NFL Coaching Changes Impact on 2020 Fantasy Football

by Nick Ercolano March 09, 2020

NFL Coaching Changes Impact on 2020 Fantasy Football

NFL coaching changes in 2020 offseason. Head coaches and offensive coordinators only.

 

Carolina Panthers

  • Hired Matt Rhule as HC (former HC of Baylor University)
  • Hired Joe Brady as OC (former LSU WRs Coach/Passing Game Coordinator)

7 years, $62 million. Rhule is 44 years old. He worked his way up to become the head coach at Temple University from 2013-2016. He got hired by Baylor in 2016 and flipped the program around. Going from 1-11, to 7-6 to 11-3 and a Sugar Bowl appearance this year.

Joe Brady, from LSU, looks like a fantastic hire for this team. He's just 30 years old, and he'll be the youngest coordinator in the NFL. He won the Broyles Award this year for the best assistant coach in the country. He was an offensive assistant for the Saints in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, he joins LSU to be the passing game coordinator and WRs coach... We know how that shit worked. Joe Burrow wins the Heisman, throws for a light 60 passing touchdowns. His WRs were fuckin incredible. We had Ja'Marr Chase, the Biletnikoff winner, going 84-1780-20 and Justin Jefferson going for 111-1540-18. Sophomore wideout Terrace Marshall Jr. scoring 13 touchdowns.

With coaches and coordinators and star players, there will always be that sort of chicken or the egg. But going from what they were in 2018, being run-heavy, etc. to what it was in 2019, looking at the common denominator, being Joe Brady, seems like a good place to start.

So, that leaves us where? Rhule seems like a program builder, a guy that the players are going to love, and leader of men. He did not call plays during his time at Baylor, which in my opinion is a good thing. Be the head coach, rule your team and let your OC.. OC. He's not clueless at all though, Rhule has coached quarterbacks, offensive line, tight ends, and has served as an offensive coordinator.

He's an aggressive play-caller, big going for it on 4th down guy. "Baylor’s offense deployed 10 personnel (1 running back, 0 tight ends, 4 wide receivers) or 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers) between 85-90-percent of their snaps. Baylor really only ever got into 12 personnel when they smelled blood in the water, being able to impose themselves physically or salt the game away using the running game." Per this article on Cover 1.

Rhule has shown a lot of different packages and RPO plays that will be great for Cam Newton, if he's the starting QB for the Panthers in 2019. The starting QB for Baylor over the last two seasons, Charlie Brewer, had 280 rushing attempts for 719 yards and 18 touchdowns. They were a big QB sneak team. 

One thing that's notable is just how much he spreads the ball around, though. One of the notable quotes from his presentation was that “good offenses have eight to 10 players touch the ball every game.” He said rather than having a running back with 200 yards, he'd rather split that, 100 from the RB. 50 from the QB, 50 from WRs.

I love this offense for all Carolina offensive players. Love this for D.J. Moore, idk if I'm riding the Curtis Samuel train quite yet. If they grab a real WR2 or even a pass-catching back in the draft, talking about having multiple RBs on the field together, that could hurt Samuel too. The narrative is being pushed heavily about all the "unrealized air yards" with Samuel and how he'll breakout if he has a real QB, etc, but I need to dive deeper and figure out if he was any good on the ones that were on target.

Chicago Bears

  • Hired Bill Lazor as OC (former OC of CIN)
  • **John DeFilippo as QBs Coach

It was definitely time for change on the offensive side of the ball for Chicago. A lot of people were excited about the team entering 2019, but defensive dominant is extremely unsustainable especially at the elite level they performed at in 2018. Their offense under Mark Helfrich on paper performed better than they should have. They were 22nd in yards, but 9th in points. There's a delta there that's going to even itself out, when you have a slighted ratio like that, it's a matter of luck/chance where a few things break right and are highly unrepeatable.... aka... what we saw in 2019, when the Bears ranked 29th in yards... and 29th in point.

I won't get too far into Lazor because it's still very much Matt Nagy's offense, and I'm sure he'll continue to call plays. It's possible he does give up play-calling duties, and if that's the case we'll circle byke on this. As far as we know now, there aren't many personnel changes, we'll see through the draft/free agency if they bring in Dalton (history obviously with Dalton/Lazor in CIN). They let go of Gabriel, so I'm intrigued to see what they do behind Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller, if they add some sort of hybrid playmaker. I could see them going after an Antonio Gibson/Lynn Bowden who can play as both a WR/RB.

