For this set of articles I’ll be looking at NFL teams, their offensive coordinators and how their coordinating has or might impact their team’s offense and in turn our fantasy expectations. I’ll be using the info compiled by Mr. Jeff Brubach, which tries to look at the last three seasons of a coordinator’s offensive output.
New York Giants
The Giants’ new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has never called a regular season NFL play, so we have to do some inferring here. He says he hopes to take the best of both worlds from the Packers, where he was the quarterbacks’ coach the last two seasons and the Giants, who had Kevin Gilbride as their offensive coordinator for the last seven years. Gilbride had top 10 offenses from ’08 through ’11, but the last two seasons called for new blood, and they went very new with 37 year old, first time OC McAdoo.
So far during OTAs all signs point to McAdoo implementing the Packers’ quick tempo and short passing game offense. And this is leading many to believe that Eli Manning may have a bounce back year. And it’s hard to argue. In Manning’s best fantasy season in 2011, he completed 359 passes, which were 20 more completions than any other season in his career. In the last three years the Packers’ QBs (mostly Aaron Rodgers) averaged 372 completions. Manning will need to learn this faster paced offense and be productive in it, but there is little doubt he’ll be set up with plenty of opportunities to succeed in fantasy.
The running back situation in the Packers offense has been in flux for a while now, but we did see what that offense could handle last season when Eddie Lacy carried the ball 284 times and scored 11 touchdowns. Lacy also ended up with 35 receptions after not being known as a receiver in college. The pace and dynamic play calling should keep the Giants’ running backs from being lost in the shuffle. Rashad Jennings can make plays in the passing game (he caught 36 of 47 targets averaging 8.1 yards per reception last season). David Wilson also is built well for the screen game that McAdoo will bring with him, which makes him a nice fit for this offense as well.
We’ve seen what the short passing game did for Randall Cobb when he is healthy, and that bodes well for Victor Cruz, who will have a better shot for quick hitting plays that he will be able to make something of. And there of course will be plenty of targets to go around in the Giants’ passing game if McAdoo gets everyone on the same page. The #2 receiver in the Packers offense has averaged 850 yards and 8.7 touchdowns over the last three seasons and the #3 receiver has averaged 687 yards and close to 6 touchdowns.
The tight end position has been troubling in this offense mainly due to the talent at the position. Jermichael Finley showed plenty of talent as he went for 767 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011, but inconsistency kept him from truly being a staple in the offense. But there is room in this offense for a tight end to succeed, especially in the red zone. If Adrien Robinson can prove himself he could be a decent TE2 in this offense.
And here we have another offensive coordinator change that should shake up an offense. Washington hired Cincinnati Bengals OC Jay Gruden as their head coach, in part to help out their young quarterback Robert Griffin III. Gruden helped Andy Dalton exceed expectations in Cincinnati, especially last season as Dalton finished as the 5th best fantasy quarterback. RGIII and Dalton are quite different in terms of style, but we will surely see Gruden help Griffin as a pocket passer, especially with two strong receivers in Pierre Garcon and newly acquired DeSean Jackson to throw to. Of course the question will be how often will Griffin run the ball? His fantasy status has depended on his legs the last two seasons, both positively and negatively. It’s not easy to tell from Gruden’s past with Dalton, even though he did have six rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons and implemented some read-option to throw teams off. So far it’s tough to know just how often RGIII will run the ball, but Gruden seems intent on not making him rely as heavily on running the ball as he has in the past. If true, that’s a little scary for his fantasy prospects unless we are confident in his ability to get the ball to Jackson, Garcon, Jordan Reed and company.
That company of receivers has a decent amount of upside in Gruden’s offense. We’ve seen the amount of targets and touchdowns A.J. Green has been able to accumulate as the #1 in Cincinnati and now we have a #1 and #1A for him in Washington. Green averaged 146.7 targets over the last three seasons, while the #2 receiver averaged 82.3. Of course that #2 receiver has been Jerome Simpson, Andrew Hawkins and Marvin Jones over the last three years. The question now is, who is the “#1” receiver in Washington? All signs would point to Pierre Garcon based on his past with RGIII and also his build and ability make him a nice easy target who can fight for possession, whereas DeSean Jackson needs to use his speed or scheme to get open. Their two styles should complement each other well and help each other see productive targets. We won’t see Garcon’s 174 targets again this season, but Jackson should help the targets he does get be more productive and vice versa.
Gruden isn’t averse to using his tight end(s), but he also hasn’t had one very good tight end to focus on. Jermaine Gresham is good enough, but not a player you showcase and in 2012 he caught 64 passes for 737 yards and five touchdowns. Last season when Tyler Eifert stepped in to eat away at Gresham’s numbers, together they managed 85 receptions for 903 yards and six touchdowns. The good news is that Reed won’t have an Eifert cutting into his targets and he is a better player than Gresham. A top 5 showing for Reed isn’t impossible by any means.
There is also a big question as far as Alfred Morris is concerned. Gruden has used his lead running back for around 275 carries a season if we remove last year when Giovani Bernard ate into BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ work. Last season Morris had 276 carries, 1275 yards and seven touchdowns. That came about due to Washington needing to throw the ball more and Morris not being an asset in the passing game. It looks very much like that could be the situation again, but more by design than last season. I think we can pencil Morris in for last year’s numbers, which were good, with a slight shot at more touchdowns if the offense can click with the addition of Jackson.
