a WR2 should come very easily.
Stock Down: Raiders Running Game
Although Marshawn Lynch should be back for 2018, it’s easy to say that the years of “Beast Mode” are a thing of the past. Finding a back to count on in this offense will become a headache. I don’t see Lynch holding up to a heavy workload, while the Raiders’ other backs are merely just complementary pieces. Lynch will likely be an RB3 in any format in Fantasy and that will be the best you can get from this backfield.
Frank Reich - Indianapolis Colts
After getting left at the alter by Josh McDaniels and missing the chance to interview a number of other candidates, the Colts finally settled on Frank Reich. Cashing in on a Super Bowl title with the Philadelphia Eagles, Reich will bring his up-tempo style to a Colts offense in need of a makeover.
Stock Up: The Colts Offense
This hire has the potential to help the Colts offense as a whole, but that all hinges on the health of Andrew Luck. With mixed reports out there on the status of Luck’s shoulder, we are all in wait and see mode with this offense. But assuming that Luck will be healthy and ready to go, this is the type of offense that can bring out the best in him. The skill positions will be younger and faster as the team will be likely moving on from Frank Gore and the disappointing Donte Moncrief. Those moves make room for Marlon Mack to shine and the team to find a legitimate WR2 to play alongside T.Y. Hilton. All of this will add up to a nice year for Luck as he ascends to the QB1 level play. First, he will have to prove his health in offseason workouts.
Stock Down: Colts Defense
Frank Reich will have his fingerprints all over this new look offense, but what about a defense that is continually one of the bottom units in the league? That will fall squarely on the shoulders of Matt Eberflus. He comes to Indy from Dallas, where he has coached the linebackers since 2011. Eberflus will find a bare cupboard in Indy, which means the defense will likely be in for a rough transition year here and will not be a Fantasy-relevant unit for 2018.
Pat Shurmur - New York Giants
Pat Shurmur finally will get his chance as a head coach in the NFL and it will be under the bright lights of New York City with the Giants. Shurmur coached up a Vikings offense in 2017 with Case Keenum under center all the way to the NFC title game. There is a lot to like about his play-calling abilities which should breathe some new life into a Giants offense that has been stagnant for a couple of years.
Stock Up: Eli Manning
All reports indicate that the Giants will stay the course with Eli Manning under center for 2018. With an offseason to work with Shurmur and a healthy group of receivers, Manning could be back in the conversation as a sleeper next season. The Giants have an array of talented receivers to utilize, but in this offense, I expect a healthy Odell Beckham to put together a big season. Don’t be shocked to see Manning push for a 30-touchdown season with his renewed energy.
— NFL (@NFL) February 22, 2018
Stock Down: Running Game
No matter what they do it just seems as though the Giants are cursed when it comes to finding a competent back for this team. All that could change overnight with a draft pick of Saquon Barkley, but that remains to be seen. They could also vie for a back in free agency, like the newly available Doug Martin. The Giants’ front office will undoubtedly address this need but if they go with the pieces currently rostered (Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman), this position will again be one to ignore in Fantasy.
Matt Nagy - Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears went with the young, up and coming hire of Matt Nagy to pair with their young QB, Mitchell Trubisky. Nagy comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree after being one of his assistants for a number of years. He will bring with him an aggressive play-calling technique which is what this offense needs. The success of Nagy will begin and end with the progression of Trubisky.
Stock Up: Jordan Howard
After a sophomore slump in 2017, Nagy’s creative mindset could be just what the doctor ordered for Howard. Look for the Bears to use Howard in a similar fashion to way the Chiefs used Kareem Hunt in 2017. Behind a very good offensive line, Nagy could see Howard as the centerpiece to this offense and involve him quite often on a weekly basis. I’m expecting to see Howard rebound back into an RB1 in Fantasy next year.
Stock Down: Passing Game
I’m not sure this passing game could get worse than 2017, but we’ve yet to see anything positive from Trubisky to prove he’s an NFL caliber starter. Nagy will have to perform a miracle much like Sean McVay did with Jared Goff for this passing game to produce anything. Add in the fact that there are no receiver options to speak of on this team, which means Matt Nagy and this front office will have to build a passing game from scratch. Trubisky should not be on any Fantasy radars in 2018.