  

Cleveland Browns

  • Hired Kevin Stefanski as HC (former OC of MIN)
  • Hired Alex Van Pelt as OC (former QB Coach of CIN [also former NFL QB])

Stefanski, just 37 years old, has been sort of a buzz name in fantasy over the last few years. He was actually the runner up to Freddie Kitchens for the Browns head coaching job last year, then he go the job this year. It started at the end of 2018, when then Vikings OC, John DeFillipo was fired in December and Stefanski took over as interim OC for the remainder of the year to call plays. The splits were massive. The team was extremely pass-heavy before he took over. They had the 4th highest passing rate in the league in 2018, 64.4%. Over the last three weeks of the year, under Stefanski, that number dipped to 52%, which would've been the third-lowest rate in the NFL. It was an extremely small sample size obviously, but then Stefanski was hired as the full-time OC for the Vikes in the 2019 season.

We saw the trend continue. The Vikings threw the ball on 51.7% of their plays in 2019, 3rd lowest rate in the NFL. Since Stefanski took over for the Vikes, which is a 20-game sample size including this year's playoffs, Kirk has not attempted more than 38 passes in a game.

Given Alex Van Pelt's lack of experience as a higher-level offensive guy, it's almost a definite that Stefanski calls plays for CLV.

There are a lot of similarities, however, between the Vikings and the Browns in terms of personnel. You have a QB who is by all intents and purposes, far more than competent and a pocket passer, Kirk--Baker. You have two very skilled wide receivers. Thielen--Diggs, Jarvis--OBJ. You have a workhorse running back, Dalvin Cook--Nick Chubb.

The 2019 Vikings running backs group generated the most receiving yards on screens among the 32 NFL teams (source). Cousins led the NFL with 13 play-action touchdowns and attempted the most passes from under center (221) this season.

 

I really like this for Baker, he should be much more efficient. I think in terms of wide receivers, it could be very interesting. Stefanski is all about making the throws easier for his QB. Less volume, but easier to throw the ball, play-action, short, open plays, to the running backs and to the slot WRs. I like this for Landry, I think we saw how well Stefanski was able to adapt their passing game when Thielen missed time last year and Diggs went absolutely crazy when Theilen was off the field. There is a lot of personalities, and I think Stefanski is a good guy to tame it, between Baker, OBJ, Landry, Hunt, Myles Garrett. He's a very down to earth, players coach. Not sure how much that will really translate but it can only go up from Freddie Kitchens.

In terms of real takeaways - you have to love this for Chubb. Stefanski is a run-first guy, we saw how many touches Cook received last year so I don't expect to see a drop off in carries for Chubb. I feel like Chubb was disappointing last year for fantasy owners that took him in the 1st, for sure, he didn't provide much a of ceiling, but he was fantastic as a runner. 3rd most carries so he proved he can handle the NFL workload, 2nd most rushing yards, would've been the rushing king had Henry not popped up for 211 yards in his last game, 2nd in evaded tackles (per PP), 1st in breakaway runs, got unlucky in the TD category and still finished with 8, 0 receiving touchdowns tho. But, now, imagine Chubb in the screen game, even if you don't think he's a great pass-catching RB, he could do the same shit that Derrick Henry does. Get him in space, running down hill a couple of times/game and that 89th percentile speed score will get him in the tuddy land multiple times next year. Chubb is probably the least talked about, 330+ touch, nearly 1,800 YFS, RB in fantasy in terms of not even thinking about him in the elite range. Of course, what happens with Kareem Hunt, who is a RFA, will determine where Chubb goes in fantasy drafts. I like him in the 1st regardless. Last year, Dalvin Cook averaged 21.6 touches/game, while Alexander Mattison was siphoned 8.5/game. 30 RB touches between the RB1 and 2 per game, on a 6-10 team. Last year, Chubb actually averaged fewer touches, 20.5, so a touch/game fewer than Cook. So if it's the same thing, Chubb 20-21 touches/game, Hunt 9-10/game, that makes sense to me. I'd peg for Chubb around the same workload, more TD luck on the GL (worst conversion % of all NFL RBs last year), more involvement in the screen game, Chubb is gonna be a beast in 2020. If Hunt goes elsewhere, then everyone will feel that way.

Dallas Cowboys

  • Hired Mike McCarthy as HC (former HC of GB from 2006-2018)
  • Keller Moore still OC?

We need to take a minute to welcome Mike analytics McCarthy byke into the NFL, taking over as the Cowboys head coach. Their staff is extremely experienced, there are 4, maybe 5 guys on this staff who have served as head coaches in the NFL before.