Chip Kelly’s first season as a head coach and play caller in the NFL went well as he had the #1 rushing offense and the #9 passing offense. Not too shabby for a first year head coach straight out of college, no matter the expectations.
Last year the Eagles rushed the ball 500 times with LeSean McCoy garnering 314 of those attempts, including 52 receptions on 59 targets. They led the league in total rushing yards with 2566 and yards per carry with 5.1 and were second in rushing touchdowns with 19. The rushing offense is no doubt on point and there aren’t any signs that it should slow down this season. The question with the addition of Darren Sproles in the offseason is how he will be used in Kelly’s offense. The loss of DeSean Jackson had many believing Sproles would help out in the passing game more, but Kelly says he will mainly be a running back. Nothing will be set in stone, but at the moment it looks like Sproles will be the primary backup running back and get 6-8 touches per game, which is tough to rely on in fantasy.
Last season Jackson was the main fantasy threat until Riley Cooper emerged with the help of Nick Foles. It will be interesting to see where this passing offense will be with a full season under Foles and Jeremy Maclin replacing Jackson in the rotation. Foles and company were quite efficient with 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions on 317 attempts. Foles’ 9.12 yards per attempt were better than both Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. So when we look at targets and receptions in this offense, we can be okay with smaller numbers due to the ability to gain big yardage and/or score on any given pass attempt. Cooper, the #2 receiver had just 81 targets and 47 receptions, but turned those into 835 yards and eight touchdowns. It’s yet to be seen if rookie Jordan Matthews has a shot at overtaking Cooper for that #2 position in terms of targets and production, but he has a shot. Maclin is returning from yet another injury, but if he can stay healthy, the sky is the limit as the #1 receiver in this offense. Last year Jackson caught 85 passes for 1332 yards and nine touchdowns.
The tight end position should start leaning in Zach Ertz’s favor, but Kelly will continue to run with two tight ends, at least until Matthews is fully integrated into the offense, which is no easy task. If Ertz were able to get all of the tight end targets he’d easily be a top 5 or better fantasy tight end, but I don’t think we will be that lucky with Brent Celek still in the picture.
And your third new play caller in the NFC East is former Lion’s offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who comes into Dallas to try to get them over the hump before Tony Romo dies of old age. Linehan’s official title is “Passing Game Coordinator" and is a bit of a compromise between owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett and should help give a more unified approach to the offense if Jones and Garrett can keep from freaking out too much. So he probably won’t, but we’ll see.
Linehan has easily been the most pass heavy coordinator over the last three seasons with 2039 passing attempts for Detroit while the Saints came in second in that category with 1978 attempts. Of course Detroit and Matthew Stafford weren’t as efficient as other pass heavy teams, but volume is a nice thing to have in fantasy, especially when his new quarterback, Tony Romo, has a career 64.6% completion percentage compared to Stafford’s 58.5%.
Stafford had 100 more pass attempts than Romo last season and finished as the 7th ranked fantasy quarterback compared to Romo who finished 10th. The sky seems to be the limit for Romo this season if he gets anywhere near the pass attempts Linehan has been giving Stafford. And of course that will translate to the receivers.
Calvin Johnson set the record for most receiving yards in a season two years ago based on his extreme ability, but also the insane amount of chances he had. Linehan knew that Megatron was easily his best receiver and didn’t mind throwing him the ball when he was covered. And if you are looking for any comparable receiver to Johnson when it comes to making tough catches in coverage, Dez Bryant is your man.
The #2 receiver in Detroit over the last three years has been somewhat cursed. In ’11 Nate Burleson had a nice season with 73 receptions for 753 yards while Titus Young hauled in 48 receptions for 607 yards and six touchdowns. But after that season the wheels fell off. Nate Burleson only played in 15 games over the last two seasons while Titus Young fell apart while Ryan Broyles had his 100th knee surgery. All that was left was Johnson. The Cowboys should have a little better core with Bryant, Terrence Williams and the steady Jason Witten, but there isn’t much depth there, which actually puts Williams in a great position for targets in this offense.
DeMarco Murray isn’t exactly Reggie Bush in the receiving game, but he still got the job done last year with 53 receptions for 350 yards and a touchdown to go with his 217 carries for 1121 yards and nine touchdowns. Those are somewhat similar numbers to Bush last season for Detroit, but Murray was used as the goal line back, which gave him five more rushing touchdowns. Bush actually had more carries than Murray, but 4.5 yards per carry compared to Murray’s 5.2. So it looks as though Murray should easily see similar opportunities in this offense. Last season Dallas had 21 rushing attempts inside the five-yard line while Detroit had 19. It’s not a big enough difference to think Murray would see a cut in his goal line carries, while his receptions could go up depending on how much Linehan wants to use Lance Dunbar. Dunbar is getting a decent amount of hype and probably for good reason when you look at Joique Bell’s numbers from last year. But at 5’8” 188 you surely can’t expect Dunbar to get the workload that Bell and his 5’11” 220 frame received. Last season Bell had 166 carries for 650 yards and 53 receptions for 547 yards. And while Dunbar is quicker and could be better in the passing game, he won’t be on the field as much as Bell was last year. I see Murray, if healthy, taking on even more work under Linehan than he had under Garrett and company.