Mike Vrabel - Tennessee Titans
I like the hiring of Mike Vrabel for the Titans. I think he will bring an edge to a team that has been looking for an identity for some time now. Expect him to improve the defense and make an impact in year one. Vrabel’s blueprint for this team will be to play stout defense and run the ball effectively, setting up the play-action pass game.
Stock Up: Derrick Henry
After a couple of seasons of teasing Fantasy owners, Derrick Henry will likely see his time come as the lead back for the Titans. He immediately jumps into the RB1 discussion on sheer upside alone. With a baseline of 20 touches a game, Henry could be a beast in any format. He is dangerous as a runner as well as a pass-catcher. He’s a true three-down back, which is something that is becoming a rarity in the game.
Stock Down: DeMarco Murray
With Henry potentially becoming the lead back on this offense, what happens to DeMarco Murray? After an awful 2017, and another year of tread on the tires, you could easily see the Titans moving on from him. Even if the team decides to retain him, the chances of him making a big impact in Fantasy next year are very slim.
Steve Wilks - Arizona Cardinals
Steve Wilks comes from Carolina, bringing his defensive mindset to a team that will be at the beginning of a rebuild. Wilks will have to find his QB, fix a broken offensive line, and prepare for life after Larry Fitzgerald. The defense still remains in good shape, but his success will rely on how quickly he can turn this offense around. If he misses on his selection of QB, Wilks’ tenure could be over before it begins.
Stock Up: David Johnson
You can’t really say that David Johnson’s stock is dropping, but coming back from a year-ending injury, he will be looking to reaffirm his position as one of the game’s elite at RB. It will be hard to have too much confidence in Johnson, though, if you remember the performance of the Cardinals’ offensive line last year. Couple that with the uncertainty of the QB position, and defenses will be keying on Johnson in every game played. But to his credit, Johnson will be heavily involved in the passing game as well, which keeps him as one of the more valuable players in PPR formats.
Stock Down: Larry Fitzgerald
For Larry Fitzgerald to still be in the discussion as a WR1 in Fantasy at this stage of his career is a testament to the competitor he is. Call me crazy, but I see his 2018 season being one of his most frustrating of his career. The quarterback that this team signs will be huge for Fitzgerald’s value. I don’t anticipate the team being in on a Kirk Cousins type QB, meaning they could likely be playing a lower-tier option for the year. With Wilks being more of a defensive minded coach, you have to expect that the team will lean on the running game, meaning a lower number of targets for Fitzgerald. I would be shocked to see him get over 100 catches next season.
Matt Patricia - Detroit Lions
Matt Patricia is the other Patriots coordinator that was offered a coaching job, and unlike Josh McDaniels, he decided to accept it. Patricia takes over a Lions team that was just in need of an atmosphere change after being underwhelming annually. The team is still full of talent to work with, so the question will become how will Patricia fare out of Bill Belichick’s shadow? The defense should hold their own, but can he can more from Matt Stafford and this passing attack?
Stock Up: Running Game
I expect the Lions to be a major player in the free agency market for a new running back for 2018. If he’s allowed to walk away from New England, Dion Lewis makes a load of sense for this team. He can run in between the tackles, but he will make his hay on check-downs from Matt Stafford. Another name to watch for here would be Carlos Hyde. Either way, the Lions need a running game and with the right signing, that player could be a low-end RB2 in Fantasy.
Stock Down: Marvin Jones
After a successful 2017 campaign in this offense, Marvin Jones could be a regression candidate for 2018. The offensive scheme that I predict Patricia will rely on will be similar to New England with plenty of short to intermediate passing plays, both of which play to the strengths of Golden Tate. You could see a dip in production in both catches and touchdowns from Jones. This could lead to a struggle as a borderline WR3/WR4 for most of the season.
Jon Gruden Photo Credit: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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