As a coach, despite how it ended, obviously McCarthy had a really successful tenure in Green Bay. Won a SuperBowl, ton of playoff births. Warren Sharp:

What I'm most interested to see, is what happens with Zeke. McCarthy, with Aaron Rodgers threw the ball like the running part of his playbook was eaten by his dog, or eaten by him, depending on what side of the bed u rolled out on this morning. 

Leading Ball Carrier

  • 2013 - 284 (Lacy)
  • 2014 - 246 (Lacy)
  • 2015 - 187 (Lacy)
  • 2016 - 77 (TyMont)
  • 2017 - 153 (J. Williams)
  • 2018 - 133 (A. Jones)

You'd have to go back to 2008 to find a 300-carry RB under McCarthy (Ryan Grant 312). Zeke had the 10-game season in 2017 bc of the suspension, where he only racked up 240 carries (24+/game) but in his three normal seasons, he's gone over 300 carries in all of them.

The concerning thing for me for Zeke is what happens to his target numbers. In his entire 13-year stint as HC, there were only 3 50-target seasons for running backs. Zeke has had 72 and 95 targets over the last two seasons. And looking at the last three years, here are the RB target shares on GB:

  • 2018 - 17% - 28th in NFL
  • 2017 - 18% - 25th in NFL
  • 2016 - 17% - 24th in NFL

So, Zeke will still eat, but I think we need to cool on his passing game involvement.  

The WRs and Dak, however, I think you have to absolutely love this,  statistically. We've had so many huge fantasy seasons from WRs under McCarthy. Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Davante Adams. There is almost always someone that goes off in this offense as a fantasy WR. In his 13 years at GB, the Packers produced 10 fantasy WR1s and 9 fantasy WR2s. Both Cooper and Gallup can eat, easily. Love Cooper this year. Assuming Cooper and Dak are both byke, which I think they will be. 

This is great to pair with Kellen Moore, who apparently is not only being kept in Dallas under McCarthy after a very successful first year as the Cowboys OC, but will continue calling plays per McCarthy himself. Last year, across the board the Cowboys were extremely up-tempo. 2nd in overall seconds/play, 1st in neutral game scripts (per Sharp Football).

 

This was an interesting note from McCarthy too, about getting more two-RB sets involved, which could be really good for Tony Pollard. Almost like how Randall Cobb has been used, in the slot, moving around, on the outside, out of the backfield. Still not gonna be grabbing Tony Pollard in the single-digit rounds, but there are a lot of paths to 150-175 touches for Pollard.

Overall, I like the move for fantasy. I think Zeke still has an elite floor, we saw in the consistency charts from last week's episode he busted 0 times last year, I'd expect the same in 2020, I'm not about his ceiling just because the guys around him are all excellent pass-catchers and idk if we see that type of work for Zeke in 2020.

Denver Broncos

  • Hired Pat Shurmur as OC (former HC of NYG)
  • ***Hired Mike Shula as QBs Coach (followed Shurmur from NYG)

 This is a great example of what goes on in the NFL today about hiring HCs who aren't actually leaders. We've seen this so many times over the last few years. A really good OC or DC gets a head coaching job only to fail and go back to the coordinator job and do well. Shurmur, a great OC, not a good HC, I think he'll do very well in focusing specifically on what he does best.

Specifically, he was brought in to develop Drew Lock. Shurmur has a long history of getting the most out of QBs. Dating back to McNabb in PHI from 02-08, he only worked with Bradford in 2010 but that was his rookie year and he won OFF ROY, even the shit QBs Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden in CLV both had their best statistical years under Shurmur. Keenum in MIN, Then Eli's 2018, career-high in completion %, 4300 yards 21:11 ratio. Then Daniel Jones had some very big stats as a rookie, especially one that wasn't expected to do well.

So, I like this a lot for Drew Lock.

Shurmur's offense is about being aggressive, downfield. That certainly wasn't the case in Denver last year under Scnagerelo. Drew Lock attempted a deep pass on just 7.1% of his throws, 2nd lowest rate among 39 qualified QBs. Only five teams recorded more plays of 20 yards or more over the past two seasons. There was an article on Denver Broncos .com - which is an absurd statement, it's basically the David Montgomery graphic

In this article, they say: "Shurmur's system incorporates the West Coast elements of Andy Reid's offense with the vertical passing game of Norv Turner's offense and hurry-up elements of Chip Kelly's offense."

I'm excited to see what they do in the draft and FA on the offensive side of the ball. They have nothing behind Courtland Sutton at WR. Do they look for another outside guy, maybe move Sutton into the slot more, like we saw Shurmur do with Thielen in Minnesota? Would love to see more deep shots to Sutton, guy is so much fun to watch with the ball in the air. In 2019, his 427 yards on deep targets were 6th in the NFL, despite the 19th most deep targets (23). If they move into the slot, that'd be great too, Sutton is just a guy that's going to dominate on any part of the field. Last year, Sutton ran 18.5% of his snaps from the slot, had a 25.3% target rate from the slot compared to 21.5% target rate on non-slot snaps, he caught all 16 catchable passes thrown his way in the slot and ranked 6th overall in YPRR from the slot among 87 qualified WRs.

As for the running backs, Royce was bad last year. I'd be very surprised if they didn't shake up the backfield somehow this offseason. For now, Lindsay is a back-end RB2. He's really not been good in the passing game, he's gone almost 50 targets each of his first two years he's ranked 24th and 39th in YPRR, and Royce has been even worse. Lindsay's an awesome runner though. Definitely deserves to continue seeing 175-200 carries, but they could find a more efficient pass-catcher that could also split early-down work with Lindsay.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Hired Jay Gruden as OC (former HC of WAS)

The biggest question now is what happens to Leonard Fournette. The receiving numbers he put up (100-76-522) were ridiculous they were more than the targets, receptions, yard that Fournette had combined in 2017-2018.

I'm actually excited to see Gruden as an OC again. There was a lot of turmoil in Washington, a ton, about the QB situation between the front office and the coaches. It goes back to the whole OC moving to HC moving back to OC. I think Jay Gruden will be a fine OC again. You look at his resume, he improved his team tremendously after the first years.

What makes me nervous about Fournette, other than I think he's a pretty trash RB altogether, as you can see from the chart above, of the 8 years Gruden has serves as an OC or HC, not once did he have a rushing offense in the top half of the league, never top 16. So, that's not great for Fournette, but back to those 100 targets, I mean, he's not sniffing that in 2020. The highest number of targets an RB has gotten under Jay Gruden during this 9-year stint was Gio Bernard (71) back in 2013. Otherwise, the leading RB target getter over those years went: 58, 55, 54, 62, 48, 47, 30 and 31.

Can Fournette still see 300+ touches? Absolutely, but as per usual with him, don't expect them to be efficient, because he's not an efficient runner, Gruden doesn't put together efficient run offenses and their o-line is trash. That, plus who knows how far his targets dip off so. Yeah.

I like it for the passing game, we didn't get to see an alpha receiver operate in Washington under Gruden, the best they had was Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed, but A.J. Green and D.J. Chark are very similar players and Green absolutely dominated under Gruden back in 2011-2013. Those were Green's first three years in the league, and arguably his 3 best, probably 3 of his 4 best. Would love to hear some Chark to Green comps come out of Gruden's mouth this summer to let us know he might deploy him similarly.

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Hired Shane Steichen as OC (former QB Coach)

Took over halfway through last season after Ken Whisenhunt got canned, and they offered him the full-time role this offseason. He took over in Week 9.

I'll preface by saying that this is an extremely small sample to gage conclusions from and there are a lot of moving parts - Melvin Gordon hold out, Hunter Henry missing time, Rivers just passing away, but you can see they ran the ball at a higher rate but no fear with RB involvement in the passing game, they actually threw somehow at a higher rate. So, new OC, no problem for Austin Ekeler, THE RB1 in fantasy next year.

Los Angeles Rams

  • Hired Kevin O'Connell as OC (former OC of WAS)
  • This is McVay's offense still, so I think we're good here.

 

Miami Dolphins

  • Hired Chan Gailey as OC (former OC of NYJ in 2016)

Hasn't coached since 2016. Utilizes spread formation, lots of 3WR-1RB-1TE sets. Also was the OC when Fitzpatrick was in New York 2015-2016 - Fitz actually set career highs in 2015 under Gailey across the board, 3,905 passing yards, 31 passing touchdowns, also had 270-2 on the ground, nearly 18 FPs/game. Spent time together in BUF from 2010-2012.

Really like it for DeVante Parker, I really don't know about the rest of the offense, to be honest. The offenses Chan Gailey run typically don't go through the TE much, but reports are coming out that Gesicki is likely to play that big slot role. A lot of people are going to get super excited about that, but Gesicki already led all TEs last year in % of his snaps that came from the slot (71.6%), so it can't be that much more. His YPRR (1.02) were 21st among 35 qualified TEs. So peg Gesicki for a breakout, but I think it might be more dependent on health. If they draft 1 or 2 WRs, Albert Wilson and/or Preston Williams are back and they draft a good RB, it might be hard to see Gesicki do THAT much better in 2019.

Minnesota Vikings

  • Hired Gary Kubiak as OC (former assistant HC of MIN)

Extremely run-friendly offense. I don't expect much to change in Minnesota for Dalvin Cook, and the pass offense. He was already a big part of how the offense ran last year and has had plenty of success on the ground in the NFL, so again, should be a lot of the same for the MIN offense in 2020.

 

New York Giants

  • Hired Joe Judge as HC (former NE special teams coordinator and WR coach of NE)
  • Hired Jason Garrett as OC (former HC of DAL)

Joe Judge fantasy football

Joe Judge, 38 years old, interesting hire for sure, excited to see how it works out, but does it matter for fantasy, tbh not really because it's not his offense, it's not his play-calling, it's Jason Garrett.

Now, this is a fantastic hire, from an entertainment standpoint, because Giants fans hate him so much lol. But now they don't. Or they're going to pretend they don't. Garrett has made a shitload of very questionable decisions during his time as the Dallas head coach. Most of those he won't be making now that he's not the head coach, thankfully for Giants fans. Like constantly punting in the opponent's territory, just dumb shit like that, he's the poster child for it. But again, fits that mold of very good OC, turned not great HC, back to OC. Lot less distraction on your plate, can focus on building the offense.

Garrett called plays in Dallas from 2007-2012. During that time, Garrett's offenses finished lower than 11th in yards per play or game just once (13th in yards per game in 2008).

Kellen Moore was the play-caller in 2019, and I think that's why we saw so much success from Dak and this passing offense. The pace (3rd in NFL), ranked 2nd in the entire NFL, he added way more pre-snap motion, bunch formations, a bunch of things that if you follow the smart analytics people on Twitter tell you that it gives offenses a big advantage if you implement them into your game plan.

It's hard to get a grasp for what exactly his scheme will entail, after 7 years of not calling plays, but I'm willing to be Saquon Barkley is in for an absolutely gargantuan workload.

When Dallas has had a real workhorse, or really anything resembling one, they are getting fed.

It's also worth noting that Garrett is bringing over former DAL o-line coach Marc Colombo who held the same position in DAL since 2015 and we know how good that o-line has been so I really like the continuity and success we've seen there between the two.

I'm also a really big fan of this move for Evan Engram, we've seen Jason Witten, even basically as a dead person be able to perform YoY for the Cowboys. Engram's obviously 38x more athletic than Witten is so I like this for him. One thing I will say, for the passing game altogether, a trend I noticed in almost EVERY single new head coach, or OC going to another team, is that the first year is almost ALWAYS a dip, a learning curve which is completely obvious and common sense. And then you see Year 2, Year 3, the offense progresses statistically by a ton. It's almost universal. So, for the dude's on the outside kind of looking in, like on the borderline of wanting to grab late in drafts on the passing side of things, like the Darius Slayton's, the Golden Tate's, the Sterling Shepard, I'll very likely be staying away from them in 2020. 2021 will probably see much better dividends from the Giants offense under Garrett.

For Daniel Jones, I'm still gonna be looking at him as a later option, I think the rushing side of his game will be there regardless of who is the HC or OC. One thing I'd love to see more of is play action for Daniel Jones. Last year only 18% of his passes came via play-action, ranking 29th of 32 QBs. However, his completion % was about 4% higher on PA passes, and his YPA was nearly 2.5% higher on PA throws which was the 7th highest difference last year among NFL QBs. I bring it up because while DJ was only at 18%, Dak was throwing via play action at 25% clip. It's one of the easiest ways to spread the field, get easier throws for your QBs and have them be more efficient. Do we see that more, or was that Kellen Moore's doing? Very hard to say since we haven't seen Garrett call plays since 2012 - in that year, Tony Romo threw via play-action on just 10% of his throws, the single lowest rate in the league. Yikes. We'll see.

Washington Redskins

  • Hired Ron Rivera as HC (formerly HC of CAR)
  • Hired Scott Turner as OC (former OC of CAR)

The last and final coaching change in the NFL, staying in the NFC East, is Ron Rivera to the Skins, bringing along Scott Turner who was his OC in Carolina.

Rivera must really like Dwayne Haskins, because I'm sure he had a lot of job opportunities to choose from. Ron's a beast, just been fucked with bad injury luck the last few years. But when you hear him talk about Haskins, it seems like he genuinely really thinks he's good, so at least you're not starting with like an internal coach/GM conflict out the gates, which I feel like happens over the QB so often in the NFL.



Nick Ercolano
Nick Ercolano

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